Residents of the Lagos community where a tunnel believed to be used by kidnappers was discovered, have said cases of missing children are rampant in the area.
Last Wednesday, residents of Sari-Iganmu, Orile discovered a tunnel under a bridge which connects to Lagos Island and was believed to be used by kidnappers and ritualists.
In the tunnel, a lot of school pupils’ uniforms, a generator set, an air conditioner and other house items were discovered.
A suspect caught by residents was lynched to death and there have been speculations of dismembered human parts found in the tunnel.
When SaharaReporters visited the area on Wednesday, residents said children had been disappearing in the area at intervals.
The entrance to the kidnappers' den is an opening in the drainage directly in front of Araromi Secondary School, Sari-Iganmu.
A short distance down the road to Adekunle Deen Street reveals many other schools around there: David Savage Memorial Nursery and Primary School; Ireakari Nursery and Primary School; Sari-Iganmu Nursery and Primary School; Irepodun School; Orire College; and Starlight College.
At the exit of Adekunle Deen Street, a poster announcing a missing child was displayed with the picture of the child and the phone number of a contact person.
In an interview with SaharaReporters, a man who works in the area and identified himself as Alabi, said children get missing in the area but could not attribute it to kidnapping as no one knows the outcome of the search.
"Cases of missing children are common here. Several times, we see posters with pictures of children or parents going about saying they are looking for their children but we don't know if they end up seeing those children or not. I don't live here. I have only come here for my business," he said.
Another resident, who simply identified herself as Funlola, also noted that it is common to hear about a missing child in the area.
The mother of two, who stays at Makanjuola Street, added she never gets to know if the cases of missing children are ever resolved.
"They come here very well. We see mothers who cry to this place that they are looking for their children. Since we don't know where the children are, they move on to continue their search but we don't get to know if the missing children are found or not," she said.
Another resident, who also doubles as a business owner in the area, Maryam Awal, said "it is a common thing to hear about a missing child here.”
According to her, it was not surprising that a kidnapper's den was discovered in the area. What she found strange was the location of the suspected den.
She said, "Do you realise that the kidnappers' den is in front of a school and there are many schools in that place. If truly that place is a kidnappers’ den, do you know how many children they would have kidnapped? And it's not all of them that stay in this area so we won't even know. How did they manage to operate in such an open area; the den is close to the expressway. Human beings!"
Toheeb Atoyebi, a vulcaniser in the area, said he was at the scene when the discovery was made but believes residents have been exaggerating as he saw no human parts in the den.
"When I got there, I saw socks, school uniforms, hijab, baby diapers and some other things but there were no skulls or human hearts as some people claimed. Even the man that was killed, some people said he was coming from Mile 2 but because he looked like he was mentally ill and they believe that people who pretend to be mad are usually kidnappers, they killed him," he said.
SaharaReporters observed that the scene of the incident was deserted compared to the situation some days ago.
A boy in the community screamed when he saw our correspondent going near the suspected kidnappers’ den: "Don't go near, police will arrest you, they are arresting people who go close to that place."
Speaking with SaharaReporters, the Baale of the community, Jimoh Ajayi Ojora, revealed that the community was under siege from armed robbers but that the situation was better with the intervention of the police.
On the issue of kidnapping, the Baale said it used to be commonplace in the community but no longer as bad as it used to be.
He commended the police officers of the Orile Iganmu division, stating that the police had been working to protect the lives and property of residents in the area.
The Baale, though sick, said he heard about the incident but had been assured of the intervention of the police and investigation into the matter.
He said, "The police have taken up the case, they got one person arrested and they are investigating. At the moment, police officers are guarding that spot. They are there to scare off anyone who stays at the spot for too long."
Ojora continued, "The police have really saved us in this area. Armed robbers and bad boys want to take over this place. When I first assumed this position, I had to join the police to fight crimes because this place was taken over by hoodlums. You see that corner (pointing to a narrow road opposite his house), that place used to be their base, they would stop young girls, collect their handbags and do all sorts of things. I knew I couldn't fold my hands so I joined the police in the fight against crime in this place.
"There was a time those bad boys came in their numbers to my house; they ordered me to come downstairs, that they would kill me, I had to hide in my room. I called the Divisional Police Officer who brought in his boys, it was like a war that day. I have always taken the lead when it comes to fighting crime in this community but my strength is failing me."
The community head said he was very sure the police would do a thorough investigation into the matter and that no such occurrence would happen again.