I’ve always wondered why Bariga never ranked in notoriety with Ajegunle in the past when people often referred to the latter in the superlatives when it comes to the notorious. Interestingly, when it comes to both locations, my insight is first-hand. But because so much has been said about Ajegunle, I’d simply talk about the situation in Bariga, not least because of the killings that took place there a few days back.
Apart from the fact that Bariga isn’t as vast (in terms of landmass) as Ajegunle, another reason why it might not have gained more notoriety in the perception of people must be because of its location, as it is bounded on all sides by places known for far more important issues in the greater scheme of things, that the violence and notoriety of Bariga has to be of the proportion of the civil war in Syria, or even the likes of the insurgency in Nigeria’s northeast to be noticed. To the north of Bariga is the Araromi and Gbagada areas, where the latter is a highbrow area that some of the more affluent Lagosians on the mainland live, who in their attempts to secure their properties, ensure security for their area, which once a while spills into the part of Bariga closest to Bariga. It is also not unfathomable that once a while undesirable news from Bariga is suppressed by the elite of Gbagada who have friends in the media, so as not to drive down the market value of their estates.
Oworonshoki which is on the other side of the Third Mainland Bridge when you’re coming into Lagos Mainland from the Island, is as much like Bariga is terms of lack of infrastructure and basic social amenities, but doesn’t spar with it in terms of criminality and the likes. Pedro on its northwest, has a police barracks, where at the height of some of the worst cases of violence in Bariga’s history, a few of the arrested gang bangers (and I dare say, some innocents who’d been at the wrong place at the wrong time) were taken to, but never heard from again, with some nearby residents attesting to the fact that the night they were brought in, after a raid on Bariga and it’s environs (a usual occurrence), left most of them sleepless and on edge, as gunshots purportedly from the barracks, ripped through the night, shattering their peace. It was no surprise that parents of those whisked off to the Pedro police barracks, and the police outpost at Ilaje, a bus stop away from Bariga, besieged both locations the next morning, some of them parting with huge sums of money just to get their wards free from police custody to avoid having them “disappeared”. Unfortunately, a few off them were not so lucky.
To the Southeast of Bariga is Akoka, Southwest Igbobi, and Somolu to it’s West. The trio been centres of academic excellence, starting with the University of Lagos, and Federal College of Education in Akoka, Yaba College of Technology just at the border between Somolu and Yaba, and Igbobi and environs with a retinue of secondary schools including the prestigious Igbobi College Yaba (ICY-Boys) amongst others, then to the myriad in Bariga, including the five schools in the CMS compound which includes Nigeria’s first secondary school – CMS Grammar School, Ajayi Crowther Memorial Grammar School, CMS Girls Grammar School, St.Luke’s Grammar School and Bishop Howell’s Memorial Grammar School, then further into Bariga with Eva Adelaja Memorial Girls Secondary School, Somolu Local Government, Secondary School, Alubarika and so many more, just numerous to mention here. It is clear from the foregoing that one thing Somolu, Akoka, Bariga, Gbagada have in abundance, are schools. Primary and secondary schools, which feed the adjoining tertiary institutions in Akoka, Yaba and elsewhere all over Nigeria, and the world over. The schools also compete together, not just in academics, but also in extracurricular activities, including sports, during inter-house sports competitions, where neighbouring schools present their athletes for invitationals.
These invitationals are usually a source of conflict amongst the secondary schools in the area, especially during inter-house sports competitions. When some of the athletes exhibit unsportsmanly behaviours, in electing to cause mayhem rather than accept defeat. When these fights break out, axe wielding students are usually seen looking for victims to hack, and you’d often hear of rivalries through several generations of students of schools such as St. Finbarrs College, Akoka vs Igbobi College Yaba Boys, and vice versa, for instance, and many within the Bariga areas, from Yaba or from Obanikoro represented by Baptist Academy boys making incursions into the Bariga schools like Ajayi Crowther, St. Luke’s or Howells’ Memorial etc, sometimes even when it’s not sporting season. Though these state of affairs persisted in the nineties and into the early years of the new millennium, they are now not as ferociously notorious today, as they used to be, mainly because the battle moved from the secondary schools back to the streets, where for as trivia as a disagreement between teenage boys over a girl(s), hell is unleashed on the inhabitants of Bariga and environs.
