There was pandemonium yesterday as activities were brought to a halt, following the clash between Area boys and truck drivers at the Cocnut area of the Tincan Island Port, Apapa, Lagos.
A member of the Coalition of Maritime Truck Unions and Associations (COMTUA), Mr. Murtala Olapade who spoke to our correspondent, said trouble started yesterday evening at about 6pm when they were coming from Sunrise bus stop where they had gone to clear the road together with the Presidential Task team, only for them to observed that for more than four hours, while they were busy clearing the service lane, the express was not moving.
He said that on reaching Coconut, they discovered that the people there intentionally blocked the main expressway from Coconut, only allowing those coming from Ajegunle through Coconut to come under the bridge to navigate inward to Tincan.
"There was a LASTMA official who came to stop us and we now told him that we should not pass through that wrong way, that that place is one way under the bridge, where the one that is coming from Mile 2 and when you pass twenty from here, you now pass five from the under bridge because they were following the wrong side.
“Before you know it, that LASTMA official called the area boys and when they were coming, they came with their King of boys and they started attacking us without even asking any question. My Chairman was there and they started flogging him to the extent that all his mouth was bleeding. Later on, Mr. Femi, a Policeman came to talk to every one of us and everything was brought under control. But at the end of the day, they now came with another batch of boys in the midnight and started breaking our vehicles and attacking us.
Asked if he got the name of the LASTMA official who allegedly made the call and whether they attacked him during the encounter, he said,” I don’t know his name but when I see him, I will recognize him. We did not try to attack the LASTMA official; they are working with those area boys since it is their territory.”
He added,”the Trinity Police station was there and they did nothing only to come this morning and started firing tear gas at us. Most of our boys are in hospital now with bullet wounds. They are four in number; they have removed sixteen bullets from them, remaining twelve.”
He however said that no one was dead yet contrary to rumour making the rounds earlier in the day.
Also speaking, the Vice Chairman, Dry Cargo section of the National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), Alhaji Abdullahi Inuwa Mohammed corroborated the submission made by Olapade adding that “Last night, at about some minutes to 7pm, I received calls from two of our members and also somebody rushed to tell me that they were surprised that people crossing, for no reason, they just came and attacked some of our people and when I heard that, I quickly called some of the Policemen that were there, initially, one of them told me that he was at the second gate controlling traffic before I told them that there was problem. I called back they told me that they were there to address the situation.”
Mohammed continued, “However, in the midnight, those boys mobilized themselves with some Police escort and came to machete some of the drivers on the queue, some of them while asleep. They said they came with Petrol, cutlasses and local guns. They started shooting, even a panel beater that was sleeping on the bench, they machete him and so many other people and I see so many other people with touch of bullets"
He reported that this was not the first or second time they were recording this kind of incident noting that similar incident had happened recently when his people went to request that the expressway should be free, they were then attacked adding that “We were there the other time with CP Odumosu and those people came out with petrol and cutlasses and attacked us. It is on record, the CP (Odumosu) is aware.”
Asked what the anger of the area boys were, Mohammed who is also Head of Operation COMTUA had this to say,” Their anger is that they see those trucks coming to join the express through Ajegunle as their means of livelihood because they used to collect toll from them in order to give them pass and if you challenge or stop those trucks from jumping the queue, they see it as direct attack on their means of survival.
“Yesterday, I have it on good authority that there were some trucks that drove one way on top of the bridge at Coconut and they blocked the exit from Tincan outward to Mile 2. As a result, the Presidential Task team and our taskforce were able to arrest about 13 trucks that took that one way and impounded them. I think that may be what triggered the attack later in the day.”