By Albert Akpor
Unarguably, the Lagos state police command has remained the cynosure of all other police commands across the country. To this end, the spate of crime and criminalities nationwide are measured by the statistics obtained from the Lagos state command. However, quite recently, the resurgence of violent crimes, especially armed robbery has remained a thorn in the flesh of defenceless residents as they watch men of the underworld having a field day, robbing, maiming and in some cases, killing their victims unchallenged. Even the police command seemed helpless as these hoodlums are equally after its men; defying the risk of their nefarious ventures. But in the midst of this worrisome and agonizing insecurity; and rather than put heads together and proffer lasting solution to the menace of armed robbery ravaging the entire state, two senior police officers in the command, the Commissioner of Police Yakubu Alkali and his Deputy in charge of administration, DCP Adams Audu, seem to busy themselves with trivial and mundane issues; distinctly outside the purview of police matters. The duo whose wealth of experience in crime fighting, if brought to bear would have yielded meaningfully in allaying the general insecurity in the state, are flexing muscles over a disputed portion of vast land situated on Oke Alo estate, Anthony village, Lagos. Whereas, CP Akali who is relatively new in the state is bent on the rule of law by disallowing the involvement of his policemen in land matters, his Deputy in-charge of administration said to had served in ‘Area H’ Ogudu before his present posting, may not be seeing things from the same perspectives. He seemed to be paying deaf ears to the instruction of his superior as he was alleged to have undermined the orders of his Commissioner and detailed a detachment of anti-robbery men from Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), Ikeja to a contentious land where the men, together with some thugs, allegedly unleashed terror on persons met on the land. They were reported to have demolished foundations on the land and carted away iron rods and other building materials worth millions of naira even when ownership of the land was still a subject of litigation.
Crime Alert scooped that the vast land belong to Delfino Anthonio Da Meranda family of Lagos by virtue of the Crown Grant of 1886 with plan No. AS. AL/LA/8088.E/84 from Governor-general Glover as it were. But another family, together with a prominent traditional ruler in Lagos (names withheld) and the government of Lagos state also lay counter claims to the disputed land and both parties in dispute have been in court since 1997, 2001 and 2006 on suits numbers, LD/3010/1997, LD/2890/2001 and LD 630/2006; respectively. The suits were reportedly instituted by Mr. Sanni Olayinka, counsel to Delfino Da Meranda’s family adding that the outcome of the court was still being awaited. However, a twist was said to have been introduced into the matter in 2004 after the other parties allegedly struck a deal in a separate suit No. ID/ 2118/2000 by settling out of court, ignoring the Anthonio Da Meranda’s family; contrary to an earlier letter from the chambers of Abraham Adesanya (SAN) who was handling the matter in 2000 advising the state government to deal directly with Anthonio Da Meranda’s family; being the authentic owner and custodian of the land in dispute. In the mean time, the contending party was said to have employed the services of the police who were said to have led a legion of thugs into the land , took possession and reduced foundations on it to rubbles even without a court order. The emerging lawless scenario reportedly prompted counsel to Da Meranda’s family, Mr. Olayinka, to petition the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Hafiz Ringim . The petition dated February 22, 2011 alleged amongst others; police harassment and intimidation. Upon receipt of the petition, the office of the IGP reportedly ordered CP Alkali to do a thorough investigation of the claims, especially the allegation of police involvement. But sources said CP Alkali’s orders not to involve the police on land matters was met with stiff resistance from his deputy. Therefore, to avoid a clash of interest and prevent the two officers from a show of shame, the police highest authority therefore, re-issued a fresh order on the Zone 2 command, Onikan, Lagos to take over the investigation. In the course of the investigation, no fewer than 10 police men from Ifako and Anthony Divisions led by the Ifako Divisional Police Officer who were stationed on the land allegedly on the instruction of the DCP administration, were interrogated. Accusing the police of recklessness and bias, the petitioner said, “As I talk to you now, policemen from SARS led some thugs to forcefully take possession of the land in dispute which is under litigation. Properties belonging to individuals were destroyed by the thugs with the cover of policemen. Our client could do nothing but watched helplessly from afar how properties belonging to members of the public were being destroyed and loading of building materials into a Dina truck without a court order. It is shameful that this is happening in a democratic state. It is trite law that when a matter is in court, either party is duty bound not to do anything that will render the court useless. We therefore, sincerely seek your timely intervention in this matter as you will agree with me that there is limit to human endurance. We are asking also, on whose order was the demolition of the foundations of buildings and the carting away of plenty iron rods and other building materials worth several millions of naira found on the land, carried out.