Operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad of the Lagos State Police Command, on Monday, allegedly shot dead a cleaner, Francis Eni, 39, around 8am on Ajisegiri Street, Ilupeju, Lagos.
It was gathered that two primary school pupils had engaged in a scuffle and Francis, who mediated in the fight, was on his way to attend to a customer when police personnel allegedly shot him after mistaking him for one of those they were looking for.
Ajisegiri Street, where Francis was shot, is separated from the Kosibetel Primary School, by a fence.
Residents said the pupils were lucky that bullets from the policemen’s guns did not hit them.
A resident, Aba Bailey, told our correspondent that the policemen, after killing Francis, raided many homes in the area and caused commotion.
She added that the SARS operatives went into a house, slapped a woman and disconnected the drip being administered to her 10-year-old son.
Bailey added that the policemen arrested not less than 50 innocent people in the area.
“Even though I was not there when Francis was shot, I was one of the first set of persons to see him after he was shot dead by the SARS operatives, who were in a silver Toyota Corolla car with number plate YAB 725 AP, which had tinted glasses.
“Many of the residents went to the scene of the incident and were standing around the deceased, but the police asked the people to leave the place. When they refused, the police personnel retreated only to return with reinforcements, shooting in the air and firing teargas canisters at the crowd.
“The police are fond of arresting people indiscriminately in this area. When they arrest cult boys, they release them few hours later after extorting money from them. The same thing they have been doing when they arrest innocent people in this area.”
The deceased’s sister, Esther, told our correspondent that she left for work early in the morning, but got a telephone call around 9am that her brother had been killed by policemen.
Esther, who hails from Adadama village in the Abi Local Government Area of Cross River State, said her brother, despite his deformity, worked hard to ensure that the family did not lack.
She added that Francis had yet to get married and had no child.
It was observed that tension was high in the area as police personnel were still shooting in the air and firing teargas canisters around 2pm when our correspondent left the area.
However, the command denied that its personnel were responsible for the death of Francis.
The state Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Bala Elkana, said the victim was hit by a stray bullet fired by suspected robbers during an “encounter” between them and SARS men.
Elkana did not, however, state if the encounter meant an exchange of gunfire between the policemen and the suspected robbers and how he concluded that the latter fired the killer shot even before an autopsy was conducted.
Our correspondent gathered that the SARS men were chasing some alleged Indian hemp smokers when the fatal shot was fired.
Elkana claimed in a statement titled, ‘One hit by stray bullet during an encounter between SARS operatives and notorious armed robbers/cultists in Lagos’, that the SARS men were not responsible for the death.
He said, “On July 15, 2019, around 7.30am, SARS operatives, led by Inspector Mohammed Akeem, while being led by a notorious gang leader, Ikechukwu Monye, 39, to where their arms were being kept, were ambushed by members of the gang on Ajisegiri Street, Ilupeju.
“The assailants shot repeatedly and in the process, killed a middle-aged man, who was passing by.
“Reinforcement was quickly drafted to the scene. The whole area has been cordoned off with a view to apprehending members of the gang and bringing them to justice.”
The police spokesman added that violent attacks between members of the Aiye and Eiye confraternities had been regular in the area.
He said the gang in question had been responsible for a series of robberies in the Ilupeju area and its environs, adding that the members had been on the police wanted list for six murders during three robberies.
Elkana added, “The command condemns the senseless killing of innocent persons by those criminal elements and will not tolerate attacks on its personnel by criminal elements and vows to bring an end to the activities of this deadly gang.
“Members of the public are enjoyed to remain calm as the command has intensified patrols and surveillance in the affected area.
“Meanwhile, the corpse of the victim of this violent attack has been removed and deposited in the mortuary for post-mortem examination.
“The command extends its heartfelt condolences to the family of the deceased person and assures them that justice will prevail.”