University of Lagos, UNILAG hasn’t always been quiet and subdued as it is today. In fact in the early nineties, the current African Action Congress, AAC Presidential Candidate, Omoyele Sowore as Student Union (ULSU) President declared war against cults, cultism and cultists in Unilag to which he nearly lost his life in the cult war that followed, and ravaged the institution at the time. Akoka was on fire back then, and the ripples from the conflagration spilt into Bariga. There were street battles back then amongst some of the cultists (belonging to either the Pirate Confraternity or the Buccaneers, or any of the others ordered according to the ways of the Norsemen, ie. Vikings etc) that lived off campus in Akoka and the Yaba areas. Some of the students were visited in their parents homes, like that one popular case in Abayomi Street, in a house nearly opposite Educational Promoters Nigeria, EPN limited (for extramurals, in the days when “lesson” was a thing, and Akoka Coaching Centre, ACC and Fadenter in Akoka and Bariga were also in the mix of popular ones back in the day), where a mother had to practically beg for the life of her son, before he was let off with deep cuts and non-life threatening injuries. Interestingly, one of the perpetrators of that act turned out later to become a pastor at one of Akoka’s prestigious Pentecostal Churches which later moved it’s headquarters to Anthony village, as you make for Oshodi from Bariga. As UNILAG shed it’s violent past (except for a few skirmishes once a while, mainly from other schools in retaliatory attacks on individuals within the campus) for glamour by the “indomie” generation that now walk the grounds of that citadel of learning bounded on a side by a lagoon, in metropolitan Lagos, adjoining Yaba College of Technology took up the gauntlet, such that at some point Student’s Union activities was outlawed because of violence associated with their elections, and until a few months back, violence and sometimes killings (a few) had become a common denominator.
The schools, secondary and tertiary in this case, in the Bariga and Akoka axis, even unto Yaba, Palmgrove, Onipanu, and Obanikoro areas provided the mass that also fought the military following the cancellation of the results of the June 12, 1993 elections supposedly won by Chief Moshood Kashimawo O. Abiola. Though many of these students, and sympathetic residents of Bariga and it’s environs, paid the ultimate price and loss of limbs, sight amongst others, especially at the Berger end of the Third Mainland Bridge, as well as around the small roundabout in Yaba, as you made for Ojuelegba, their heroics are hardly remembered for mention, talk more for any form of recognition by those who became beneficiaries of the outcome of the struggles of these students and young Nigerians, then led by Student Union Governments (SUGs, when student unionism was worth it’s onions in Nigeria) of the tertiary institutions in Akoka and Yaba (and even outside of those locations, by students who schooled outside but were at home at the time of the strikes and civil disobedience activities embarked upon by Student and Civil Society Groups), as well as the Labour Unions at the time. These locational situations ensured that Bariga, because of its proximity to the Labour Union office in Yaba, and schools around and about it, was always in the eye of the storm each time uprisings associated with students, or Labour Unions occur, and because many times Labour would call on the Nigerian Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTWand Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN) to help enforce its sit-at-home orders, by ensuring that none of their commercial buses ply the roads on the designated days, the latter tended to unleash their thugs, many of whom reside in Bariga, to ensure compliance in the neighbouring areas of Bariga, even unto Oshodi, using methods that many times border on the violent.
