It is rare to find wild animals roaming free in neighbourhoods, so Omole estate in Lagos was recently thrown into a state of excitement when a crocodile was caught in the gated neighbourhood.
The animal, which residents described as “very large”, became a spectacle at one of the gates to the estate, on Sunday, December 22, 2013. For residents not used to seeing wild animals lurking in their neighbourhoods, the sight was unexpected.
The animal had earlier been caught by the estate’s security operatives around 2am on Omotunde Akinsola Street, by Today’s Car, after it strayed from a swampland at one end of the neighbourhood. Three bullets shot at the animal did not kill it.
So the initial buzz of excitement generated by the incident soon turned to apprehension for residents. Some of them described the crocodile which was over six feet long, as frightening.
A resident living by the swamp where the animal was caught, who identified herself as Ogechi, said she heard three gunshots that morning, and had thought they were meant to scare away robbers.
“Now, there is a general fear in the area caused by the incident. It’s amazing finding such a wild animal around where people are living; I think it’s very dangerous because a crocodile should not be going about in a neighbourhood,” she said.
“I heard three shots around 2am and I thought maybe there were robbers around. I didn’t know an animal was being shot.”
For Ogechi, however, her lifestyle was bound to change as a result of the incident. “I will be more watchful because of the incident and even stop going out in the night,” she added.
Another resident, Aanu Oladapo, feared that there were more dangerous animals where the suspected crocodile had come out from. Oladapo said he had heard stories that wild animals paraded around the swampy area in the estate, but had not believed until the recent incident.
“I’d heard that such animals sometimes come out from the swamp but I never believed until now. I saw the crocodile live myself and it was really too big to be roaming a residential neighbourhood,” he said with a measure of concern.
Although, Garba Umaru, who works as a private security guard in the neighbourhood, had no cause to fear for himself. Considering his profession, Umaru was confident that he could take care of himself.
However, Umaru’s confident stance and voice seemed to waver with emotion as he spoke about his five young children.
Umaru, who put his “help in God”, said “big crocodiles can swallow a person, so my children’s safety is in God’s hands.”
Indeed, there have been concerns raised by construction workers about the threat of wildlife to the community. The workers often sight wild animals in the community since they usually lead forays into new development sites.
A construction worker working on a new building by the swamp, Shedraq Benson, said workers often see the wildlife or their imprints on marshy grounds.
Benson said he often sees imprints of crawling snakes and reptiles on marshlands that had just been cleared for the start of building development.
He said, “Sometimes, we see large snakes and crocodiles. Once, I saw the imprint of a very large snake. By the marks left on the ground, I could see that a large snake which was more than a foot in width had just crawled on the ground. I was afraid to work on the site that day for fear of meeting it face to face.”
Benson added that he had also once seen a bigger reptile than the one recently caught by security operatives in the neighbourhood.
“Two of us saw the crocodile, but our machetes could not cut it at all. So we went to see if we could get a gun but it had gone by the time we got back,” Benson said.
Benson’s work partner, Pius Okere, killed a crocodile that also strayed from the swamp in 2012. However, Okere said the crocodile was small.
“The ones we’re killing are not the big ones; they are probably the kids. The big ones are still inside the swamp,” he said.
Meanwhile, the two security operatives who captured the crocodile have been made local heroes by their deed, even though their deed is what animal rights activists would look at with dismay.
One of the security operatives, Abu Alli, said he shot the animal three times after being notified by his colleague, identified as Itoro.
Recounting the incident, Alli said, “My colleague sighted the crocodile moving inside a residence, but he didn’t have a gun. He managed to divert the animal’s movement into a drainage, where it got stuck because it was too big.
“So he came to call me and when I got there, I shot it three times. I’m sure that one of the bullets hit it in the head, but it didn’t die. We later tied a rope round its leg and drew it to the estate gate, where residents had a view of it in daylight. The incident happened at about 2am and by noon, someone bought it from us for N20,000. The animal was still alive when we sold it.”
However, Alli said he had been surprised by his newfound popularity status in the neighbourhood since the incident, adding that security personnel had to be more vigilant in future.
“It surprised me that everyone has been talking about the incident. But I don’t think we did anything wrong by shooting the crocodile because it could have wounded somebody. I’m glad it didn’t attack anyone, so what we did was justified.”
Since the incident though, the neighbourhood has had its fair share of wild tales and gossips. Different accounts of the incident with varying sizes of the animal have been rendered from mouth to mouth in the estate that the facts have been blurred somewhere between the lines.
A commercial motorcyclist in the estate, who identified himself as Musa, told Saturday PUNCH that the animal that was caught had even spoken in human voice.
“It was very huge and almost as tall as this motorcycle. It spoke and demanded for human being to eat,” Musa insisted.