The entire area greets you with grief as you walk in. It is barely a few days after the devastating looting on the ever-thriving Bode Thomas axis of Surulere, Lagos. As most vandalized businesses struggle to pick up remnants of hope like the glass shards that litter their burgled buildings, uncertainty and trauma are the most visible conditions they express.
“I learned about the looting on Wednesday. I work as a personal assistant in this shoe shop. I came the following day and saw that our products were gone; out of 43 products, we had only 10 left. The glass was broken. In total, I can say we lost about N700, 000. Other shops were looted and everything. I felt very bad,” a quiet lady who pleaded anonymity, explained how her shoe retailing business, called Alexander Greg, was looted. “We cannot even ascertain the way forward now. Personally, I have been relying on the business to save up to further my education. I also assist my siblings with the income, sometimes.”
She is the first of a few looted businesses that agrees to speak with our reporter. Many business owners including a Chief Medical Director whose hospital was burgled, a supermarket owner, and a manager at 3C hub, whose phones and accessories were looted, all refused to talk about the incident, partly due to the trauma it had caused.
When our reporter also visited the worst-hit business, Shoprite, none of the workers on ground were willing to talk about the incident. The mood was visible; the emotions were high. It had been a shocking and terrible week of disasters, for them.
The Bode Thomas area, alongside Adeniran Ogusanya area were looted, last week, by hoodlums who hijacked both the EndSARS protests and the opportunity of the 24-hour curfew, to loot and destroy various businesses. Many small and big businesses alike, including Shoprite, SLOT, 3C hub, among others, were burgled and looted. Normalcy has since returned to the area, with the curfew being eased to allow for daytime business operations. However, the memories of the incident are still fresh to many.
A security operative at the mobile phone retail giant, SLOT, Olawale Poopola, recounts the horrific incident: “The hoodlums started coming towards SLOT, after destroying some banks in the area. We, the security, had already seen them coming to SLOT. They were more than 200 people and they were coming with guns, knives, cutlasses and other weapons. We had to jump out of the building, to escape. They burgled the gate, jumped inside and scattered here. However, we had locked the inner entrance gate and they could not break that one. So, they passed through the security toilet and broke the wall to get in. When they got in, they searched and scattered everything inside.
“Fortunately, they weren’t able to locate where we kept the phones and laptops. They took the accessories. They stole my properties and some other things that belonged to my other security officer colleague. They also took some valuable things like our pumping machine, generator batteries, motorcycle batteries and some other things. By the time we came back, we saw that they had burgled and left.”
While SLOT was fortunate to still have products to trade, as our reporter observed a moderate influx of customers to patronize the business, many other entrepreneurs were not as lucky.
Interestingly, certain small businesses, such as barbecue grillers, hair salons, restaurants, among others, are also affected, indirectly, as the major attraction in the area, Shoprite, remains locked, following the looting.
The ripple effect of the looting also indicated severe patronage strains in the usually-crowded Bode Thomas axis, down west to the nearby Adeniran Ogusanya.
When our reporter visited, most of the banks were shut, as out of six banks sited on the road, only two were operational.
Also, as Shoprite, remains locked, it has caused a strain on nearby businesses who rely on the booming population to trade.
A hair salon owner, who declined to give her name, lamented: “I have not sold anything since morning. Shoprite is the crowd-puller in this area. Everyone around them rely on their crowd. Usually, when shoppers visit them, they notice us. I have my signboards around. Major Banks were closed, yesterday. Nothing happened on this road, yesterday, business-wise. The damage here is horrible; we just came out of Covid-19 lockdown, and we hadn’t recovered from it before all of this happened. You can see people spending money to repair glass doors and things like that. That is traumatic.”
For the salon owner, there is little respite in sight, as the retail giant, Shoprite, continues to remain locked, leaving only very few prospective customers lurking in the area.
Respite in Sight as LASG Promises Relief Funding
The Lagos State Government has already condemned the looting and has promised to assist affected businesses across the city.
Announcing this last Friday, the Deputy Governor, Obafemi Hamzat, said that entrepreneurs whose businesses were looted are to fill a form with the web link as https://t.co/lwPiXvFzTp
While residents await their lawmaking representative, Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila, who is also the Speaker of the House of Representatives, has expressed that Surulere residents were not responsible for the carnage.
After inspecting the damages, yesterday, he said: “You see all that happened at Adeniran Ogunsanya and Bode Thomas, I can boast that it was not carried out by children from Surulere; we all know they (the attackers and looters) came from outside Surulere, because I know my people.”
Other concerned Lagosians have also gone out to create internet crowd-funding accounts to raise money for looted businesses in the city.
While the damage remains clear and the pain continues to hover fresh in the minds of these entrepreneurs, it is imperative for security operatives to intensify their policing efforts, across the state. While the Police Inspector General, Mohammed Adamu, assured to further crackdown on the looters, coupled with the Lagos Ministry of Justice’s prosecution of 520 suspects arrested in connection with the robberies, the obvious question remains unanswered: where were the police officers when the looting took place?
Obvious answers, like Nnamdi Obasi of the International Crisis Group points, lie within the persisting under-resourcefulness of the policing system in the country. However, as the Lagos assembly calls for a state policing system, only time would tell whether other extant issues such as under-staffing, lack of ammunition, lack of patrol vehicles, among others, would be reviewed alongside, for improvement, as they remain the clearest roads out of the country’s crime maze.Follow us on social media