Ten children were yesterday feared drowned and many others injured during an ethnic clash in Ajah, Lagos, said to involve the Yoruba and the Eegun.
Several make shift houses and properties were also destroyed.
Rapid Response Squad (RRS) operatives’ timely intervention prevented higher casualty figures, sources said. They rescued many including babies trapped inside burning shanties.
The fracas broke out on Monday following the alleged invasion of some fishermen by some youths.
The youths were said to have asked the fishermen to leave their land for them to make money. Land is a hot cake in Ajah and environ.
The Nation learnt that the fishermen, had invited their kinsmen from outside the country to assist them in the dispute.
It was gathered that a monarch sent some youths to the area last weekend to chase the fishermen and reclaim the land. The fishermen resisted them.
According to a resident, Jonathan Zosu, the children were running away when they drowned inside the lagoon at Otodogbame.
He said their bodies were yet be found.
Zosu said: “This problem started since last weekend but things really got bad on Sunday when the police came here and arrested our monarch, Baale Dansu Hunkpe. How can anyone claim we are not Nigerians? Where are we from then?
“Our ancestors migrated to this community from Badagry and we have lived here for centuries. Over 90 percent of the people here are Nigerians. The other 10 percent are other nationals who are residents.
“It is all about land tussle. The boys were sent here to chase us out of our homes so that their senders can inherit our properties. So many people were arrested that Sunday but yet, we resisted their attempt to chase us out.
“But early morning on Wednesday, they came again. The youths, mostly cultists, came with cutlasses and other weapons. They were cutting people on sight.
“So many people were injured in that process. As they macheted people, they scattered our homes and set them ablaze. It was in the chaos that the 10 children drowned inside the lagoon.
“We have not seen their bodies yet. As I am talking with you, I am still inside the water. So many people have been rendered homeless. We called the police but instead of assisting us, the police joined the hoodlums in burning our homes.”
But the police said they were no casualties, adding that 16 people were arrested on Wednesday.
According to the police, all the leaders in the community have been arrested and charged to court.
A police source said: “No one died. Some people were injured. In all, about 30 persons have been arrested. The division had arrested some of them, including their leaders and charged them to court. They are in prison custody. It is a fight between the Yoruba and non-indigenes. The Yoruba are claiming the Egun are non-indigenes and so, they should vacate the community.
“They said their lands are high priced now and that they want them back but the Egun refused because they have been in the area for almost 100 years and have no place to go. So, because the place is by the water, the hoodlums hide inside the water surrounding bushes and then, come out to light matches on the shanties and disappear again.
“It is not true that police supported them. We have been arresting some of them. And we also put out the fire and policemen from RRS rescued people from being burnt to death.”
The search for the children was still on as at press time yesterday.
Police spokesperson Dolapo Badmos, a Superintendent (SP), said the police received a report of the clash.
She said: “Upon receipt of the information the command operatives from RRS led by Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Tunji Disu and men of Area J Command moved in. On getting to the community, some shanties being occupied by the residents were already set ablaze by the warring factions.
“The cry of a nursing mother from one of the houses on fire attracted the policemen on duty which necessitated one of them to break into the burning house where the woman and her two-day-old baby were rescued.
“Normalcy was subsequently restored and about five suspects arrested in connection with the fracas. The Commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni, later visited the scene and expressed concern over the manner the members of the community maliciously set each other’s abode ablaze.
“He vowed that everyone involved in the act would be arrested and prosecuted. The CP reiterated that the command would not allow anyone or group to break the law in the state.”