THREE persons were, yesterday, feared dead and scores injured including journalists, as hoodlums suspected to be members of the National Union Road Transport Workers, NURTW, invaded the campaign flag-off of the All Progressives Congress, APC, held at Skypower Ground Ikeja in Lagos.
The hoodlums invaded the venue with guns, daggers and other dangerous weapons, engaging one another in a bloody factional fight.
The campaign, however, ended abruptly as violence broke out mid-way into the well-attended programme.
The situation sent panic across the campaign ground as party members ran in different directions to avoid being hit by bullets being fired indiscriminately by the hoodlums.
Security operatives had a hectic time controlling the situation. In the ensuing confusion, many people were dispossessed of their phones, money and other valuables by opportunistic pick-pockets and other criminals.
A large number of party faithful were seen trekking to their various homes as there was a heavy vehicular traffic in the area because of the violence
Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, who was making a speech, had to leave the stage immediately and was guarded out of the venue together with his deputy, Dr. Idiat Adebule, the APC governorship candidate, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, and other prominent members of the party.
How trouble started
Three, yet to be identified persons were feared dead, while several others, including journalists sustained different degree of injuries.
Crisis started at the Skypower Ground, GRA, Ikeja, venue of the event when fight suddenly broke out midway between two rival groups, said to be loyal to the Treasurer of NURTW, and a staunch member of the APC in Oshodi, Alhaji Musiliu Akinsanya, popularly called MC Olumo, and Kunle Poly, controlling Lagos Island Transport Union.
The thugs hijacked the campaign at around 2:45pm when Governor Ambode, was delivering his speech.
The rampaging thugs were seen freely using deadly weapons such as guns, knives, cutlasses and charms who were said to have been mobilised to the venue to disrupt the programme.
It was noticed that the thugs advanced towards the musical stage where Wasiu Ayinde was entertaining the party members and leaders as the police too moved towards the warring parties to douse the tension.
Even as the policemen made efforts to curtail the mayhem, the thugs freely launched reprisal attack on their opposing thugs who also were fully armed with guns, cutlasses, and charms.
MC Oluomo, was beaten to stupor with dangerous weapons and was reportedly, stabbed on his cheek by some thugs suspected to be supporters of rival group.
Journalists sustain injuries
Journalists were, however, not spared as stray bullets shot by the rampaging thugs hit the Group Political Editor of The Nation newspapers, Mr Emmanuel Oladesu; the Camera man of Ijoba Ibile TV, Mr Abiodun Yusuf, and New Telegraph Reporter, Tope Ogunbanke.
The working tools of News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, reporter, Bolaji Buhari, were also carted away by thugs who also used the opportunity to rob people of their mobile handsets and other belongings.
Our correspondent, who also escaped the stray bullets by whiskers, saw at least two victims in pool of blood while being taken away in a standby ambulance of Lagos State Emergency Ambulances Services, LASAMBUS, to Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, LASUTH, for further medical attention.
Another member of the rival group, was also reportedly stabbed and cut with machete and left in a pool of blood, wreathing in pains unattended to on the ground.
Report had it that Mc Oluomo, at press time, was in critical condition after being stabbed on the cheek.
The identity of the thugs, who stabbed him could not be identified as at press time.
APC begs residents
Reacting on the development, the APC chairman and Publicity Secretary, Messrs Tunde Balogun and Joe Igbokwe respectively, apologised for the violence.
Mr. Balogun said: “We are shocked and very sorry for what happened today, it was unexpected but we promise, it would not repeat itself again. The warring groups only used the event to settle score.”
Also, Igbokwe said: “We regret that towards the end of the rally, two factions of National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW, engaged in a brawl that led to some people sustaining various injuries. We deeply regret this ugly and unacceptable rude behaviour with a firm promise that such an incident will not repeat itself again in the cause of the campaigns.”
IPC condemns attack on journalists..
Meanwhile, the International Press Centre, IPC, has condemned the shooting of journalists who covered the Lagos State APC campaign flag off.
In a statement by the Coordinator of IPC, Mr. Lanre Arogundade, the IPC said:
“According to news reports, among those that were affected by the unwelcome activities of gun wielding elements were the group political editor of The Nation Newspaper, Emmanuel Oladesu, NewsTelegraph correspondent, Temitope Ogunbanke and Ibile Television cameraman, Abiodun Yusuf.
“The News Editor of The Nation confirmed the incident to IPC stating that Mr. Oladesu was hit by a stray bullet and was receiving treatment in a hospital although in stable condition.
“IPC, hereby, reminds all political parties that the Nigerian Media Code of Election Coverage obligates them to ensure the safety of journalists covering their activities including campaigns.
“IPC therefore calls on the Lagos APC to urgently take appropriate steps to apprehend the alleged perpetrators of the bizarre attack with a view to handing them over to the law enforcement agencies for immediate prosecution, also as provided by the Code of Election Coverage.”