Police, Army in Bloody Clash in Nigeria

No fewer than three persons were killed and over 50 cars destroyed Tuesday, as police and soldiers engaged in an exchange of fisticuffs in Lagos. The fight rendered hundreds of people homeless. PHILIP NWOSU writes on the crisis

Hell was let loose on Tuesday in Lagos, the commercial capital of Nigeria as soldiers and policemen went for each others throat, burning and maiming, in a clash that shock residents of the city. Three persons were killed and six injured, while more than 40 vehicles were torched in the orgy of violence which started in the early hours of Tuesday. Also the Area ‘C’ command headquarters of the Nigerian Police, located in Ojuelegba area of Lagos, another busy spot, was reduced to rubbles by the angry soldiers whose superior officer was earlier attacked. Eyewitness said that trouble started when two policemen attached to the command, at a check point attempted to extort money from a commercial bus driver who had earlier taken two soldiers as passengers. The Soldiers resisted vehemently, the move by the policemen, prompting a deep argument which snowballed into a free for all fight. The fight, according to the witness, was later settled but the wound refused to heal as the policemen apparently angry, went out to search for soldiers. While the operation mounted by the police lasted, they encountered a Brigadier General whose identity was yet to be revealed, on his way to work and beat him to pulp, leaving his orderly and another aid helpless. The orderly however, went to a nearby military base to seek assistance and he got a handful of soldiers, who returned to the scene where the brigadier general was beaten up, to unleash mayhem on the policemen found at the area. The fight which followed the reprisal by the soldiers went out of controlled and snowballed into the Police headquarters where over 40 cars belonging to some police officers were burnt to ashes. The office block of the police command was also not spared as it was reduced to rubbles. Detainees of the station were freed by the soldiers and the armoury was ransacked but arms were later returned when the incident had died down. The Army Spokesman of the 81 Division in Lagos Colonel Alade Dabiri said the force has commenced an investigation into the matter, especially to determine the immediate cause of the fracas. The police spokesman Mr. Olubode Ojajuni who earlier was conducting journalist round the scene of the incident was later attacked by some persons suspected to be soldiers. They plummeted him. Lagos State Governor, Senator Bola Tinubu who visited the scene of the incident on his way home, summoned the General Brigade Commander, Brigadier General Federick Enai and the Assistant Inspector General of Police in-charge of Zone 2 in Lagos, Mr. Israel Ajao for a meeting later Tuesday evening. The matter has rested for now but uneasy calm still pervaded the area as there were fears of another attack . Members of the Red Cross and firefighters were seen battled to save lives and properties at the barracks during the crisis, they confirmed three dead and six critically injured . Commending on the crisis, the Inspector General of Police, Mr Sunday Ehindero described it as a minor disagreement in the enforcement of the law. He said: \"It was a fracas at the lower level. It was a minor disagreement which ought to be contained, but wasn’t, until senior officers intervened. The report from Lagos is such that there is nothing to worry about.\" Ehindero, who also met yesterday with top police officers from the rank of commissioner and above drawn from all police formations across the country, warned against undue detention of suspects especially at the Force Criminal Investigation Department (FCID) and the collection of bribe for bail. \"I’ve received reports that bail is not free at the police stations. If we say bail is free, please make sure that bail is free,\" he stressed.