Panic in Lagos, Abuja as Police withdraw from the street

Fear has gripped residents of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja and Lagos State due to the absence of policemen on the streets.

They have also withdrawn from major highways since the weekend.

Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu last Saturday ordered the mobilisation of all police operational assets and resources to bring an end to the violence, killings, looting and destruction of public and private property in parts of the country, but has been largely ignored.

Hoodlums in Lagos have been having a field day as they mount roadblocks on major roads to extort motorists.

Aggrieved policemen in most cities have retreated to their barracks following the murder of their colleagues and the torching and looting of their stations by criminals who hijacked the #ENDSARS protests.

Police sources said officers and men felt unappreciated by both the government and citizens that they suffer discomfort to protect.

They went into their shells in silent protest, a source said.

In Lagos, terrified residents recounted how armed hoodlums mounted roadblocks on all major roads, streets and had a field day extorting motorists.

From Adekunle, the University of Lagos Road through Ikorodu Road to Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway and Agege Motor Road, hoodlums have held sway.

They mounted scores of illegal barricades, coercing road users to pay between N500 and N1,000 at each roadblock.

Our correspondent who went round some parts of Lagos observed there was no security presence.

From Okota through Cele Bus Stop to Ojuelegba, as well as Daleko and Iyana Isolo, no policeman was seen on the road.

There were no traffic wardens and officials of the Lagos State Traffic Management Agency (LASTMA). The case was similar at Abule Egba, Ikorodu and Yaba areas.

A resident said he encountered about 20 artificial toll gates mounted by street boys from Anthony to Mile 12 on Friday.

He described the situation as “the huge cost of protest; the agony of anarchy in an improperly ‘articulated’ and decaying society, whose predicament is now compounded by the demobilisation and ‘demoralisation’ of the police, making life to be nearly short, brutish and nasty.”

Another resident on essential duty, who left the office around 11 pm on Sunday, relived how ran into thugs as he made to make a U-turn at the Abule Egba Bridge along the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway.

He said: “I encountered two roadblocks mounted by unclad area boys under the flyover at Abule Egba. I didn’t see any police checkpoints from Oshodi through Capitol Road (Agege axis where I dropped off a colleague) to Iyana Ipaja.

“Approaching the U-turn under the Abule Egbe flyover, two cars that took ‘one-way’ nearly ran into me. As I wondered why they took one-way, I met the first roadblock. I slowed down slightly, expecting to see policemen. Suddenly the boys appeared.

“As they made to surround my car, I sped off and meandered in-between a drum and a piece of wood they placed on the road. Another set of boys waited in front just immediately after the U-turn.

“The first set of boys chased after me, screaming to alert the others ahead. Other boys came out of their hideouts. I increased speed as I turned, tyres screeching.

“They had piled old tyres just after the U-turn, expecting me to stop or slow down…but I drove through the tyres. Fortunately, nothing heavier was placed on the road to stop me. God knows what would have happened if they had succeeded in stopping me.

“A heavy stick landed on the car as I raced away. The stick missed the windscreen and windows by inches.

“The U-turn is usually well lit, with a police checkpoint, but it was in darkness Sunday night and policemen were nowhere in sight.”

Another resident said he encountered about 10 roadblocks mounted by thugs on his way to Fatai Atere in Mushin from Ikorodu at the weekend. He paid his way through each of them.

“And all along the way, hoodlums were in charge. Simply put, security operatives left the city of Lagos unprotected while criminals took over, tormenting anybody who dared leave the comfort of his or her home,” he said.

In a bizzare situation, another Lagos resident said on Ikorodu Road axis, he forced to withdraw money from a POS operator to give the hoodlums after they visited two ATM points that were out of service.

Some residents took to social media to lament the state of lawlessness, appealing to the police to take control of the situation and restore normalcy.

One tweeted: “I drove around Yaba this (yesterday) morning. Not a single policeman in sight. Not even traffic wardens. This is well orchestrated.

“Some unfortunate hoodlums are still mounting roadblocks on Lagos/Abeokuta express road, just before Adealu Bus Stop. They are the people that are giving this course a very bad name.”

A celebrity, Editi Effiong, said: “I went around Lekki this (yesterday) morning. Passed through all the hotspots where area boys have blocked roads. Spoke to area boys, helped de-escalate some heated moments.

“The one thing I did not see? Police. Not a single officer. Not a sign of law enforcement,” he posted on his verified Twitter account.

Another resident, Ikechukwu Kalu said: “We can’t keep blaming #EndSARS protesters for the breakdown in law and order after almost a full week of curfew imposed.

“You hardly see any security presence except thugs manning roadblocks on the major roads in Lagos.”

Federal Capital Territory (FCT) residents also complained about the absence of police presence on the streets, especially at night.

The situation became a source of worry, especially for those who close late from work or have other endeavours that keep them out late.

“I finished late last night and on my way home I did not see a single policeman on the way home. I was really scared, to be honest.

“It was quite worrisome as this means criminal elements are going to be having a field day,” a resident said.

Lagos Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, said his men overcome the feeling of disillusionment.

He said: “We are now back. As I speak to you, we are on convoy patrol. I have addressed my men and the Area Commanders and DPOs have also spoken to them.

“Yes, they are hurt having lost colleagues, friends and loved ones, it is normal to feel pain after seeing the destruction on police properties.

“But we have spoken to them and they understand that the primary duty of protecting lives and property must continue.

“They have now returned to work. Those whose stations were burnt or destroyed have been asked to resume at the area commands.

“If you go out now (yesterday evening), you will see policemen in their uniforms performing their duties. As peace gradually returns, everything will normalise,” he said.

Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba, said the deployment of policemen was now intelligence-driven.

He denied that there were no policemen on the streets.

Mba said: “There are massive operations ongoing simultaneously in several states of the federation aimed at reclaiming the public space from hoodlums.

“In line with that operation, our deployment strategy has been very methodical. It is intelligence-driven, target-oriented and purposeful. What I mean is that we are deploying in areas most importance.

“If there is intelligence, for example, indicating that a particular place is about or likely to be attacked, then it becomes important that we strengthen the security around those areas and reduce the vulnerability of the target. That is what we are doing.

“We are conducting street patrols and at the same time concentrating our operations on areas we consider vulnerable.”

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