Nigeria: Premium Times Petitions Sanwo-Olu Over Lagos Estate’s Harassment of Staff

The estate officials did not honour an invitation for a meeting by the Lagos State government.

The management of PREMIUM TIMES, Nigeria’s leading investigative newspaper, has petitioned Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu over the abuse of power and harassment of its staff by officials of the Omole Phase 1 Estate Residents Association in Lagos.

The newspaper’s office in Lagos is within the estate.

According to the petition to the governor, the estate’s officials clamped, for days, the vehicle of the newspaper’s Development Editor, Mojeed Alabi, which he parked outside the office, claiming it was parked on a ‘no-parking’ space.

“There were dozens of cars parked on that day because about 100 persons were at the estate’s secretariat, which is situated just adjacent to our office, for the collection of their Voters Registration Cards,” read the petition dated 1 July and signed by Ben Ezeamalu, PREMIUM TIMES’ South-west bureau chief.

“At about 1:35 p.m., on Tuesday the 28th day of June 2022, two unidentified individuals surfaced in the front of our office at Omole Phase 1 on a motorbike without a number plate and clamped Mr Mojeed Alabi’s Sports Utility vehicle.

“Upon making an enquiry from the two of them, one identified himself as Tosin and informed us that the instruction to clamp the car was from Omole Phase 1 Residents’ Association and there was nothing they could do to unlock the clamp until we pay the sum of N25,000.

“Upon request from the executors of the illegal duty about the offence committed to warrant the punishment of N25,000, the executors claimed Mr Alabi parked at a ‘no-parking’ sign outside our office.

“Curiously, there were other vehicles (without the estate’s car stickers) parked at the ‘no-parking’ sign, which begs the question why Mr Alabi’s car was singled out, despite the estate sticker clearly pasted on it.

“Even our security guard’s efforts to make the executors see reason fell on deaf ears. They told us to go to the Omole Phase 1 Residents’ Association Secretariat.”

At the estate’s secretariat, the officials insisted that Mr Alabi must pay a fine, despite explanations that he could not have parked anywhere else because of the influx of people into the estate on the said day.

Mr Alabi’s car was eventually unclamped nearly three days later, apparently after the owner of the property where this newspaper is renting had called the estate authorities.

The petition noted that a government estate, converted to private use by “overzealous individuals,” could not function as the fourth tier of government, standing as the accuser, the prosecutor, and the judge in its own case.

“May we state that the unjustifiable and unconstitutional detention of Mojeed Alabi’s vehicle has hindered and violated his fundamental right to freedom of movement.

“The illegal detention of his vehicle has violated his fundamental right to his freedom of expression because the excessive and illegal exercise of power by the Omole Phase 1 Residents’ Association has inhibited his right to receive and disseminate information which is the core practice of PREMIUM TIMES.”

Estate’s response

When contacted by PREMIUM TIMES, Abimbola Osikoya, the chairperson of the Estate, described the incident as a case of violation of the Estate’s rules.

Ms Osikoya, however, said they released the car to the owner without him paying any fine.

“The place the man parked was marked as a place not to park, but maybe because he is a journalist he feels he is above the law,” she said.

“I never knew you would contact me for a response, but for this, I respect this newspaper and I thank you very much.

“We didn’t collect a dime from him, ‘they’ don’t really take money from people, they only threaten them with fine just for things to be done orderly.”

Estate ignores govt invitation

In response to PREMIUM TIMES’ petition, the state’s Ministry of Transportation invited the newspaper’s staff and the estate officials for a meeting on 27 July at the state secretariat in Alausa.

The estate officials did not attend the meeting.

Shakiru Olayinka, who signed the letter of invitation on behalf of the transportation ministry, confirmed that the estate officials were duly invited.

Messrs Ezeamalu and Alabi, who had visited the ministry to attend the meeting, said they were disappointed that the government’s invitation was ignored.

“It’s that same ‘we-are-bigger-than-the-government’ attitude which the estate officials exhibit at every turn that is playing out,” said Mr Ezeamalu.

“They (estate officials) have just called the government’s bluff and it will be interesting to see how the government responds to this,” he added.

Reacting to the development, Mr Olayinka said the state would take appropriate steps to address the issue.

“Just don’t worry, Sir. This is not a government of lawlessness. The government does not rush its decisions.”


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Author : Premium Times

Publish date : 2022-08-05 09:54:53

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