By Ebun Babalola
For occupants of the nine storey building known as Princeâ€™s Court on Victoria Island, this is indeed a time of discomfort and uncertainty. For weeks now, they have had to make do without electricity as the generating plant which serves the building has been disconnected, throwing the building into darkness.
Those living on the top floors have to climb the steps several times everyday as the elevator no longer functions because of the power outage.
Tenants have resorted to buying individual generating sets to provide electricity supply to their separate apartments, with the attendant inconvenience of worrisome noise. To further compound their problems, the landlord has relocated the giant generating set from its former position behind the building and placed it just behind one of the entrance gates.
The only other entrance gate and car park has a pile of sand and blocks strategically placed close to it that prevents cars from driving into the compound. All this it seems, is in an effort by the landlord to forcefully evict them from the apartments.
Even the security personnel are said to have been allegedly withdrawn as individuals of questionable character are placed at the security post of the property.
The nine storey building which investigations show belong to wealthy industrialist, Prince Samuel Adedoyin, chairman and chief executive officer, Doyin Group of companies consists of 65 serviced apartments.
Investigations revealed that trouble began when sometime in January 2009 the tenants were informed by the estate managers, and agents for Prince Adedoyin, RCO Properties and Co. that the rent is to be reviewed upwards from N800, 000 to N1.2m and service charge from N200, 000 to N400, 000.
According to one of the tenants in the building who spoke in anonymity, they sent emissaries to the landlord with a view to negotiating an acceptable rate. But all advances were allegedly rebuffed by the landlord who maintained a tough stance throughout the meetings.
According to the source,Â the tenants held a stakeholders meeting where they resolved to pay the new rate, but some were still reluctant to give in. It was, however gathered that solicitors to Prince Adedoyin soon served quit notices on every tenant in the building.
Then in July they got another letter from RCO together with a structural engineerâ€™s report claiming that there were some noticeable cracks on the eighth floor of the building and as a result, all tenants should vacate the building for load tests to be carried out on the building.
Realising that this may be a ploy by the landlord to forcefully evict them from their apartments, the tenants engaged the services of another structural engineer to determine the state of the building. According to expertâ€™s report, the noticeable cracks in the building were not from the foundation and that same would not lead to the collapse of the building.
It was alleged that the building was originally of eight floors, but that another floor was recently added to it by the landlord. The noticed cracks by both engineers were from those parts of the building.
The source also said that despite payment of service charge, the landlord and RCO introduced a monthly levy on all residents towards maintaining the structures in the building. Even with this, that they have been virtually running and maintaining the building.
In September an abatement of nuisance notice was pasted on conspicuous parts of the building by officials of the Eti-Osa local government, Iru- Victoria Island Development Area. With no response from the landlord, the tenants said they levied each other and moved to abate some of the nuisances enumerated by the notice.
But their respite was shortlived asÂ in October, officials of the Lagos State Physical Planning and Development
Authority came to paste a quit notice on the walls of the building asking them to vacate it within seven days.
Based on this latest act, the tenants filed for an order of interlocutory injunction at the magistrate court to restrain the Prince Adedoyin, RCO, Lagos Physical Planning and Development Authority and the Eti-Osa local government, Iru- Victoria Island development area from forcefully evicting or ejecting them from Princeâ€™s Court within the said period, or anytime thereafter unless by due process of law pending the hearing and final determination of the suit.
When the case came up for hearing the first day, none of the defendants were present in court as they had not been served with the notice. The presiding judge then fixed another date for its hearing
When contacted, solicitor for Prince Adedoyin, Mr. Wale Adewoye said he was not aware of the case in court as neither he nor his client had been served. He also said that he was neither aware nor in support of any unlawful means being used to evict tenants from any property.
He assured that due process will be followed as he also had filed a motion in court to that effect stating that he hopes the matter would be resolved amicably without rancour.