Jan 12, 2017, 2:45:22 AM City

In recent times Ikorodu has been appearing on the timelines of my head more often than before. There was a time I didn't even know it was a part of Lagos, okay yea I had a girlfriend who I never visited because she lived there back then in secondary school. But that was just it, the other times it was because I'd use Ikorodu Road to several other destinations besides the place it actually led to, and then again that was it. It wasn't until a colleague at work some years back regaled us with tales of how she would wake up as early as three in the morning, and be on the road by four just to be at work on the island before seven that my consciousness was raised a notch concerning the place. Of course, we also witnessed the many times she was robbed, phones and bags collected severally, besides the physical and psychological trauma she was subjected to by (armed) robbers and hoodlums, as she made her way to work, and the many times she'd had to leave work before closing hours for home, because the people of Ikorodu had one (Orò) festival or the other, bordering on the fetish and diabolical to perform, for which women, sometimes men are required to stay indoors sometimes for days on end. You could tell how evidently she changed once she moved out of Ikorodu, where she didn't have to pay rent because it was her parent's house, to the island where she paid massively, but had rest of mind.


With these at the back of my mind, when I forayed into a bit of real estate, I wasn't keen on Ikorodu, even though it seemed like it was the only place we could afford to buy land in Lagos at the time, before we decided to move outside of Lagos, although it was the issue of land speculators and/or grabbers that topped the list of our disenchantment with that part of Lagos at the time, over and above my personal issues with the place. It also meant that when accommodation became an issue for me sometime last year, Ikorodu wasn't even up for consideration, despite the fact that many of the new apartments on display, mostly online had the kind of space as well as other facilities, for less competitive pricing that you'd find nowhere else on the mainland or on the island, without boring a huge hole in your pocket.


Now, recently a man was caught (while his accomplices managed to escape) in the Majidun area of Ikorodu, said to be planning to blow up the third mainland bridge in Lagos. He was said to be part of the oil bunkering militants, whose stock in trade was to burst oil pipelines in the Arepo and Ikorodu areas of Ogun and Lagos States respectively, fill barges with twenty-five litre kegs containing fuel, and even bigger containers for onward sales to customers in the black market. He and his cohorts, according to the police decided to blow up the bridge because of recent Nigerian army and airforce raids that bombed them out of their hideouts and out of business (at least for now). As usual, and as is commonplace with the Nigerian security services, they overplayed and over-sensationalized that event in the press, ignoring the wider, even more deadlier scenario, that this was just one man (which I doubt would've been able to go through with his plans, with the few dynamites and other explosive paraphernalia on him) out of the horde that have now gotten their hands to other mischief to make "ends" meet, ends that have widened exponentially, based on the amount of money that was formerly available to them in their oil bunkering days. That simply added to my dread of Ikorodu, and I simply noted the event.


So, weeks ago, just before Christmas, on the stretch of Ikorodu road of which Majidun (again) is part of, a robbery incident was recorded in which Aisha Alli- Balogun, a TV presenter was shot dead while in traffic and her daughter, a kid was kidnapped (later released to her family, with no news as to whether a ransom was paid or not) during the attack that involved several commuters in traffic on the said night. It was while I was scanning through twitter that it came to light that this wasn't the first time this would be happening there, especially on that part of Ikorodu road, as I began to read of experiences of even passengers in public buses who have lost valuables while they were caught up in traffic, and robbers took advantage of their helpless situation to strike.


In that period, I also noticed that another staff at work who lives close to Ikorodu was now coming later than usual, and I asked her about the situation, only for her to attribute her lateness to her now having to leave home later than usual, till such a time as she could see the light of day because of the nefarious activities of "former oil bunkerers" who have taken to armed robbery and kidnapping, since their oil bunkering activity was halted by the Nigerian military. She stated that on one particular occasion the armed robbers blocked both sides of the traffic at about seven o'clock in the evening around the Ogijo part of the Ikorodu road, and perpetrated their crime, robbing from vehicle to vehicle for more than an hour without police showing up anywhere to rescue the situation, while it lasted, till the thieves got tired of hauling loot and left. What broke the camel's back for her however, was the recent abduction last week of passengers in a bus still on the Majidun axis of Ikorodu road, who were hailed down by armed men very early in the morning, and transferred from their bus to that of the kidnappers, and driven to an unknown location from where families of those abducted were called to pay varying amounts as ransom to facilitate the release of their wards and family members, then in the care of kidnappers. Since then, this staff, has defied the fear of a query for late coming because of that incident, saying she'd be devastated if something like that happened to her, while still nursing and breastfeeding a baby. Unfortunately, moving to other parts of Lagos is presently out of the question for her seeing as her husband prefers Ikorodu, due to the proximity to his business to their house, and also not wanting his wife to be closer to her people in mainland Lagos, which a move away from Ikorodu, outskirt of Lagos might enable.


