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Relocation: Lagos taskforce threatened to kill us in Osun forest, victims allege

Some victims have narrated how the officials of the Lagos State task force threatened to kill them in Osun Forest after they were allegedly arrested in the Marina area of the state and later dumped at the forest in Ilesha, Osun State, on Saturday.

The state government had vowed to clamp down on miscreants across the state after it uncovered about 86 partitioned rooms, measuring 10×10 and 12×10, being used as makeshift apartments under the Dolphin Bridge.

According to the state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotoso, an ongoing operation was undertaken by the government to tackle the security risk in Lagos caused by the influx of miscreants, beggars, and the destitute in different parts of the state.

Omotoso further stated that some suspects were arrested under the Dolphin Bridge, and some pleaded for assistance to relocate to their various hometowns, while others were in rehabilitation due to their medical state.

“As part of the exercise, 450 miscreants were rescued at the weekend. Of the lot, 371 pleaded for assistance to relocate to their various states due to the hardship they are facing in Lagos; 79 have been absorbed into some government facilities for rehabilitation after showing signs of being unwell,” the commissioner partly said on Sunday.

The victims told PUNCH Metro on Sunday after they escaped from the Ilesha forest that they were arrested without proper investigation and found themselves in Osun, where they were threatened with being killed if they refused to cooperate with them.

While recounting their ordeals, they told our correspondents that they were numbering about 500, including people living with disabilities, jam-packed in cramped conditions inside the chartered bus provided by the state government to the forest.

One of the victims who said he sold phone accessories at the Marina area of Lagos, Miracle Chukwu, claimed he was not allowed to speak before being pushed into the bus and that the officials threatened to shoot anyone who disobeyed them in the forest.

“I was coming back from where I was selling phone accessories at the CMS area around 11 a.m., so some task force officials and police officers stopped me and forced me into their Black Maria vehicle. They beat me up and collected my bag, which contained my iPhone XR, over N20,000, and my house key.

“That night, they arrested innocent people, took me to the Lion Building, and then transferred us to Elemoro Police Station, Area J. They ordered a bus to pick us up and take us to Osun State, including people living with disabilities and a lot of traders in all kinds of businesses in Lagos.

“We were about 500 that they arrested. The bus dropped us at a forest in Ilesha, asked us to enter the bush, and they vowed to kill anyone who did not cooperate. We stayed in the forest for thirty minutes before we came out. We were begging people to help us until we got to the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway; it was the sibling of one of us who came to rescue us,” Chukwu narrated.

A job seeker, Arius Awodeji, who identified himself as a Lagos resident, said they were deceived that they were heading to Ikeja to see the governor, but surprisingly found themselves in the forest.

“I am still searching for a new job. I decided to stay in the Marina with my friends. On Thursday, I went to watch a football match, so I decided to rest at the Local Government council, in the front of Oando filling station. Then, I slept off with my bag on my head as I was still searching for a job. Around 2:42 am, I checked the time, and I saw three flashlights pointed at my eyes.

“We stayed up all night without being fed. Around 10:30 p.m., they brought luxury buses to pick us up, and they gave us a pack of rice and a sachet of water. Around 4:30 a.m., we had already got to Osun State.

“They instructed everyone to alight and run into the bush without looking back, so we would not end up being shot. We found it hard to locate our way back because we were trekking, but I was fortunate to see someone who helped me with a lift to  Ibadan,” Awodeji said.

Another victim, Peter Ocheja, said he was arrested unjustly on his way to work, and he had no choice but to follow the directives of the task force in the Osun forest because of the fear of being harmed.

“I am based in Onikan, Lagos. I was going to work in the morning and saw the task force officials and police officers in Black Maria. They asked me to enter the vehicle. I told them that I should call my family, but they refused and said it would be until I got to where I was going.

“They threatened that they would waste our lives if we did not cooperate with them. We were taken to Ilesha in Osun State. We got there around 4 a.m.. So, they asked us to alight while flogging us and instructed us to walk towards the forest. They said they would shoot anyone who dared look back,” Ocheja said.

Meanwhile, the Osun State Governor, Ademola Adeleke, said his Lagos State, Babjide Sanwo-Olu, had told him that he didn’t authorise the repatriation of youths believed to be indigenes of Osun to their state of origin from Lagos.

Olawale Rasheed, the spokesperson for Adeleke, said in a statement on Monday that the governor urged his Lagos State counterpart to look into the matter and put an end to the incident.

Adeleke’s reaction came on the heels of a report of several luxury buses seen dropping off hundreds of youths at various points in the Ilesa area of the state from various parts of Lagos State.

The statement said, “I spoke with my brother, Governor Sanwo-Olu, on the matter. He too was surprised, and he denied ever authorising any such action. Governor Sanwo-Olu has promised an immediate investigation to unravel the facts of the situation. The Lagos team will update us as quickly as possible.

“I am subsequently directing our security agencies in Osun to mount surveillance in and around Ilesa to track the deported youths and their destinations. I will update our people on this development. I urge residents to be calm while the security agencies carry out surveillance.”

Omotoso did not pick up his phone when our correspondent dialled his mobile number to comment on Adeleke’s statement as of the time this report was filed.


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