POWA President

Mrs. Queen Elizabeth Egbetokun.

Juliana Francis

Many women and men in Lagos and Nigeria are in a celebratory mood. They are all planning Christmas and New Year.

But some Traders at the Police Officers Wives Association (POWA) Shopping Complex, Computer Village, Ikeja, Lagos, are certainly not in a celebratory mood.

These traders rather than plan with their families on making Yuletide unforgettable are now finding it difficult to sleep and even when they do catch a wink, they do so with their two eyes wide open and their ears to the ground.

The present state of their mental health is due to the reality of their ordeal, which is the fear that an unscrupulous developer, desperate for profit will soon swoop and level their shops to the ground.

This constant fear has become their daily nightmare and who can blame them? These traders are in a clime where the rich and powerful, like building developers stomp on the rights of the less powerful, sneering at the laws of the land.

The battle with the developers started in 2019 and again, today, another developer is now out, allegedly threatening to demolish the shops of over 300 traders.

The traders cannot understand the issue and are wondering why they had not been invited to a round table discussion. T

hey also sighed in frustration, recalling that every time a new Inspector General of Police comes on board, developers will crawl out of their holes, trying to take over the shops, threatening to demolish and rebuild for outrageous price purposes.

A move that usually leads to many Nigerians becoming economically useless, therefore contributing to the escalating crime and unemployment rates in Nigeria.

The traders cannot understand the raging desire to demolish their shops especially since they have given the complex constant maintenance including painting and fixing things that needed to be fixed.

These traders, while demanding for things to follow the legal process, are also now calling on the Inspector General Of Police, Mr Kayode Egbetokun and his wife, Elizabeth Egbetokun, who is the National President of the Police Officers Wives Association (POWA) to look into their situation and unravel the misrepresentation, exploitation and deceit going on.

One of the traders, Chibeze Marcel, said that the latest gimmick by the developers started on July 19th, 2023, when they were called to a meeting at the Police College Ikeja by a then-serving police officer, who had since retired.

Marcel recalled that the said Police Officer was the Commander of the Police College, identified as Ajana.

Aside from Ajana, other police officers attended the meeting. Marcel noted that the meeting was a sham because rather than for them to have a conversation, the policemen intimidated and repeatedly shouted at them to shut up.

He said: “The developer was also there. They told us that they wanted to demolish our shops and that we had just 30 days to do so, so everyone was shocked.

“We asked how that was possible, how can they want to demolish our shops and they did not deem it fitting to give us a legal notice?

“We urged them to write us a formal letter from the appropriate authorities like the Office of the IGP or his wife, the POWA President. But they said no, so I stood up and objected to the process.

“I asked how they could want to demolish more than 100 shops, with over 300 traders, without legal documents. I told them that there should be documentation so that we too could have a right to respond through our lawyer.

“They told us that we do not have any right, and then there was intimidation because policemen were everywhere. When we wanted to say more, they would shout at us to sit down, so at a point, we said it was okay.

“We replied with wisdom and told them we wanted to go back and communicate with other traders, who sent us as their representatives. We left them and later they created a WhatsApp platform called Tenant and Landladies there they continued to push us and at a point, we told them that since we did not have a right, it was better for us to leave the platform.

“We contacted our landladies, and they told us they were not even aware of the meetings, creation of the platform, the developers, let alone the threat to demolish.”

Marcel opined that this constant disturbance and threat was coming from two or more persons who were members of the POWA. “These people are trying to dislodge traders who are doing legal trading and this is not right! We are calling on the IGP, Mr Kayode Egbetokun and his wife, POWA President, to come to our aid. The IGP and his wife should also know that some people are trying to tarnish their images for selfish interest.”

The current Chairman, of the Computer Dealers Association, Mr. Tayo Shittu, said some people were hiding under the guise of being sent by the IGP’s wife to demolish the complex. He therefore called on the IGP to rescue them from the developers.

He added: “We found out that our landladies are not in accord with what is going on. There’s a letter we received from a developer, and our landladies denied knowing anything about it.

