Residents, Security agencies blame Alaafin as armed gangs take over Oyo

Living in the ancient town of Oyo, in Oyo State, South West
Nigeria has become challenging and tough. In recent years, many
residents of the once peaceful town have had to grapple with the
repulsive activities of armed gangs, which allegedly enjoy the
support of some of its most prominent leader.
Investigation by PREMIUM TIMES, spanning weeks, revealed that
these gangs forcefully impose “taxes,” rob the residents and
unleash mayhem on those who refuse to obey their “laws.” The
situation has made business activities in the town difficult.
In Oyo, the seat of the Alaafin, different areas like Ilaka, Iseke,
Akeetan, Akesan (garage), Agunpopo and Isale-Oyo have become
hot spots, commonly known as “bases”, and are now occupied
by thugs with capacity and penchant for extreme violence.
Recently, the ‘Ilaka’ gang led by Deji Oga-Ade attacked one Alhaji
Memudu who now battles sight-threatening injury. A 15-year-old
Senior Secondary School 2 student, name withheld, was also
allegedly raped by Yemi Ojebode, the gang leader of Gbafoba base
at Isale Oyo.
In 2016, Akesan market had been shut twice as rival gangs
unleashed violence, destroying property and inflicting injury on
people.
Combat ready, thugs brazenly gather at these bases and smoke
outlawed marijuana in the full glare of the public. In Ilaka, Garage,
and Iseke, PREMIUM TIMES noticed that the air was filled with
hemp smoke even though it was a hot afternoon.
“You can’t just pass through Garage without inhaling marijuana
smoke; it is like one even smokes,” the commercial motorcyclist
conveying this reporter said in Yoruba language.
Multiple sources, including the police, residents and community
leaders, confirmed that the thugs have severally unleashed
violence on their respective strongholds, destroying property,
sacking markets and injuring people.
“ARMED WITH GUNS”
The situation in Oyo town goes beyond just bizzare gathering of
thugs in open places, smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol.
For Akesan traders, the biggest nightmare is the thought that rival
gangs could unleash violence on the market used as a battlefield
whenever the Ilaka gang have a fight with their rivals.
Whenever this happens, Lati Tunji explained to PREMIUM TIMES,
the market would be shut down for most of the day.
“We (traders) will have to close as they will be on rampage
attacking everybody,” he said.
“Everywhere in Oyo, you see bases where thugs sit day and
night,” a resident, Abiola Adisa, said. “This makes one to live in
fear because anytime these boys could start fighting.”
“I live at Akesan; so, I am a witness to their fights,” Mr. Adisa
added; “they use guns, not just machetes and bottles.”
Guns were freely used when the Ilaka and Agunpopo gangs
fought themselves on January 4.
The teenage rape victim said that she was threatened with a gun
by Mr. Ojebode before unwillingly submitting her to the allegedly
criminal action.7
“And this is why it may be right to say these guys are responsible
for cases of robbery and murders in Oyo,” Olanrewaju
Mohammed, a banker and Treasurer of Oyo Global Forum, said.
“Of course they use guns when fighting. But besides that, when
you have young men sit and smoke, use good items of clothing
without any job, they must be making money from robbery.”
Apparently conscious of legal implications of their attacks and
possession of deadly weapons, the thugs, particularly those from
Ilaka, usually wear masks, witnesses said.
Recalling a recent incident, Kehinde Ikeola, told PREMIUM TIMES, “I
saw the Ilaka boys when they were emerging from their base,
numbering about 120. I believe they were joined by their
“comrades” from other bases in solidarity.
“It was like Boko Haram wanted to capture a town. In fact, when
police officers encountered them, they (the police) fled before they
later came back with reinforcements.”
FORCEFUL IMPOSITION OF TAX
Like the Ilaka boys, thugs at other areas also close roads, destroy
property and attack people.
Perhaps the most brazen of this is at Iseke/Akeetan axis of the
town, which goes beyond gang violence, coming close to
formation of parallel government.
A gang of thugs, led by Adam Salawu and Monsuru Kazeem,
notoriously known as Anabi Iseke (prophet of Iseke) and Agbara
Iseke (the powerful one of Iseke) respectively, have “firm control”
of the area, forcibly collecting “tax and royalty” from residents and
shop owners.
In fact, the Anabi Iseke, at his seat of power, fixed a banner on
which he calls himself “AUTHORITY 1”.
Shalewa, a shop owner who would not give her other name for
security reasons, said, “My shop is at Iseke; we used to beg them
with money and if they don’t collect it that means your shop is in
trouble.”
A businessman in the area, who sought anonymity because of his
closeness to Anabi Iseke, explained that, “When you are just
opening shop here, you have to go to them (the gang) to inform
them and give them money.
“The money you pay is to ask not to be robbed. But after the initial
payment, you have to continue paying whenever they come for
the tax. And if you sell alcoholic products, they may carry your
goods without payment.
“If you don’t comply or don’t inform and pay them initially when
you are opening shop, the shop will be burgled the following
night. It is law and everybody knows it.”
