By Esther Onyegbulam
There was pandemonium yesterday at Diamond Estate in Satellite Town, Lagos, following the invasion of the premises of some residents by armed policemen to forcefully arrest them.
Those involved were three members of the estate’s executive: the chairman, Mr. Uche Nwili, the Vice chairman, Mr. Greg Obiora and the Chief Security Officer, Mr. Daniel Achuzie.
The policemen, as gathered, were invited by one of the residents of the estate identified as Mr. Matthew Okafor.
Investigation by Vanguard traced the genesis of the trouble to a misunderstanding over alleged violation of stipulated regulations in the estate. Vanguard gathered that Matthew Okafor has been reneging in payment of the estate dues and other development levies and also fails to pay the stipulated levy for conveying his containerized vehicles into the estate, leading to an accumulated debt of N3.4 million to the estate.
However the attempt to forcefully arrest the officials was aborted by residents who thronged the concerned buildings.
Some residents, who spoke to Vanguard, said the armed policemen later discovered to be from Area ‘E’ command , Festac laid siege to the houses as early as 5am, without prior notice.
When Vanguard visited the buildings, some of the residents were still seen standing around the chairman’s house in solidarity with him and the other executive members.
Chairman of the estate, Mr.Uche Nwili, alleged that there had been continuous harassment and threat to life from one of the residents with the police, adding that he (the resident) vowed to use his connection with the police to deal with him and the entire members of executive over disagreement on his outstanding estate dues and development levies.
He said: “It is surprising that a resident of this estate would act as a terrorist in a place where he is living. As it stands now, my children did not go to school. My wife, who was supposed to go to the market this morning, couldn’t go out because of the police presence and fear of being manhandled. As I speak now, my shops are closed, my boys and I could not go to the market because as early as 6am, some people dressed in mufti but heavily armed came to my house and were banging on my gate. When my wife enquired who they were, they said they were policemen and were there to arrest me.
“After a while, some residents who saw what was happening outside called me to say that Matthew had called in some unknown gunmen to lay siege to the estate. I was told that some were stationed in front of my house, the vice chairman and the CSO and were searching the entire estate for the security men. As you can see, there are no security men in the estate because all of them have run for their lives.
“We have had similar incidents where the same man invited policemen into the estate unprovoked. We have petitioned him at Alagbo Police Station and he has been invited on several occasions but he refused to honour the invitation until this morning when he came in with these men to threaten our lives again.”
Recounting the incident, a resident, Engr. Paul Emuekper, said: “They came into the estate in two vehicles, I will regard them as unknown gunmen. They invaded the estate with the intention of picking some people. Perhaps, they had a bad motive, which I cannot tell for now.
“There have been some issues with Matthew over some dues he was supposed to pay to the estate.”
Giving his own account of the incident, vice chairman of the estate, Mr. Greg Obiora, said: “At 5am this morning, I heard some people knocking on my door. How they came into the compound, I didn’t know but I saw them from upstairs. I was praying when they came and so I asked them to wait for me. At 6am when I finished praying, I opened my door without opening the burglary proof and demanded to know what they wanted and they said they wanted to see me.
“While I was still asking them how they gained access into my compound, I noticed that one of them tried to bring out something which prompted me to lock my door and ran back into the house. At that point, I called the chairman and the CSO to tell them my experience and they confirmed to me that they also had the same experience.
“As I am talking now, my children did not go to school; our life is no longer safe.”
On his part, the CSO, Mr. Daniel Achuzie, said: “I received a call that unknown gunmen ( on mufti) had laid siege to the estate. They came very early in the morning and mounted surveillance in my house, and some other people’s houses. They later drove to the gate in search of our security men. As it stands, we don’t know the state of our security men because I have not seen any of them.
“We are doing this to let people know that Matthew Okafor should be held responsible for whatever that happens to us. This is not the first time he is doing this. During our election a few months back, he brought in some tugs and rascals to disrupt the election.”
When Vanguard contacted Mr Mattew Okafor, the resident that was alleged to have brought the armed policemen, he revealed that there had been series of misunderstanding between him and the estate’s chairman over what he described as highhandedness on the part of the latter.
He told Vanguard that his wife was allegedly manhandled three weeks ago by the chairman over payment of the estate’s dues while he was outside the country.
According to him, the matter was reported at Agboju Police Station following which the chairman and the estate security were invited by the Divisional Police Officer and instructed to tender an apology to his wife.
He said, “the chairman refused to tender the written apology to my wife as instructed. Rather, he went ahead to petition the Police at the Force Headquarters annex, Alagbon”.
But Okafor did not respond to question bothering on who invited the policemen that invaded the officials homes. Rather he said two different teams of policemen visited the estate same day, one of which were policemen from Alagbon who came on the invitation of the chairman.
Vanguard learned that but for the intervention of the Police team from Alagbon, the situation would have gone out of control. The police team was said to have invited the aggrieved parties to broker peace, after the team from Area ‘E ‘ had gone.