“We drove to the office of the POWA  chairperson, then POWA Lagos State and the commissioner of police, but all of them denied knowing anything about the letter or the developers. We have a copy of the acknowledgement of that letter. However, we are using this medium to call on the IGP to rescue us from the developers, who are bent on bringing this complex down.

“There’s nothing wrong with the complex. Everything is in order. The building structure is not defective. The IGP, his wife and Nigerians should come to our aid.”

The immediate past chairman of the traders, Mr. Tobechuwku Maxwell stressed that the complex sometime in 2019 was marked for demolition and when the traders made enquiries, it was discovered that the order did not come from the right quarters.

He added: “ It meant somehow, a developer that had a connection tried to sell the idea of demolishing the complex to people and when we voiced out to the world, the said decision was receded and they left.

“We are surprised today that this developer and his cohorts are back again and therefore we are calling on the relevant authorities,  the IGP and police officers of integrity to step into this matter.

“We are tenants here and as such, we have rights, but we were only told that they were going to demolish the complex and every one of us should leave. We also heard from the grapevine that the demolition is going to take us by surprise; that they will come when we least expect and this is why we are calling on the police hierarchy and well-meaning Nigerians to help us get to the root of this matter.

“We are citizens of this country and deserve to be treated right! We are tenants here and we pay our rent and our landladies, who are supposed to give us quit notices if there’s a need for such development have  not told us anything.”

He also argued that if anything, it was the traders’ landladies that should be a source of such information to their tenants, not the traders receiving such verbal notices from the developer.

He noted: “We know that the umbrella body for our landladies is POWA and then our landladies who are individual owners of these plazas have not notified us that POWA is saying it wants to develop.

“We have complained to POWA’s President, Mrs. Elizabeth Egbetokun’s office through our lawyer and we are yet to hear from her office. We have a copy of the letter here.

“We are quite enormous tenants, talking about not less than 300 occupants at this plaza, excluding their families. We are not fighting anybody, all we are saying is that they should consider the welfare, and the life of all these people who are occupying these shops, which is their only source of livelihood.

“We are talking about 300 people about to be dislodged and these 300 people have dependents, wives, children, aged parents and relatives. What is the alternative for them if their shops are brought down?”

The Iya-loja of Computer Village, Mrs Abisola Azeez, said when the complex was being built, she was part of those who funded the building.

According to Azeez, her shop has been at the Computer Village since 1999, adding that as traders they had witnessed a lot of problems and overcame them because only God had been protecting and fighting for them.

She said: “When we moved in, the agreement they told us they had with the developers was 10 years because we made an initial payment for three years. The issue is that whenever a new person (IGP) comes into power, they always want to do something.

“This time around, they came and said they wanted to demolish the building. We have been keeping the place neat, we procured the transformer and do everything on our own. We have upgraded the complex to a befitting plaza. Surprisingly, I don’t know why they want to dislodge us all and bring new people; there is no structural defect, so they shouldn’t use Lagos officials to chase us out.

“The only time we got notice of demolition was from one achiever property and it turned out to be a lie. If they want increments we can sit down and discuss it. The Inspector General of Police should help us.”

“A similar incident occurred exactly four years ago when a group of persons came and claimed the then IGP’s wife sent them to demolish the complex, which turned out to be a lie. To perfect their act, they brought someone who claimed to be an official of the Lagos State Ministry of Works to measure the whole complex on July 30, 2023, when nobody was around. Our investigation showed that they were fake.

“We deserve fair treatment because 20 years ago, the complex was a bush and we transformed it into what it is today. We believe it is not possible to carry out such demolition without the knowledge of the head of POWA, who is the wife of the IGP. That is why we are appealing to her to come to our help, as a mother.”

Our reporter reached out to the Nigeria Police Force spokesman, Muyiwa Adejobi on the issue, asking if it was possible or legally acceptable for a developer to swoop on POWA’s property to carry out demolition without POWA or the owners of the property knowing about it. Our reporter further asked for the right processes concerning such a matter.

Adejobi promised to carry out preliminary findings and get back to our reporter, but at the time of filing this report, he had yet to do so.

 

 

 

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