Panic gripped residents of Osun State on Wednesday when operatives of the Department of State Service in about 50 Toyota pickup vehicles fired into the air as their convoy rode through the capital city.
The officials, some of whom wore masks, were fully armed and were conveyed round Osogbo in the siren-blaring vehicles.
They were also sighted in Iwo and surrounding communities of Osogbo.
Our correspondent observed that some of operatives, who sat on the roofs of the vehicles, fired gunshots into the air, thereby causing fear among road users.
Dressed in black T-shirts, black trousers with caps and fully armed, the officials drove from their office along Gbongan-Osogbo Road through Olaiya Junction to Oke-Fia.
A source disclosed that the operatives were deployed from Abuja.
Motorists and ‘okada’ riders hurriedly parked their vehicles while the armed officials took over the roads and just as pedestrians also abandoned the roads.
The Director of the DSS in Osun State, Mr. Andrew Iorkyar, when contacted by our correspondent on the telephone said that the officials were deployed in the state for the purpose of the August 9 governorship election.
He said, “They are our men. They are patrolling round to familiarise themselves with the terrain. They are in the state to protect law-abiding people. They are not deployed to terrorise anybody.
“You know that there are allegations and counter-allegations of stock piling or arms by some politicians. We don’t want any breakdown of law and order. So, our men are in the state to ensure peace.”
Asked why the officials were shooting into the air, Iorkyar said he was not aware of that and he promised to find out.
He urged the people of the state not to hesitate to make useful information available to the service.
The Special Adviser to Governor Rauf Aregbesola on Security Matters, Mr. Amos Adekunle, when contacted on the telephone by our correspondent condemned the incident, describing it as intimidation. Some residents who spoke to our correspondent condemned the shooting, saying it was not necessary because there was no crisis that warranted it.
The All Progressives Congress described the shooting as a ploy to scare voters away from coming out to vote.
The Director of Publicity, Research and Strategy, Mr. Kunle Oyatomi, who spoke with one of our correspondents in a telephone interview, said the incident was totally uncalled for, adding that it left people running helter-skelter.
Oyatomi, who also issued a statement on Wednesday, asked the people not to be intimidated by security presence in the state.
He said, “The incident was unwarranted because there was no riot. They came from Abere end; they passed though Olosan to Olaiya and Oke-Fia thence to Ilobu. They would move a few meters and open fire. People began to run helter-skelter. If this is how the Peoples Democratic Party thinks it would capture Osun, they are joking because the people’s wish can never subverted.
“No citizens should be scared or should run away when they see and or hear gunshots from security people because they have committed no crime. Everybody should go about their businesses and ignore them. A country in which the security operatives are the ones doing what we are experiencing to citizens in Osun, calls for the gravest concern.”