At least two people are feared dead after a group of agitators from the Yoruba nation clashed with men from the Lagos State Police Command around Gani Fawehinmi Park in the Ojota area of the state.
Recall that a vendor, Jumoke Oyeleke, was shot dead by police while dispersing Yoruba Nation protesters in the same park on July 3, 2021.
A coroner’s inquest into the circumstances surrounding the events that claimed the 25-year-old’s life charged police, but no suspects were released for prosecution.
PUNCH Subway deduced that the agitators were protesting again on Monday when the police fired tear gas to disperse them.
Protesters were said to have retaliated when the situation degenerated.
A trike driver, who declined to be named for fear of being arrested by armed police officers parading through the premises, said the protesters were demonstrating peacefully when a policewoman gave the order to disperse them.
He said: “I saw the woman receiving a call; she was not wearing a uniform but she was part of the police team that was mobilized to the area. Immediately after she finished receiving the call, she gave the order to disperse the protesters and they started shooting at them.
“The bullets could not penetrate the protesters’ bodies, so the police fired tear gas. What the protesters did was rub their eyes with kerosene so that the tear gas would not affect them. There was confusion when they started shooting and firing tear gas; many of us run away.
“The demonstrators injured two of the police officers; I don’t know if they died or not, but I saw them taking them from the scene. A vehicle was also burned.
Another eyewitness, who owns a business across from Parque Ojota and spoke on condition of anonymity for security reasons, said the protesters arrived at the park around 3 a.m.
He explained that when the buses got off the protesters, he saw them group together and thought they were stranded passengers.
“Nobody was afraid that they could be armed robbers because if they had that intention, there were few of us who were there at that time.
“But it was in the morning that we knew that their real intention was to protest when we saw them group around Ojota Park and display banners and the flag of the Oodua Nation. This was around 8am and they never acted in a way that showed they wanted to fight.
“They were just protesting peacefully and it was when the police arrived that everything dispersed and they started firing tear gas canisters to disperse them.
“I saw someone lying motionless on the ground but I couldn’t wait to confirm if he was alive or dead because I had to run because the tear gas was too much and it was affecting me,” said the businessman.
While speaking with the businessman, a policeman, who was unaware that our correspondent was getting information from him, said that one of his colleagues was attacked with machetes.
The policeman said: “If you were protesting peacefully, why did you resort to damaging people’s property? They chased and caught up with one of my colleagues, who fired tear gas canisters and used machetes to cut him down.
“They have rushed him to a hospital; if he dies, nothing will happen. There would be no compensation for his family. All we’ll hear is that he died on active duty.
“Why did protesters burn an innocent man’s vehicle? They also smashed the windshield of some of our vehicles. I too would have been a victim of the attack but I had to fire two bullets to scare them when they came in my direction”.
At the scene, our correspondent observed discomfort due to the presence of heavily armed police officers.
No less than 28 police vehicles, including officers from the Lagos Rapid Response Squad; Lagos State Environment and Special Crimes Enforcement Unit; the Nigerian Civil Defense and Security Corps and police officers from a nearby police station were seen at the scene.
Additionally, a Black Maria was sighted and people, some of whom eyewitnesses claimed to be innocent, were seen in the vehicle.
Broken glass was also littering the road when signs of a bonfire were observed at the location where the vehicle burned.
State police public relations officer SP Benjamin Hundeyin, who confirmed the incident in a post on Twitter, said one person was killed.
He said: “In the early hours of today (Monday), scoundrels disguised as Yoruba Nation agitators came out by the hundreds, disrupting social and commercial activities in the Ojota area of the state.
“A team of police, made up of the Alausa division and the Raid Respond Squad, quickly intervened to disperse the illegal assembly and prevent the collapse of law and order.
“The criminals attacked the police, shooting and destroying two vehicles in the process. One person has been confirmed dead, while two police officers shot by the criminals are currently receiving treatment.
“Four suspects have been arrested and investigations have been launched. Meanwhile, normalcy has been restored in the area.”
Reacting to the incident, one of the leaders of the Yoruba self-determination group, Professor Banji Akintoye, said two people lost their lives.
Akintoye, while speaking in an interview monitored by our YouTube correspondent, said that the protesters gathered for a peaceful demonstration in support of their agitation for the Yoruba nation.
He said: “His purposes are clear; self-determination of the Yoruba nation. His methods have always been clear. A peaceful demonstration, without weapons, without violence of any kind, without considering the police as enemies, without considering any Nigerian state official as enemies, those were the conditions in which the young people gathered this morning to hold a demonstration.
“Even before they had calmed down as they reached the center where they wanted to hold the demonstration, the Nigerian police approached them and started shooting at them. We already learned that two young people have died as a result of police fire.”