Members of a white garment church on railway line, Idi-Oro, in the Fadeyi area of Lagos State brought the church service to an abrupt end on Sunday and fled the premises.
It was learnt that some hoodlums had approached the pastor of the church around 3pm and instructed him to round off because they wanted to foment trouble and did not want the members to be caught up in the crossfire.
PUNCH Metro learnt that residents of the area also went indoor after the church members told them why they had to stop service earlier than usual.
Our correspondent gathered that when it was 4pm, the gun-wielding gang, numbering about 50, stormed the community from Lawan Street, Jibowu, and started shooting indiscriminately.
It was learnt that the hoodlums, said to be loyal to one Toyeeb, had come for a rival group ─ Toba boys.
PUNCH Metro had, in no fewer than six times this year, reported the attacks of the factions on each other, which had claimed several lives, including those of innocent residents.
It was learnt that policemen from the Alakara Police Division arrived at the neighbourhood on Sunday shortly after receiving a distress call. The hoodlums reportedly engaged the police in a gun duel, but were later repelled by the officers.
They reportedly regrouped around 6pm and went again on the rampage, destroying two vehicles before they were overpowered by riot policemen drafted to the area. Two of them were said to have been arrested.
Our correspondent, who visited the neighbourhood on Monday, was told that some residents sustained minor injuries while scampering to safety during the second attack. Some bullet-riddled spots were also observed.
The pastor of the church was not around as of 10am when PUNCH Metro left the community. But a member of the church, who identified himself only as Dayo, confirmed the impromptu end of the service.
He said, “Those boys told the pastor to close the service on time so that they can strike without hurting any member of the church. They said they had been waiting for us to end the service, but they decided they would no longer wait. That was how members started running out of the church.”
While lamenting her losses to the previous attacks, a resident, who sells foodstuffs at a shop on Ikeolu Street, Iyabo Oluwoye, said she packed her wares immediately she was informed of the imminent mayhem.
She said, “A woman told me that the gangs would soon fight again. Five years ago, my husband and his father were hit by stray bullets in one of the attacks. The father died. My shop had been burnt down twice.”
An eyewitness, Chinedu Igede, said, “They engaged the police in a shootout, but the police eventually chased them away. A few hours later, they came back and destroyed some cars.”
A loyalist to Toba, Sulyman Olawale, said they did not engage the attackers on the order of their boss, who reportedly called the police.
He said, “When I heard they were coming to attack us, I told our boys to vacate the football viewing centre, where they were watching Nigeria match. They were Toyeeb’s boys. I called Toba on the telephone, but he ordered us not confront them.”
A community leader, James Tolani, urged the police to beef up the security on the railway line, which he said, served as the entry and escape route for assailants.
The spokesperson for the police in the state, DSP Kenneth Nwosu, confirmed the incident, adding that four suspects had been arrested.
He said, “The hoodlums unleashed terror on the community, but the police were able to repel them.
“Four persons were arrested and efforts are ongoing to arrest others. No casualties were recorded, but the hoodlums damaged two vehicles.”