How could I have gotten this far without mentioning the cult problem in Ikorodu. When in discussions last week over the issue with a friend, he attributed the situation to the presence of the Lagos State Polytechnic students there who are members of one cult or the other, but I was quick to inform him that the cultism in that institution, and indeed of tertiary institutions in Nigeria is child's play compared to the horror that cultists, who aren't mainly students, in Ikorodu get up to, as well as visit on the people of Ikorodu, sometimes with active connivance of the police and other security agencies, as well as politicians and the well entrenched traditional society in that part of town. Many times, when the people resort to jungle justice and lynching of a criminal, they say that at other times they resorted to following the law such criminals were released from police custody under controversial circumstances, sometimes by influential chieftaincy title holders and powerful politicians, whom they might have done some favour for, many times the gory ones that the people of Ikorodu wake to see some mornings as headless corpses, with other parts of the body missing, and these include of males and females. Even with rape cases, Ikorodu stands out, with victims at certain times including either the very young, or the very old, then bizarre in that some of the perpetrators then go on to wipe the vaginas of their victims with a white handkerchief, in what many suggest will be used for ritual purposes.


It isn't unusual that Ikorodu is getting all these bad vibes now. It's where the middle class have elected in recent times, to build their homes on cheaper to acquire land, though that comes with its own challenges, including as mentioned before, land speculators/grabbers who could make a landowner pay several times for the same land, depending on the number of times different aboriginal families win cases in court to upturn a former so called "original" aboriginal landowner (omo onílè). Ikorodu is like sugar surrounded by a horde of ants. Even an arm of Nigeria's entertainment industry, the Yoruba-speaking film industry, known as the National Association of Nigerian Theater Arts Practitioners, NANTAP, have lots of their members who have homes, businesses like hotels and sundry in Ikorodu, as against their English-speaking Nollywood counterparts who have made Lekki axis on the island their base, as with the very wealthy of Lagos. When the criminals abduct (even primary and secondary school students, some of them while on the assembly ground in the morning), rob or perpetrate crime in Ikorodu, they do these aware that some of their victims are wealthy, or are related to those who are and own houses in Ikorodu, and can afford to pay ransom to secure the release of their wards in their captivity.


What Ikorodu needs is more opening. The expansion and reconstruction of Ikorodu road is a step in the right direction, but that long stretch needs now to be policed, not just by the armored personnel carrier with a few policemen at strategic points on that stretch of road but far more than that, to include frequent patrols. If the fourth mainland bridge, which will link Ikorodu with Lekki, is finally built that will further open up Ikorodu and naturally that sort of openness will bring that part of town under further scrutiny especially of the security agencies, as well as government attention, which because there'll be facilities to protect on that axis, with new markets and economic opportunities, the land will be forced to modernize and hopefully crime will be effectively fought just because of exposure to the outside world, without forgetting the old ways that Ikorodu must shed to move forward, with or without the opening up of the area. It is heartwarming to learn that the Lagos state House of Assembly has passed into law, the anti-kidnapping bill into law, which prescribes life imprisonment for kidnappers, and a death sentence for them, if their captive dies in their custody, as well as forfeiture of the property in which the abducted was held incommunicado, though I don't know how the complicity of the owner of a property can be proven in such a situation, but notwithstanding it is a step in the right direction, if the laws can be implemented. Hopefully, the tales from Ikorodu will turnaround for good, for now it remains a no-go area for me.





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Originally Posted On My Blog, "noesis" as: "IKORODU: LAND OF HORRORS | http://madukovich.blogspot.com.ng/2017/01/ikorodu-land-of-horrors.html?m=1"

Published by m'khail madukovich

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