Some residents of Iba community, Lagos State, where gunmen abducted the monarch, the Oniba of Iba land, Oba Goriola Oseni, say they saw the attackers in military uniforms about three hours before the attack.
The residents told our correspondent that three of the gunmen, who walked into the community around 5.30pm, wore military camouflage, while others wore black police vests as if they had come for an investigation.
PUNCH Metro had reported on Monday that the gunmen, numbering about 16 men, attacked the monarch’s palace around 8.30pm on Saturday, whisking away the 73-year-old ruler in two speedboats which they stationed by the waterway.
It was reported that the gunmen killed the palace guard, Sunday Okanlawon, an unidentified motorcyclist and shot at the monarch’s wife, Kuburat, who was still recuperating in a government hospital.
A woman and her three-month-old baby and a businessman, identified simply as Christian, were also reportedly abducted by the gunmen.
When PUNCH Metro visited the area on Monday, it was learnt that the gunmen entered into the community through an abandoned forest path leading to the waterway.
Residents of the street leading to the waterway said they saw the strange men around 5.30pm, who greeted them and passed by.
Oba Goriola Oseni
One of the residents, who gave his name only as Lukman, said, “Our king has spent 41 years on the throne and no such thing has ever happened in his palace. On Saturday around 5.30pm, I sat in front of my house with a neighbour, and I saw three men passing by. The one in the front wore a military uniform; two wore black police vests.
“They greeted us and we replied. I did not see any gun with them. Around 8.30pm, we heard gunshots from the palace area. I did not suspect the men.”
Another witness said, “I suspect the gunmen were people who knew Kabiyesi’s movements. They knew the times he would go to the bathroom, remove his clothes and other personal effects. When they were bringing the king out, two of the gunmen carried him by each thigh, and did not allow his legs to touch the ground. Others were shooting sporadically.
“They did not escape through the route they came from. They went through a road behind the palace that only an insider would have described to them. While the operation lasted, most residents stayed indoors because of the gunshots, thinking the king hired operatives to arrest suspected cultists troubling the community.”
Our correspondent learnt that apart from the palace guard and the motorcyclist, another resident – a barber identified only as Riliwan – was killed by the gunmen while leaving the community.
At Riliwan’s house, a relation, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the barber was returning from his shop around 8pm when a stray bullet hit him.
It was learnt that Riliwan, who was initially rushed to a hospital, but did not make it, was buried on Sunday.
At the palace, one of the monarch’s daughters, Adedayo Oseni, a former Iba Local Council Development Area chairman, said the gunmen had yet to contact the family.
She said, “The gunmen have not contacted the family. They did not leave with Baba’s phones, but they took two phones belonging to my sisters.
“The king’s wife, who was shot, is responding to treatment. She has been operated on by the doctor at the hospital. We do not know when she will be discharged.
“Although the police have been on the ground, we appeal to them to expedite action to rescue my father.
“He is an elderly person. He was abducted without putting on any clothes. He is on drugs and he needs to be attended to.”
One of the monarch’s sons, Saheed Oseni, said the gunmen had switched off the phones they took from the palace.
The Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni, who spoke to PUNCH Metro at the palace, said the police were collaborating with other security agencies to rescue the monarch.
He said, “I came to the area for an assessment and you also saw the terrain the gunmen came through. Accessibility to such terrain could be a challenge. We do not want to destroy forests, but some men use them for heinous crimes.
“We have been telling kidnappers to get legitimate jobs from platforms created by the government. The police are joining hands with other security agencies and members of the community in this operation.
“How soon the police will rescue the monarch is within operational strategies. You don’t give all you have in your arsenal to enemies.”
Meanwhile, the Secretary to the Lagos State Government, Tunji Bello, said the government had placed security agencies in the state on a red alert to curb rising cases of kidnapping and armed robbery.
In a statement on Monday, the SSG said Governor Akinwunmi Ambode would not relent on the primary responsibility of ensuring security of lives and property, adding that residents should promptly report suspicious activities to authorities.
He said, “We assure Lagosians that the government will not allow evil doers to prosper at the expense of innocent citizens.
“Residents should use 112 and 767 lines to report any case of crime and suspicious movements to security agencies. Most of the crimes are perpetrated through persons who work with friends, family members or close associates of the victims.”