Now, to the reason why I decided to write this in the first place, even though I had to go so far back to bring it into perspective. The killing of two of the leaders of rival cult groups, namely the “Eiye” as “Aiye” groups (which unlike the Pirates or Vikings and their likes, as with Nigeria’s tertiary institutions, are traditional and are steeped in rituals, oath taking and much more brazen in the shedding of blood, sometimes for rituals, for their own purposes, or on behalf of the powerful individuals and politicians with leanings to and for the diabolic) in Bariga last week. A member of Solomon’s Aiye Group had shot and killed Ibrahim Balogun (aka Small Jaypron or Small Japron or Small Jpron aka Asalailul – “Angel of Death”, not to be mistaken for Femi Japron, who controls the Fadeyi Sector off Somolu) of the Eiye Confraternity, during the melee that ensued over a ₦500,000 largesse given them by a politician at a hotel in the Obanikoro area. In the pandemonium that followed, Solomon aka Solo had tried to escape via a tricycle but was unlucky as he was soon tracked down, laid flat on the road, and had his head crushed with a huge stone by the late Japron’s men. One other ganglord was also wounded but managed to survive. Small Jaypron had actually gone underground and laid quiet for some time until his reappearance recently, and subsequent killing last week. He was arrested about two years ago for the murder of two cult leaders, again over turf wars which his group won, but was later released under controversial circumstances from prison by powerful people, most likely politicians who people like him often help to sway elections their way by any means possible. The police was forced to move against him then because of the enormity of the crimes committed in that round of clashes that led to the burning of an old woman in the house owned by the father of a cultist in a rival camp, amongst other atrocities.
What is this Turf War in Bariga about? Unlike other growing areas of Lagos, Bariga is a densely populated area. There’s hardly any virgin land beside swamps available, such that recent developments have included the dredging of part of the Lagos Lagoon at the Oworonshoki end tagged “Land Reclamation”
when in actual fact nothing in history, including the map of Lagos from antiquity supports the fallacy. New buildings in Bariga means that the old must go. So, buying of houses, to demolish and build new ones is usually commonplace, and even if the new owner has fulfilled all the requirements to take possession of his house, s/he may not necessarily be able to do so, unless s/he “settles” land speculators, called “Omo’nílè” sometimes at costs so high that it may equal that paid for the house in the first place. The foot soldiers of the omo’nílè includes some members of these cult groups and their members. In fact, one “Shaggy” was killed somewhere around Abule Oja a few months back, after his group failed to share equally what they’d collected from a man that had bought a house, demolished it and was erecting a new one in the Ilaje area of Bariga. Members of these so called cult groups, and gangs also collect “protection” money from dredgers, and tippers with their sand or granite cargo, as well as extort drivers of container-laden trucks (for which most of them pay military personnel as escorts in a bid to avoid paying such fees that may sometimes border on the exorbitant), trucks with farm produce for the popular Bariga market, not forgetting sewage retrieval and disposal trucks as they make their way into and out of Bariga.
Some of them are involved in the collection of “tolls” from commercial buses on behalf of the NURTW and RTEAN, as well as their subsidiaries in the tricycle and motorcycle sections. They also have influence amongst artisans, from mechanics to vulcanizers, to carpenters, to plumbers and the likes. Because most of the youths are jobless (sitting and moping at those who are able to go out in the mornings and return by evening from work, but doing nothing else beside looking for the next action for exhibition of delinquent behaviour or for the next kick in combination of drugs and alcohol, in keeping with the street lingo as “science students“), and unemployable because of their school dropout status (either because they couldn’t pay for school leaving certificate exam fees, or couldn’t make the cut off mark to read their courses off choice in the university, and didn’t have the “legs” to get into university, and the likes) and couldn’t be useful otherwise legitimately, have taken to become “Area Boys” and prey on the weak in the society, to satisfy their own desires. In fact, you’d sometimes see some of the boys block a road and start harassing passersby for money, reminding the hapless victims that they are only heeding the people’s advice to stop stealing.
GANGLAND BARIGA https://madukovich.wordpress.com/2018/10/24/gangland-bariga/
Published by m'khail madukovich