He continued, “After one’s shop is burgled, one can report to
Anabi Iseke or Agbara Iseke the following morning. If one is lucky,
one gets some of the goods back, but that will be after payment.”
Thus, residents and shop owners do not only know who the
robbers are, the robbers themselves admit to committing the
crime without remorse.
“Everything you have been told is the truth,” the Baale of Akeetan,
Jimoh Oyeleye told this newspaper, confirming the notoriety of
the gang whose activities include robbery.
But so dreadful are the gangs that even Mr. Oyeleye would resist
speaking in details.
Speaking in Yoruba, the traditional ruler declined further
comments, saying “Gbogbo eniyan ni o fe jeun omo (everybody
want to reap the fruits of their labour).”
“Iseke is surely more than what you people are thinking because
some people even fear Anabi Iseke and Agbara Iseke than they
fear God,” another resident, Abdul Tunde, who also had brushes
with the gangs, said.
THE POLICE?
Enquiries by this newspaper revealed that residents have little
confidence in the capacity of the police in Oyo Township to curb
the criminal activities of the gangs spread across different areas of
the ancient town.
Ms. Shalewa said, “You are talking about the Police at Iseke. I think
you don’t know these people.”
The trader narrated an incident to buttress her point.
“One day, Iseke was doing igbo day (marijuana day) and Ilaka
guys came to fight them. They had war; I mean war. Some elders
called the police but once they knew it was Iseke guys, I swear
they turned back. Now tell me, is that Police?”
When contacted by PREMIUM TIMES, Oyo State Police Public
Relations Officer, Adekunle Ajisebutu, said the state command had
no knowledge of the situation in Oyo “officially”.
Mr. Ajisebutu asked that he should be furnished with information
in respect of the activities of the gangs and this was done
immediately. One week after, when he was contacted again on
January 8, the police spokesperson merely said, “Let’s talk
tomorrow, please.”
However, on a radio program last Thursday, he acknowledged
the security situation in Oyo and assured the Police was making
efforts to check gang violence in Oyo. He also said many of the
suspected hoodlums had been arrested.
Although the Oyo West Local Government Area Police Division
confirmed cases of violence perpetrated by the Anabi Iseke-led
gang and other hoodlums at Garage, it, however, said there was
no report that residents were being extorted and looted.
The Divisional Police Officer, Afees Oyekan, and Divisional Crime
Officer, Peter Okon, spoke with PREMIUM TIMES.
Mr. Oyekan said the police could not arrest people over allegations
of illegal imposition of royalty without report or petition from the
residents.
“Nobody is too big for the police to arrest but we need
cooperation of the residents,” he said.
However, residents are scared of reporting the incidents of
robbery and extortion to the police.
Mr. Oyeleye debunked the police claim, saying the Oyo State
Police Command once disclosed his identity to thugs when he
reported the criminal activities of the gangs, thereby subjecting
him to risk of being of attacked.
Even when the thugs are arrested, never for robbery but violence,
they are released “shortly without prosecution,” a resident said,
adding that, “when they come back, those suspected as police
informants are in trouble.”
This is why people are afraid of reporting them to the police even
when they are victims of robbery, the resident added.
However, Mr. Oyekan confirmed that between December 31, 2015
and January 2, this year, five members of the Iseke gang,
including Anabi Iseke, were arrested.
The police action followed the visit of PREMIUM TIMES to the
ancient town and growing condemnation of the gangs’ activities
among Oyo youth on Facebook.
According to Mr. Oyekan, the suspects were released on the
grounds of fundamental human right ground because “courts are
not sitting now.”
The police chief later said two of the hoodlums were again
arrested and had been charged to court.
But residents said the two persons arrested in the latest Police raid
were not thugs but those who had come to the thugs’ party to
arrange musical instruments.
Spearheaded by Oyo Global Forum, OGF, a global network of
Oyo indigenes, an anti-violence campaign with the hashtag #
saveoyotown on social media now gains traction.
But one of the activists, Ezekiel Ayansola, has received threat
messages twice since January 3 via an anonymous number
customized “omo aye (child of the terrestrial powers).”
In response to the growing campaign, the police have arrested
some of the members of the gangs. However, kingpins like Deji
Oga-Ade (Ilaka gang) Agbara Iseke (Iseke gang), Anabi Iseke (Iseke
gang), Yemi Ojebode (the alleged rapist, Gbafoba gang), Jamiu
Bello (Agunpopo gang) are yet to be apprehended.
THE ALAAFIN’s LINK
As our findings revealed, thuggery and violence against people
became “institutionalized” with the formation of Tobalase group
around 2007.
According to a 2009 report of the State Security Services obtained
by PREMIUM TIMES, Tobalase was founded by the Alaafin of Oyo,
Lamidi Adeyemi, “originally to oust the Baale Ago Oja, hence the
location of their base contiguous to both Ashipa’s residence and
the market of Isale-Oyo”.
The Alaafin is the traditional ruler of Oyo Town, and one of the
two most revered monarchs in South-Western Nigeria.
