A request from Lagos state governor, Mr BabajideSanwoolu, on Tuesday to a ChiefSuperintendent of Police from Abuja to call his superiors and end the siege to MagodoEstate was publicly but politely turned down by the middle-level officer.
Even when the governor properly schooled the officer, who led the police team that laid a 14-day siege to the estate over a land dispute, that he was the chief security officer of the state and wanted the invaders out, the officer, while bowing respectfully to the governor, still maintained a firm, saying, “I am too small(junior) to call my superiors(Inspector-General of Police and the Attorney-General of the Federation) sir. YourExcellency sir, you can call them sir.”
The latest drama is sure to further galvanise the call for state police, as part of the restructuring efforts to ensure true federalism.
The status of the state governours as the chief security officers of their domains is also likely to be back in the mainstream national conversation, after the embarrassing episode.
Sanwo-Olu eventually conceded to the intermediate officer and called both Usman Baba, the IGP, and Abubakar Malami, the AGF, before the siege to the estate was called off, which also required the physical intervention of the state Commissioner of Police, HakeemOdumosu.
Sanwo-Olu, who was conducting an on-the-spot assessment when tempers flared again on Tuesday between residents of the estate and the officers, confirmed to newsmen that the policemen were deployed from Abuja.
His confrontation with the unnamed CSP was also conducted in the presence of the media and the protesting residents, at the MagodoPolice Post. While the CSP was doing his utmost best not to be rude to the governor, he left no one in doubt where his loyalty lies, as he firmly told the governor, “I am here on the instruction of the Inspector-General of Police through the AGF.”
The governor was forced to make the on-the-spot calls to Baba and Malami, as police intensified the repossession efforts, by locking up buildings.
Landlords of neighbouringShangisha got favourable judicial pronouncements, returning the land on which the substantial part of the estate is sitting, to them. Offers of alternative549 plots in Ibeju-Lekki orBadagry, made by the state government, were rejected by the landowners, operating under Shangisha LandlordsAssociation.
The leaders of the association are bent on retrieving the 549 plots from MagodoEstate Phase 2 which was incidentedin the judgement asShangisha/Magodo Village. On December 21, 2021, the claimants moved over100 gun-toting policemen and tens of bailiffs into the estate to enforce the judgement, by marking thousands of buildings for demolition, while a bulldozer rolled into pull the buildings down was denied entry by the MagodoResidents Association(MRA).
While the intervention of the state government got some of the policemen withdrawn, about 50 were left behind, reportedly on the order of the IGP, who the leader of the team claimed deployed them to the Lagosestate for judgement enforcement. On Tuesday, the police siege entered a frenzied real when the officers, began locking buildings up in the estate, preparatory to take over by the claimants. Flustered estate residents who got wind of the latest move on Monday mobilized early morning Tuesday for protest with placards, locking down the estate.
After making contacts and calls, the leadership of MRAflung the access gates open at about 11:00 a.m, only for news to filter in that the policemen had started taking over buildings.
Houses around the popular Emmanuel Keshi Street, down to Maiye Ogundana, had their gates locked by the policemen, with embarrassed residents poised for a major confrontation with the arm-bearing officers. With tension about boiling over, reports came that GovernorSanwo-Olu had decided to visit the crisis spot.
Between noon when the policemen and residents were going eyeball to eyeball over the building-locking exercise and the arrival of the governor at about 2:05 p.m, zonal chairmen of the estate decided to lock down the access gates to all zones, to prevent further incursion by the officers.
All the zones along with thesecond gate into the estate, popularly known as Secretariatgate, like Foreshore, Kola Amodu, Nelson Nweke, among others, had their access gates firmly locked. Unknown faces were turned back, even when the lockdown was partially lifted, following solid assurances that the governor would be making an appearance. In a direct, open confrontation with the leader of the police team at MagodoPolice Post where the Abujateam was camped, the governor asked on whose authority the officers were laying the siege to the estate, with the team leader saying they were sent by the IGPand the AGF.
The visibly-unimpressed governor further asked where the policemen came from and the leader said“Abuja”. When asked the number of his men on the field locking residents homes, the team leader couldn’t give a definite answer, which he predicated on security reasons, triggering demonstration from the governor.
When the governor asked him for a copy of the letter authorizing the siege from the court, the senior officer claimed he didn’t have it. At this point, Sanwo-Olusaid, “I have a copy of the letter and we have responded to the court. I (also) calledMalami (AGF) this morning and he said he is not aware of the police invading Magodo.”The drama of request and refusal began at this point, between the duo.
After his request was spurned, the governor said,“The policemen are not from Lagos State Police Command.I don’t know what other interests they have beyond keeping the peace of the country. This is not what I expect from them, because they don’t have any business here.”
Giving an open assurance to residents to speak withBaba and Malami, the governor then entered his car. At this point, Lagos state commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, arrived to end the siege, asking the Abuja team to release detained residents who confronted them in the course of the protest and locking of the buildings.
Flanked by his Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, MoyoOnigbanjo, and chairman of, Mr Bajo Osinubi after his reported calls to Malamiand Baba, Sanwo-Olu said his government had opened talks with the judicially-favoured group and a peace meeting scheduled for his office today.
“Throughout the festive period, we had started communication. The residents, they are my subjects, the people that have gone to court, they are my subjects, even the police themselves, they are also my subjects, soI have a responsibility that fairness and equity are done to all. Those who went to the court said they have Supreme Court judgement, rightly so. The residents too have genuine titles.
“In the car, I have spoken extensively with the IGP and the honourable AttorneyGeneral (of the Federation)and we have resolved all of these. So, there is going to be a total standdown. Tomorrow(today) we will be inviting the representatives of the judgement-creditors(Shangisha Landlords Association).
We have actually started a committee meeting but I want to invite them again officially to my office tomorrow by 11:00 a.m; two or three of their representatives, to come over.
“The state government will be there, MRA will be there, the police also will be there, so that whatever must have brought about all of these, we will need to bring it to bed and come to an amicable resolution,” the governor assured.
He also urged restraint and peace, on all sides.
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