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Gowon Estate crisis claims copís life

Posted by By Juliana Francis on 2007/06/27 | Views: 794 |

Gowon Estate crisis claims copís life

The tussle for possession of some blocks of buildings in Gowon Estate in the Ipaja area of Lagos, which started 19 years ago, took a new twist recently when a police officer was shot dead.

The tussle for possession of some blocks of buildings in Gowon Estate in the Ipaja area of Lagos, which started 19 years ago, took a new twist recently when a police officer was shot dead.

Paul Abah, a police Inspector, died from a gunshot allegedly fired by a Navy officer who resides in the estate, when he allegedly went to carry out a court order.

The Federal Housing Authority (FHA), the landlord, said the court order, which was dated 1993, was null and void.

Abah, 47, died leaving eight children, the youngest of whom is just eight months old. His death was not the only one residents of the estate had witnessed since the battle for the possession of the flats started.

Daily Sun learnt that many other people have died while several others had been to prison and back.
It was gathered that Abah, in the company of other policemen, went to the Gowon Estate on May 1, to execute a court injunction, which ordered that occupants of Buildings 6 and 7 located at 412 Road, D Close, should vacate the houses.

The occupants allegedly attacked the policemen. They were further alleged to have invited a retired Navy officer living in the estate to come and help them. There was exchange of gunfire. Abah was hit and he died.

A police officer, who witnessed the whole incident, said it happened differently: "The naval people started coming out. They wouldnít allow us to carry out our duty. There were many of them. They attacked Abah. One of them tried to disarm Abah. The naval man held on to the butt of the rifle and pulled the trigger. The bullet got Abah on the hip and came out from his anus."

While the police thought they were carrying out a lawful court injunction, residents of Buildings 6 and 7 thought otherwise. They told Daily Sun that the court injunction was fake and added that the buildings, with many flats, belonged to the residents. They claimed to have bought them from FHA. Lieutenant Colonel Festus Daniel Briggs, Chairman of Verification Task Force, FHA, agreed that the buildings belonged to the occupants. He added that the occupants bought them outright from the FHA. He added that he knew nothing about the man who was claiming the ownership of the buildings, describing the claimant as "faceless.íí

The first time the police came to throw out the occupantsí property, Briggs visited the area, upon receiving a call. He said: "It was terrible. Nature was not kind to them that day. All their property were outside and there was a downpour. Everything was soaked."

When Daily Sun visited the estate, some of the damaged property were still outside. Some vandalized windows and doors had not been replaced. Briggs said it took his intervention and a visit to the police before the men left the vicinity. But a week later, they came back.
The alleged claimant, identified as Charles, may still be unknown to Briggs, but he has become a nightmare to the occupants of Buildings 6 and 7.

Speaking to Daily Sun, one of them said: "This Charles claimed to have bought each of the buildings for N20 million. Who did he buy them from? FHA does not even know him. EFCC ought to probe him. Heís just a civil servant, a customs officer. Where did he get that kind of money from? Moreover, we have our papers, let him produce his. We are recognized by FHA. Is he recognized?"
They alleged that Charles had been terrorizing them with court judgements, police, bailiffs and thugs. One of those arrested by the police, Tukurah Andenamin, claimed that the occupants and naval personnel attacked the police, leading to the death of Abah. The occupants have distanced themselves from the murder charge.

One of the residents revealed that the occupants of Buildings 7 and 6 went for a wedding party that day and could not have attacked the policeman. He, however, explained that naval personnel became involved in the fateful May 12 tussle when they noticed that the police were arresting teenagers.
He said: "The police came that day in two commercial buses. The number plate was covered. They were in plain clothes and had guns. They came in company of area boys.

They started shooting indiscriminately into the air. We all ran away, nobody could wait. They started arresting people. Most of these people were youngsters. Some are still in police cell. That was when the naval personnel came out. There was confusion. Nobody knew what happened next."

While the commercial bus driver who conveyed the policemen to Gowon Estate accused the man of causing the pandemonium, the man denied the allegation. According to Tukurah, he had come downstairs to heed the police call when he saw how rowdy the place had become.

He said: "Some naval personnel were in that block. I decided to plead with the naval personnel to leave the policemen alone. I told them the police were performing their duty. That was when they started pushing the police."

He added that one of the naval men had attempted to disarm Abah. "He was the one who initiated the struggle that led to the death of the policeman. They were struggling for the possession of the gun and it went off," Tukurah said.

Ebenezer Kerenjo, the bus driver, said the trouble started when a pregnant woman came out from one of the flats, insisting that she would not allow the police to take away her husband.
"Police said nobody should touch her. They pushed her to one side. As we prepared to leave, naval officers started coming out from their flats. They placed stones across the road. They said the police canít take the people away. As we attempted to move, three people held me. One held my hands, another, my throat. They stabbed me and my conductor.

The next thing we saw was someone coming out with a gun. They said we would all die. We were trying to reach an agreement when we heard shootings. Tukurah was among those trying to disarm the policeman that died. Four of them gripped the policeman from behind. They collected his rifle. It was that rifle they used to kill him," Ebenezer claimed.
When contacted, a naval officer denied being at home on the fateful day as claimed by Tukurah.

According to him, all the adults were at a wedding party in Sango, Ogun State, when they received a call that the police had taken some youngsters away, including his son, Edet. One of the female youngsters added that her younger brother, who was writing his WAEC, was arrested.

She said he might have to look for money to register for the next exams, since he had missed most of the papers while in the cell. Daily Sun tried to get in touch with Charles, through his relatives at the Customs block in Gowon Estate, but met the place locked.
Meanwhile, men of anti-robbery team at the State Criminal Investigations Department (SCID) have started preparations for the burial of the late Abah.

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