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A day of rage and rape

Posted by hola Oshunkeye, with reports from Emerson Gobert Jr. and Tunde Thomas on 2007/06/25 | Views: 742 |

A day of rage and rape

It was the first day of the nationwide strike called by the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, and Trade Union Congress, TUC, to protest the unilateral hike in fuel price and 100 percent leap in Value Added Tax, VAT, imposed by the expired Olusegun Obasanjo Administration at the twilight of its life.

Dateline: Wednesday, June 20, 2007.
It was the first day of the nationwide strike called by the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, and Trade Union Congress, TUC, to protest the unilateral hike in fuel price and 100 percent leap in Value Added Tax, VAT, imposed by the expired Olusegun Obasanjo Administration at the twilight of its life.

The day started on a fast and hot tempo in many parts of Lagos. The roads were empty. The monstrous traffic that makes Lagos one of the most chaotic mega cities in the world disappeared. Most roads became playgrounds for idle youths who seized the occasion to exercise and tone their muscles.

The weather was typically June-‘partly cloudy, partly bright’ as meteorologists of old would say. Everything had the trappings of those edgy days of military dictatorship when Nigerians either sat at home in civil disobedience to the authorities or trooped to the streets to protest oppressive polices of government.

If the protest kicked off on a peaceful note in other parts of Lagos, hell descended on Jibowu and Fadeyi parts of Ikorodu Road very early that morning. Perhaps unsure if Labour had capitulated to the last move by the Umar Musa Yar’Adua Government’s last minute decision to reduce pump price of petrol to N70 per litre and return VAT to status quo ante, some Lagosians attempted going to work. Commercial buses-Danfos and Molues- as well as commercial motorcyclists, a.k.a okadas, tried making brisk business, commuting people.

This continued for a while before some hemp-puffing youths in the Fadeyi area decided that enough was enough. They poured to the highway and began a vitriolic attack on any vehicle in sight-commercial or private. In some fleeting moments, it was as if all the demons in hell had been discharged to this part of Lagos. People ran in different directions. The ‘protesting’ and hemp-puffing youths (better addressed as hoodlums) began to pursue those who dared come out in a satanic rage, beating them to stupor, dispossessing many of valuables like portable phones and cash.
But the crisis crescendoed at about 7.35 a.m. when a molue bus descending the Western (Funsho Williams) Avenue-Jibowu overhead bridge joining Ikorodu Road was halted by the rampaging hoodlums who chased away the driver, conductor and passengers. Quite unfortunately, two ladies who were not quick in disembarking and they got ‘arrested’ and trapped inside the bus, and before you could scream ‘Yar’Adua’, the sons of the devil had torn the ladies cloths.

“They raped the ladies inside the bus in broad daylight,” an eyewitness told Spectacular Encounters categorically shortly after the dust settled. “At least, the skirt of one of them was drenched in blood when she was finally released. Is that part of the fuel hike protest? Attacking innocent people, co-sufferers? Those boys are beasts. Unless they repent, they will end up in hell where they will face everlasting torment with Satan, their father.”

A female resident in Jibowu, who identified herself simply as Basirat, was close to tears as she corroborated the eyewitness account. In addition to the horrifying rape, the lady worried about a bigger problem. “Most of the boys that perpetrate this kind of evil are usually drug users and sex perverts,” she said. “And chances are that they might have been infected with HIV. You can imagine the fate that awaits those they raped. It is like an instalmental death sentence. They should rot in jail. Happily, the police arrested some of them. They should face the full wrath of the law.”

The protest was an admixture of violence and extortion at the Mushin area of Lagos where some bus conductors and street urchins set up a ‘football pitch’ in the centre of the Mushin bus stop, playing soccer. About 200 metres away, Mushin Olorunsogo to be precise, another group of street urchins went on rampage, extorting money from motorists, smashing the wind shield of those who refused to play ball. A Toyota Corolla saloon car belonging to THE SUN was almost smashed by the scampering rascals because the driver did not bring out the N500 ransom they demanded on time. He was saved by a gruffly looking man who emerged from nowhere, shouting, “THE SUN is the people’s paper. The paper is correct, don’t attack him! But buy pour water for your boys, baba.”
A deafening ovation by the hoodlums trailed the driver as he compiled and zoomed off like someone being pursued by some demons.

It was a different ball game at the Iyana Iba motor park where members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW, of the garage engaged one another in a deadly factional war over leadership. Prior to the outburst, the area had been peaceful. Suddenly, the crisis erupted with the virulence of a volcano, spewing its hot lava over the entire area, sending peace loving Nigerians scampering for safety. The time was about 11 a.m. and like a bolt out of the blues, the factional fighters engaged themselves in a deadly battle, brandishing machetes, cudgels, knives, broken bottles, iron rods and other deadly weapons. Many people, including students from the nearby Lagos State University, LASU, were seriously injured.
A police patrol team heading for the Okokomaiko area, which happened on the confusion, had a hectic time restoring order.

The situation at the Ikotun area was not entirely different. Hoodlums who masqueraded as protesters, had sized the area as early as 6.30 a.m., blocking all access to the sprawling community and other strategic points. Like their counterparts at Oshodi and Mushin, they harassed and extorted money from commercial bus drivers, motorcyclists, car owners and even pedestrians.
Many motorists were forced to hang green leaves on their windshields as a sign of solidarity for the strike.

At a point, hoodlums went haywire as they started seizing commercial motorcycles whose operators couldn’t afford to pay the N100 ‘fine’ imposed on them as penalty for defying the NLC order for people to stay at home.
Transport fares also skyrocketed around the city as greedy commercial drivers exploited the situation to maximum advantage, charging outrageous fares for trips. For instance, a trip that, on a normal day, would cost N50 was jerked to N200.

Others operated in higher multiples of normal charges.
However, while many bus drivers savour their huge profit, a bus conductor almost paid dearly with his life. As passengers begged and pleaded with him and his driver to ‘help’ them with lower fares (conductors insisted that commuters pay before boarding), the driver just zoomed off as if trying to escape from a roaring lion, and plunged into a ditch in a jiffy.

The conductor was flung against a NEPA pole some metres away. Blood gushed out of his mouth like water from a broken pipe as he went limp. Judging from his awkward posture in his comatose position, you would have mistaken him for dead. But he was lucky as a ‘Good Samaritan’ doctor arrived the scene moments later and administered first aid to revive him. After some minutes of the resuscitation exercise, he coughed gently and came round.

But when he tried to speak, a gap in his upper jaw bore an eloquent testimony to how close he was to death. He had lost two incisors and a canine, even as his lower jaw drooped. But he was lucky to be alive. Alive to give his own account of the day of rage and rape in Lagos. A day that tested the will of the newly inaugurated Yar’Adua Administration.

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