IT was the worst form of death at the site of a strange discovery. Two men allegedly found inside a manhole suspected to be ritualists’ den in the Obadeyi axis of Ijaiye along Lagos-Abeokuta highway were given jungle justice on Tuesday.
The two men were subjected to serious torture before their lives were abbreviated in broad daylight. Their lanky frames were dragged on the floor, slapped, kicked and pummeled before their lives were silenced under a hail of stones at sunrise by a mob who at once was the accuser, the judge and executor.
A shrill voice of a woman crying for help from the manhole was said to have attracted a female highway sweeper attached to the Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA). The woman, it was learnt, raised the alarm which attracted bystanders to the scene.
The woman and her child, as gathered, were rescued from the ‘pit of hell’ under the busy highway. A search for the perpetrators of heinous acts in the tunnel unveiled the two young men, one of whom allegedly boasted that he could not be hurt after fruitless attempts to set him ablaze. The mob wasted no time in smashing him dead before he was set ablaze.
The second suspect also got the same treatment while one other was rescued from the mob by some soldiers who spearheaded the combing of the manhole.
While the mob celebrated the killing, photographing and filming the dying suspects and uploading same on the internet as they were burning, it turned out that one of them, Awolu Hamed, was wrongly accused. He was an okada (commercial motorcycle) rider in Meiran area of Lagos. On a normal day, his colleagues said, Awolu would work from dawn till noon before taking a break to eat and sniff his favourite stimulant called gum. Thereafter, he would become re-invigorated to continue with the day’s work.
On Tuesday, Awolu decided to re-energise himself early with the stimulant. Shortly after the news of the uncovering of a den of ritual killers spread to his park, he decided to take a walk to the scene. Anxious to ascertain the veracity of the story, he joined a search party consisting of soldiers and men of the Odua People’s Congress (OPC) to navigate the tunnel. But while the OPC men had white cloths tied to their arms, Awolu had none. Hence, he was turned back by the soldiers because he was not an OPC member.
Unfortunately for him, he decided to come out of the tunnel through another route only to walk into the waiting hands of irate mob at the end of one of the several exit points of the canal. Pronto, the mob rushed furiously towards him and descended on him, making him an oblation for the sins of ritual killers. Before the news of his capture could get to his colleagues at their park in Meiran, Awolu and the other suspects had been dispatched to their graves.
”We could not believe it,” said one of his colleagues at the park, who identified himself simply as Mukaila.
”He was a gentleman, only about 26 years old. He would operate his motorbike and return home after the close of work in the evening. The only weakness he had was his indulgence in a stimulant called gum, which he took to re-energise himself.
”Once he took the stimulant, he would become weak, but much later, the substance would restore his energy. On Tuesday, he walked to the site of the suspected ritual killers’ den and entered the underground canal with others to search for the operators of the den suspected to be hiding there.
”But shortly after he entered the manhole with other security people, he was turned back by the soldiers that led the search party. Unfortunately, the irate mob that waited outside took him for one of the ritual killers. As soon as he got out of the tunnel through one of the several exit points, he was seized, stoned and burnt to death by the mob.
“By the time some of us arrived the scene, he was already burning and there was no way we could rescue him from the ravenous fire.”
A chieftain of the Okada Riders’ Association at the park, who asked not to be named, said the killing of Awolu by a mob, was the height of injustice, noting that he could have been saved by the police but for the unruly crowd that prevented law enforcement agents at the scene from rescuing him.
”The mob that killed Awolu committed a great injustice because they shouldn’t have taken the law into their hands. Their action is a sad commentary on the ability of the country’s law enforcement agencies to contain irate crowd.
”Awolu was a very neat person and his motorbike is always very neat too. He never had accident in the last three years that he operated in our park. It is sad that he was subjected to cruel death for an offence he did not commit.”
A food vendor at the park said: ”Awolu was unfortunate. I was shocked when the news of his death was broken to us. That morning, he still bought a plate of rice and ponmo from me before he left the park for the site of the ritualists’ den. From what I heard, he was wrongly accused of being a ritual killer and given jungle justice. He would have been saved if policemen at the scene were able to control the crowd and rescue him.
The killing of Awolu and the other suspected ritual killer emboldened the mob to further comb the surroundings for more suspects. A few minutes later, an itinerant mentally-challenged person was wrongly intercepted at the back of an uncompleted building and was to be dragged to the Golgotha when residents intervened and identified him. It however took a lot of persuasions by the concerned residents before he was freed.
As the crowd surged back and forth, a woman, who gave her name as Agnes, intermittently shouted on top of her voice, calling on policemen at the scene to further their search and bring out suspects hiding inside the underground canal.
She recalled how one of his sons disappeared after he was sent to collect cash from one of the Automated Teller Machines (ATM) belonging to a new generation bank close to the scene about three years ago.
She said: “About three years ago, my son, an SS2 student, was sent by my husband to collect some money from the ATM machine, but he never returned home. We came to the ATM points located in some of the banks around here to look for him but he could not be found. We went to so many media houses to make announcements, hoping to locate his whereabouts, but it was all to no avail.
”I am convinced beyond doubt that the sons from hell behind this tunnel are responsible for my son’s disappearance, and I will be more than happy to see the culprits arrested and prosecuted.”
Police spokesman, Mr Olarinde Famous-Cole, said the Command was still investigating the incident. He said that police experts had been deployed to the scene to carry out special investigations that could unravel the masterminds of the underground den.
He said: ”So far, we have deployed sniffer dogs to assist our experts and they are taking blood samples and examining the Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) of some of the suspects in order to ascertain persons behind the criminal den.
“We have also cordoned off the area and invited occupants of some of the buildings which serve as criminal hideout close to the scene. We are still investigating and our men are on ground to contain any unruly behaviour from onlookers.”