…..Send SoS to Gov. Sanwo-Olu
By Ebunoluwa Sessou
Some aggrieved landlords in Lekki Phase 1, Lagos State, have called on Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu to intervene in illegal street gates and road Access Codes instituted by the North-East Lekki Neighbourhood Association, NELNA.
The aggrieved property owners, led by Prince Ayoola Ojeikere, protested the blockage of Admiralty Road and demanded for Access Code to ply them by the NELNA.
Describing the road blockage through the erection of gates as an infringement of residents’ rights to movement on public roads, Ojeikere, the spokesman called on Sanwo-Olu to stop the construction of such gates on government roads and issuance of Access Codes to ply them.
According to him, some group of people by the name of the residents association have been taking laws into their hands for selfish interests in the area, thereby making life difficult for others.
Ojeikere, whose property is on Fatai Arobieke Street, lamented that the issuance of access code to road users by NELNA, had increased the hardship and stress of both motoring residents and pedestrians, in accessing their homes and doing their businesses.
He explained that residents were subjected to trekking a distance from the gate to their homes, because commercial vehicles were barred from accessing the gates.
He said that the development had not only driven prospective tenants and business owners away from the area, but also brought mental disturbance to visitors and friends of residents.
“A group of people in the community have decided to install a huge gate on Admiralty Road with barricades that can only be accessed with codes into Fatai, Idowu Arobieke Street, Lekki Phase I and other adjourning streets.
“These codes have been used indiscriminately to victimize residents and stakeholders that refused to join in their unlawful act.
“We have approached some of the group members about these unlawful acts of restriction and blockage but to no avail.
“As we speak, nobody wants to come for rent in the area because of these shenanigans,” he said.
Urging Sanwo-Olu to verify the claims, Ojeikere implored the governor to enforce the law and abolish the unlawful act that had made businesses unattractive to people.
He said that such urgent action would avert a possible confrontation with residents, which might result in the breakdown of public peace.
“The blockage and gates in the middle of the main streets must be removed in conformity with Lagos State Law for free flow of traffic movement without hindrance or discriminatory restrictions to road users,” he said.
He said that the aggrieved group had forwarded a protest letter to the state’s Ministry of Transportation, Ministry of Environment, the Lagos State Building Control, Eti-Osa Local Government and had held several meetings with relevant state agents, especially at the Ministry of Transportation.
Ojeikere, who noted that he had been on Fatai Arobieke St. since 1996, said: “Muzzling people to pay for access code to ply the public roads built with taxpayers money is the height of illegality in the state and it must not be allowed to go on.
“The association has sent away most tenants due to this illegal gate. I was told to come and pay N300,000 to get an access code.
“All tenants have gone now.
“If a client is coming, the NELNA won’t allow them to access the road until the Access Code is obtained. We are sending SOS to Sanwo-Olu because we don’t want to put the law into our hands.
“We have petitioned Lagos State through the ministry of transportation, and the government is firm to say ‘it is wrong’.
“The ministry ordered the removal but NELNA has continued to ignore it.”
Corroborating, Mr Afolabi Oke, another aggrieved resident on Posun Adekoya Street, added that the gate closure during the day had made life difficult for workers who needed to trek long distances on alternative routes to access markets, which could have been accessed easily if Admiralty Road and others had been left open.
Another aggrieved landlord, Chief Stanley Odijie, maintained that he had done his investigation and found out that NELNA was not known to the state Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, hence all their activities were illegal.
According to him, it has become a nightmare for visitors to come and visit them freely because of the fear of blockage of Admiralty Road with gate and request for access code.
Odijie, who noted that Mr Patrick Akinwuntan-led executive of NELNA exco was not the first in the area, said residents could not explain the reason behind the passion for the gate and introduction of toll through access code.
Other aggrieved residents unanimously said that operation of gates and issuance of access codes had become rampant, maintaining that Lekki was not an estate but a city.
“You cannot put a gate on Admiralty Road.
“Some people went to the extent of banning commercial vehicles and people had to trek long distances to their homes,” they maintained.
Meanwhile, at a reconciliatory meeting on Sunday between some community leaders and aggrieved residents, CSP Ganiyu Raji, the Divisional Police Officer, Maroko Police Headquarters, lamented the development which, he said, had become a fashion around Lekki and its environs.
Describing it as disturbing, Raji said that a lot of aggrieved property owners/residents had complained about the illegal closing of gates in the daytime and requested access codes to ply public roads in the axis.
