Traders and commuters in the Oshodi Market, Orile Oshodi area of Lagos State, took to their heels on Thursday after suspectedmembers of the Oodua People’s Congress unleashed terror on the area.
Eyewitnesses told PUNCH Metro that the gang, which numbered close to 50, carried sophisticated weapons and shot sporadically into the air.
Residents said some of them wore masks.
Motorists heading towards Oshodi from the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, were forced to take a detour from the Ladipo bus stop after the hoodlums barricaded the expressway.
In the ensuing scuffle, several people fleeing from danger were said to have been injured, as some street urchins used the opportunity to dispossess passersby of their valuables.
Some shops in the area were also reportedly looted by the urchins.
When our correspondent visited the area, he observed that stalls and shops were shut as traders lamented their fate.
There was heavy presence of security operatives, who ordered people to raise their hands as they passed by.
Our correspondent observed that some soldiers, who took over the bridge and the main road, asked some youths to do frog jumps on the bridge.
A vendor, Samuel Ojukwu, said the gunmen were loyalists of President Goodluck Jonathan, adding that their presence created panic.
The chaos was said to have lasted between 8am and 9.30am.
He said, “This morning, as I was arranging newspapers on the newsstand, I saw some people running.
“I didn’t know what was pursuing them, so I sat at the stand. A colleague, who was also running, asked me to run, but I said I won’t run since I didn’t see anything pursuing the people.
“Then, these heavily armed men showed up. I started shaking with fright where I sat as they approached my newsstand.
“The man who led them had two pistols in his side pockets, and held another one in his hand.
“One of them came to me and said, ‘Baba, don’t be afraid. When you vote on Saturday, vote for Jonathan.’ I was so afraid.”
He said afterwards, the group went towards the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway and began shooting indiscriminately into the air.
He said as they approached a military base on the road, they retreated to avoid a collision with military men.
It was learnt that as the shooting continued, the group dared some people to come out and face them.
Another witness, Ojuolape Obafemi, a trader, said some members of the group hid their identity.
“Some of the hoodlums wore masks and I believe they are known faces. That was why they covered their faces.
“They entered into streets and nobody could come out to challenge them. I believe they were OPC members because they wore all kinds of ammunition and amulet,” she said.
She added that soon after the group left, another set of hoodlums, wielding sticks, bottles and cutlasses took over the road.
Our correspondent learnt that the hoodlums began to harass the people.
“These boys were the ones who entered into shops and looted them. They entered a bag shop and looted it. They also dispossessed people of their valuables,” she said.
Our correspondent learnt that a man, who was trying to escape the wrath of the hoodlums, fell and sustained serious injuries.
PUNCH Metro learnt that the police and some soldiers later arrived at the scene and dispersed the street urchins.
A bus conductor in Oshodi, Moses Ikudaisi, said the situation could have been worse if any of the two rampaging groups had met resistance from loyalists of the All Progressives Congress.
He said the chaos was not unconnected with the rivalry between members of the Peoples Democratic Party and the APC over the control of motor parks in Oshodi.
He said, “The motor parks in Oshodi are under the control of a loyalist of the APC. A lot of these boys fomenting trouble were formerly with this loyalist, but since the period of this election, there have been some discontents which led to a breakaway faction. The faction joined forces with the PDP.
“The new faction wants to take control of the motor parks and they believe the easiest way to unseat the man that is there is for the PDP to win the coming election.”
However, one Gabriel212, who commented on the incident on Nairaland.com, said, “The PDP was pasting posters on APC posters in the night of Wednesday and this made the APC to tear the PDP posters.
“That was what resulted in the two parties fighting with guns this morning.
“The PDP guys employed the OPC to guard them while they were removing the APC posters.
“Places like Enialonbinu, Charity, 7 &8, Brown, Church streets were affected.”
When our correspondent visited Charity area of Oshodi, he was told by some residents that the crisis was restricted to Oshodi, but policemen only patrolled the street.
“It was the police who were shooting into the air in our area, not those hoodlums. They did not go beyond Oshodi,” a resident said.
The Police Public Relations Officer, Lagos State Command, Kenneth Nwosu, said the police had restored normalcy to the area.
He said, “There was a failed attempt by some miscreants to breach the peace this morning.
“Due to the proactive response of our men, we were able to contain them and on sighting our men, the miscreants fled.
“We have been able to restore sanity and people, who are law-abiding, are going about their lawful duties without any molestation.”