One of the residents of Oko Oba Abattoir, Agege, Lagos State, identified simply as Usman, was buried yesterday amidst tears. Usman, said to be a scavenger, was allegedly killed when Lagos State Task Force officials, with their caterpillar, went to the Abattoir community to carry out a demolition exercise on Saturday. A friend of the deceased, who gave his name as Muritala, said: “We’re not troublemakers!
We don’t have anywhere to go; that was why we couldn’t leave the railway line since they asked us. Now, one of us has been killed. The deceased was planning to send some baby clothes and other things he bought for his wife, when he was killed. His wife was just delivered of a baby. Now, we don’t know what to tell the wife and his parents in the North.
“We’re not just at the railway line doing our business; we always settle railway policemen and Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) men and OPMESA. These policemen are the ones that had been assuring us that nothing would happen to us; that nobody would send us away.”
The exercise focused on shan-ties and structures described as illegal by the state government. Some of the structures were alleged to be along the railway line.
A witness said: “Usman was sleeping in his makeshift house, when the caterpillar, during the demolition exercise along the railway line, crushed the makeshift home, killing him in the process.” When our correspondent visited the area yesterday, some of the scavengers were salvaging some of their property.
Some of the task force officials were also stationed at different locations in the area. Leader of the scavengers, Mr. Basheer Hussaini, said: “We were all working, when we saw task force officials.
They appeared to have emerged from nowhere and started chasing us. We all tried to pick what we could and run away. We stood afar and watched as they demolished the shanties.
“I’m surprised that the deceased didn’t know that the demolition exercise had commenced. Immediately the caterpillar got to the deceased’s makeshift home, we shouted to alert them that someone was sleeping but they didn’t listen to us. Before we knew what was happening, the caterpillar had killed him, where he was sleeping. Blood was gushing out from the makeshift where the deceased was sleeping. The caterpillar and task force officials immediately left the scene.
“It was after the policemen had left the scene that was when we were able to move close to the scene. We wanted to rush him to the hospital, but we realised that he was already dead.” A resident in the area, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the demolition exercise had brought relief to the community.
He said: “The scavengers have turned the railway line to a hot bed of crime, where different kinds of crime thrive. We don’t walk freely at night. They used to snatch phones and other valuables from innocent residents. I’m appealing to the Lagos State government to light up the whole place to avoid crime and criminalities in the area.
This is not the first time that the scavengers had been dislodged from this area. Policemen should be stationed at the railway line to prevent further regrouping. Some residents had to move because of the scavengers.”
The Chief Public Affairs Officer of the Lagos State Task Force, Mr. Adebayo Taofeek, expressed surprise that anyone died during the demolition exercise. He said: “The effort of the government was to clear the whole area that had been messed up.
There is a criminal den and other vices going on in the area. The operation was a joint effort that comprises officials of the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), OPMESA, police task force and other stakeholders in the market.”