Theatre of Mayhem


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Newswatch (Lagos)

April 6, 2003
Posted to the web April 7, 2003

Solomon Ibharuneafe

Death of a youth ignites anger in Sagamu as his colleagues sack Oba's palace and burn property in the city

The ancient city of Sagamu in Ogun State was last week literally turned into a war zone as irate youths destroyed properties worth millions of naira. Among the properties burnt down by the angry youths were the palace of Oba Michael Sonarinwo , the Akarigbo of Remoland, 15 of his private cars and his private house.

Newswatch learnt that the angry youths numbering about 50 were protesting an alleged embezzlement of about N30 million received by some elders on behalf of the community from West African Portland Cement Company, WAPCO. The money is meant for the development of the community but was diverted into private pockets. Newswatch sources said the Oba and other chiefs attacked by the youths were allegedly fingered in the embezzlement that led to the crisis.

However, the chiefs were said to have denied ever receiving any money from WAPCO but the youths insisted they did. They never hid their feelings. At a seminar for youth empowerment recently, the youths vented their anger over the issue but Samuel Alebiosu, chairman of Sagamu Local Government Council, confirmed to Newswatch that he personally persuaded the youths to drop the allegation as no company could pay such a huge amount of money to individuals, but they were still adamant. He said at another forum the youths arrested all WAPCO vehicles coming from the factory and took them to the police station as a result of the allegation. These two instances, he said, could be linked to the crisis and not just the killing of Kehinde Ogunjimi, their member.

Ogunjimi, a 20-year-old school leaver was shot dead Saturday, March 15. Ogunjimi was said to have been killed by the vigilante group and his corpse deposited in a carnal along the Sagamu - Benin Express Way . The youths were said to have demanded for the corpse but the vigilante denied having a hand in it. The corpse was later found in the carnal which angered them.

The source who spoke to Newswatch on condition of anonymity said the killing could not have had anything to do with the burning down of the chief's houses and cars. There is more to the destruction than the death of Ogunjimi, the source said.

Addressing newsmen at the Divisional Police Headquarters, Sagamu, on Tuesday, Adebayo Adeoye, assistant inspector-general of police, AIG, Zone 2, said the police have arrested 25 of the youths. He said his men were still searching for the vigilante who killed Ogunjimi. He disclosed that only one person died along with Ogunjimi during the protest that engulfed the town on Monday. He said the crisis would have been averted if the Sagamu youths that discovered the corpse of their dead colleague had reported the matter to the police. Peace had returned to the town by last week.

At the Akarigbo's private house that was razed down, Olabode George, national vice-chairman of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, who came with Otunba Gbenga Daniel, the party's governorship candidate in Ogun State and other party faithful to commiserate with the Akarigbo, told journalists that the incident was a sacrilegious act. He said it had never happened in the history of the Yoruba nation. He called on Olusegun Osoba, the governor of the state to get cracking to get the culprits to book. According to the PDP stalwart, if he (the governor) could not do it, then the Federal Government would do it to curtail violence during and after the elections. He assured the traditional ruler and the entire people of Sagamu that the Federal Government would not leave any stone unturned to unravel the cause of the mayhem. The transition will not be derailed, he said.

Gbenga Daniel, on his part, described the incident as unfortunate. He said Sagamu has been a very peaceful town and called on the youths to be calm.

At press time last week, affected persons were still counting their losses. Kayode Ekundayo, director of education, information and social development said his car was burnt to ashes. He said the youths attacked the local government secretariat after sacking the palace. He said some of the chiefs ran into the secretariat when the youths set the palace ablaze. They came to the secretariat in search of the chiefs and destroyed cars and windows of offices in the council. The secretariat is located beside the Akarigbo's palace.

Meanwhile, a dusk-to-dawn curfew had been placed in the town by Osoba. He lamented the spate of destruction as he said "everything we believe in as a race had gone. This is an action that must be condemned in its totality," he said.

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