“The group (Tobalase) has included in their activities harassment
and intimidation of perceived enemies of the monarch within the
three (3) LGAs in Oyo,” the report added.
Amid receding moral and educational standards, and growing
poverty, the Tobalase example served as motivational variable for
idle youth who began constituting themselves into gangs at
different areas of the town.
From Agunpopo to Iseke, pictures and name of the Alaafin were
seen at different thugs’ bases visited by PREMIUM TIMES.
Some of the gangs even coin names for their bases, indicating
affinity with and endorsement of the Alaafin. The names include:
“Awa o ba Oba dite (we do not fight the king) at Iseke; Gbafoba
(we submit to king) at Isale-Oyo etc.
Sources also said that the Alaafin was physically present at the
“launch” of some these bases.
For instance, on January 3, the monarch reportedly graced such
occasion of the Agunpopo gang. He was represented by his
security aide, Jamiu Bello, commonly known as Aroba.
Mr. Bello reportedly led the Agunpopo gang against their Ilaka
counterparts in the fights that shut Akesan market temporarily on
January 11 and 12. He was subsequently arrested two days later
by the police but was later released.
“By all indices, we find this to be surprising and demeaning of the
institution of the Alaafin,” Oyo Global Forum said in its January 7
letter to the monarch.
“We have taken several steps to get the police to act decisively on
the scourge but it appears the police are reluctant to act because of
perceived endorsement of the palace of the criminal activities of
the gangsters many of whom actually frequent the palace.
“In fact, whenever the police did manage to effect some arrests,
there are always pressure of certain palace officials including Alhaji
Nurudeen Adeyemi, one Opatola and members of group of
individuals tagged “The G-4″ to release the suspect’s.”
They asked the monarch to ensure an end to the gang violence in
his domain.
SCARED OF THE ALAAFIN
Many Oyo residents, who believe in the Alaafin’s complicity,
would not say so publicly for fear of reprisal attacks.
“Everywhere in Oyo, you see bases where thugs sit day and
night,” a resident, who identified himself as Mr. Adisa said.
“This makes one to live in fear because anytime these boys could
start fighting. What’s disturbing is that those that should be our
leaders are sponsoring those thugs. Go to their bases, you will see
bill board displaying picture of our leader (Alaafin) who
encourages the thugs openly erected.”
Similarly a top police source at Oyo East Police Division, when
asked why security agencies have not been able to check violence
in the town, said members of the gangs were encouraged by
some known leader in the town.
“Even if you arrest them, they will call your boss in Ibadan to
ensure their release. It’s a big problem,” the Police source
lamented. “As of now, the problem can only stop if those leaders
cooperate or want the problem to stop.”
Muideen Olagunju , the lawmaker representing Oyo East/Oyo
West in the Oyo State House of Assembly was rather blunt on the
issue.
“See, I have given up on the police. It is an institution that easily
buckles to undue influence,” Mr. Olagunju told PREMIUM TIMES.
“The OGF sent a delegation to the Area Commander last year with
a letter. I was in the delegation and we met the AC in person. As
high ranking as he is, he threw a challenge at us: how do we,
Oyos, break the yoke of undue influence? He didn’t have to name
names. We knew what he was talking about.
“These thugs simply have and will continue to enjoy support
from our Palace (of Alaafin). I am not very certain the Alaafin
himself is on to this but there are certain blocs in the palace who
have these boys at their beck and call.
“Police action is easily reversed by a call saying: ‘Baba ni ki e
release won (Baba said you should release them)’. There is no
quick fix. We need to be more direct and stop talking in hush
tones.”
Also, the Divisional Police Officer, Atiba Local Government Area
said he had established link between the suspected rapist Mr.
Ojebode, who heads the Isale-Oyo based Gbafoba base, and the
Palace.
Mr. Ojebode is now at large. But the Alaafin has disowned him
and said he should be arrested anywhere he is seen, the police
boss added.
However, Alaafin’s son, Akeem Adeyemi, who represents the
Oyo Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, insisted
his father had no link with the gangs; blaming impostors instead.
“Alaafin belongs to everybody and he loves Oyo,” he told
PREMIUM TIMES.
The lawmaker disclosed he is planning to convene a security
summit.
The younger Adeyemi also said he and his father held a meeting
with the state governor, Abiola Ajimobi, on the security challenge
in the town.
He said the police had been given the order to dismantle the
bases.
Although, the Alaafin’s pictures have been removed from the
bases, except at that of Agunpopo gang, they are yet to be
dismantled at the time of this report.
Alaafin has also repeatedly denied link with gangs.
Coordinated by Oyo Global Forum, members of the public,
including National Association of Oyo Students, Oyo Progressive
Assembly, have continued to intensify campaign that all gangs
bases should be demolished.
Also, the Chairman of Nigerian Bar Association, Oyo branch,
Ayodele Olawuwo, told PREMIUM TIMES the body “is ready to
offer pro bono service to victims of gang violence” in Oyo.

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