According to him, since the government’s directives, rules and regulations are clear on the erection of gates, every approved gate must be left open between 5.00 a.m. and 12 midnight.
“ Even a street where there are no security threats, a lot of people will still put gates to an extent that even uniformed security agents are required to produce access codes to enter a government road.
“ It is as bad that as a police officer, I was asked for an access code to use public roads. Some paid for access code but are not happy. I receive SMS and people come to me to complain.
“Streets with five exits and entry points now close four and leave one open. There are rules and regulations that guide the erection of street gates.
“You cannot lock gates. Look, the law is very clear, we are enlightened.
“We are not in Banana Republic. Some people will just wake up, erect a gate and close the road,” the police boss said.
Urging leaders of various communities in Lekki Phase 1, not to over-hype the security situation in the area, Raji said that he had not recorded any form of life-threatening crime reports since he assumed office as DPO in the area.
According to him, when any approved gate is closed from 12 midnight till 5.00 a.m., security guards must be on duty at the gate in case of emergency or security patrol.
“Also, any security guard you put there that is not in line with the Nigerian Constitution is illegal.
“Access code is totally an illegal thing and totally wrong. From now, all gates should be left open without access code
“If you people do it within yourself and some people abide by it, it is fine; but whoever that does not want to agree with you, you cannot deny such access.
“Some people have written a petition against me for allowing street gates. I have been given directives that all gates should be left open during the daytime.
“If I give directives, it must be obeyed. By tomorrow morning, if any gate is not opened, I will arrest the guard and lock him up,” he said.
The police officer, who explained that there were no street gates in Victoria Island and Ikoyi, said that people who had businesses should not be disturbed, saying, “if you do, you are violating their rights.”
Raji said that every step to enhance security must be done within the ambit of the law, adding that he would continue to have interactive sessions monthly with residents.
The police boss, who also pledged to station a patrol vehicle and team at the area for proximity in arrest crimes, urged residents to be diligent when engaging domestic staff.
Reacting, the Chairman, Lekki Residents Association,LERA, Mr Yomi Idowu, who justified erection of gates in some streets, however admitted that putting gates at major places like Admiralty Road was not necessary.
Idowu, who noted that if there were enough police officers, there would have been no need for gates, said, however, those gates should not be erected to inconvenience residents.
Stressing that there were many miscreants and street urchins disturbing people in Lekki, Idowu said that gates do stop them from walking around and breaking into people’s homes.
Also speaking at the meeting, the Chairman, North East Lekki Neighbourhood Association (NELNA), Mr Patrick Akinwuntan, said that the gate was part of proactive efforts to kick away crimes in the area.
Akinwuntan, a Former Managing Director of Ecobank Nigeria Plc, noted that the association had tried to provide a shuttle bus to commute people to their various points within the estate, after alighting from commercial vehicles at the gate.
Akinwuntan, whose association erected a gate at Admiralty Road, said that a growing shanty within the area and other security threats necessitated the gate.
Representing the Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Ministry of Transportation, Mr. Abdulhafiz Toriola, Alhaja Fausa Jenty, reeled out the state government’s guidelines and regulations regarding street gate approval.
“Erection of gate without approval is illegal and as such, on road networks constructed by the State, it is to be removed within seven days after which a notice will be pasted.
“If approved and we receive a petition from any member of the association, we will remove it.
“Even if approved, the gates must be kept open in the daytime and locked between 12 midnight and 5.00 a.m.
“This gate must be see-through type, must be manned by security guards employed by residents. No emergency officers or security agents must be denied to access the gate.
“Nothing is stated about Access Code in the Executive Order. All these we attach to any residents association that seek approval for the gate,” she said.
A Lagos-based Constitutional Lawyer and Good Governance Advocate, Mr Jide Ologun, Solicitor to Mr Ayo Ojeikere, who was part of the stakeholders’ consultations, highly commended the Lagos State Government for giving the rule of law its pride of place.
According to him, when citizens ridicule the laws of the state, a leeway has been constructed for anarchy.
Ologun, also applauded the courage and professionalism displayed by the police boss toward conflict resolution and public peace.
“He (Raji) is indeed flying the kite of the Nigeria Police vision, which is to make Nigeria safer and more secure for economic development and growth; to create a safe and secure environment for everyone living in Nigeria.
“The Executive Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, must keep the MDAs on their toes to ensure that Lagos State, the Center of Excellence, exercises zero tolerance to disrespect of rule of law,” he said.