By Amara Christa
When businessman, Cosmas Madueke, in 2001 acquired his property at 468, Old Ojo Road, Satellite Town, Lagos, he never envisaged that a day would come when the said property would leave him at the mercy of a hip replacement surgery in The Netherlands in order to walk again.
Madueke’s only offence was refusing to part with a whopping N10million allegedly demanded by some thugs who surfaced in 2018 to claim the land was theirs, more than 15 years after he had remained the sole owner of his property that has a Federal Government’s Certificate of Occupancy (CofO).
These thugs, said to be mostly foreigners from Benin Republic and allegedly loyal to a self-acclaimed traditional ruler, Lateef Olarinde, and his alleged accomplices at whose behest they unleash mayhem, mercilessly beat up Madueke with bottles and the butt of guns smashed on his head and waist.
He was further trampled upon by his attackers, who overpowered and disarmed seven armed policemen sent from the State Criminal Investigation Department (SCIID) to invite them following Madueke’s petition.
The man’s lawyer who attempted to video what was happening, was not spared either as the thugs left him in a pool of his blood, smashed his phone and locked them inside their compound until reinforcements were deployed from nearby police divisions and the Area E Command.
Madueke, who was hurriedly flown abroad after doctors in Nigeria tried to save him without much success, had his warehouse looted and pulled down; his 15 tenants chased out, while his oppressors illegally took over his property and allegedly converted the topmost floor to a lodge for their foot soldiers.
For many years, residents of the area which include Abule-Ado, Vin-Niger, Able-Pain, parts of Trade Fair, Mile Two, Oguntade Village and Festac Town, have constantly complained about the ceaseless attacks, extortions, forceful take over of their properties, torture, intimidation and harassment by the thugs, who parade the areas freely armed with dangerous weapons.
They live in fear following constant threats of elimination of anyone who confronts the gang. Tales are told of how these outlaws boast of their killing expertise and how they destroy or seize the properties of those who oppose them.
Not even articulated vehicle drivers were left out of the unpleasant experiences as a handful of them have either been killed, maimed or had their vehicles vandalised since 2015 for refusing to part with illegal levies.
These drivers, who usually parked at Abule Ado awaiting their callup for loading of products at the ports, woke up one day to thugs demanding N500 per truck daily, an amount they grudgingly gave out.
But in no time, the hoodlums increased the said amount to N1,000 and within months made it N2,000 to N3,000 per truck daily and the refusal by some of the drivers to pay led to their being killed, injured, windscreens smashed or batteries carted away.
Tired of the extortion and attacks from the thugs said to have claimed ownership of the park, drivers who were members of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas (NUPENG), wrote petitions to the Commissioner of Police and the Assistant Inspector General of Police in charge of Zone II for intervention.
Their frustrations were said to have been heightened by the alleged murder of a driver and his motor boy by the thugs over refusal to pay the imposed levy.
A NUPENG official in the area said: “We have been facing these things for so long. We have been trying to handle it peacefully but it is getting out of hands. That man (Olarinde) has hundreds of boys he unleashes on people. He just wakes up and fixes tolls and starts forcing people to pay.
“Whenever our drivers protest, his boys will descend on them. There are times some might want to bring out money to give them and they will just collect all the money in their hands, including money for loading.
“They have killed and injured many of our people. Late last year, they killed a driver and his conductor. So many people have sustained injuries. No one is safe from them. They are terrorising the entire area and feel like they are above the law.
“Before now, all complaints to the police were not attended to. It seemed as though the man and his thugs were bigger than the police. But the fight that occurred last week where they injured many of our people and even road users have shown us there is hope.
Some of them were arrested and the man fled. We are only hoping that the police will follow through this time around and bring him to justice.”
In a telephone interview with our correspondent, Madueke wondered why a bunch of criminals would be allowed to torment fellow citizens with impunity.
He said: “It was on January 29, 2018 that Mr Lateef Ajanaku Olarinde, his sons, Yusuf, Sanni, Sikiru, Idris and and other vicious persons, accompanied by street urchins numbering above 80, invaded my property, ferociously brandishing machetes and guns of different make, which included sub-machine guns, pump action and locally made pistols.
“As soon as they gained entry into my property, they forcefully chased all occupants and tenants out, shooting sporadically into the air. They started demanding money from occupants and tenants and anyone who dare resit them was mercilessly beaten up and maimed instantly. They broke into my office and warehouse and carted away properties worth above N50million with a threat to return in a week’s time.
“All this was because I objected to their ploy to extort N10million from me. They have been harassing my tenants and demanding money from them while I was away and so, when I came back, I felt it was time to make them stop by getting the police involved.
“With the help of my lawyer, I reported the matter at all police stations around and sent a petition to the State CID, wrote the IG and AIG Zone II hoping there will be intervention but there was none.
“We waited patiently until February 7 2018 when a team of seven policemen were deployed through the then DCP Salami at Panti, to ascertain my complaints, only to meet an unexpected violent attack by the gang of hoodlums numbering more than 80. The policemen were not only overpowered but they were arrested along with us.
“Much to our chargrin, they disarmed the policemen, took them to their sponsor’s compound, a green bungalow opposite my property, and knelt them down in the full glare of the public. They were thoroughly beaten up until police radio alert distress call summoned the DPOs of nearby stations- Satellite, Trade Fair, Festac Division and Area E Command before the policemen, my lawyer and I were released.
“They humiliated and disgraced my lawyer, left him half naked and half-dead with the injuries he sustained. I was abducted by Yusuf Olarinde and some of his thugs and taken to a corner of my property where I was physically assaulted. They matchetted my head, broke my legs and waist with lethal weapons, left me in the pool of my blood and thought I was dead. Thankfully, I was rushed to the hospital from where I was flown abroad and have since been in the hospital here.
“I have spent so much money to get back to my feet but it has not been possible. The doctor said I have to undergo a hip replacement surgery because that is the only way I can walk again. I have not come back since then but I heard other property owners there have suffered a similar fate from the hands of the thugs and their masters.”
No longer business as usual
Their notoriety, however, reached a crescendo following last week’s violence, which prompted the Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, to declare a manhunt for the thugs and their sponsors.
At a press conference held after the bloody attack, Odumuso told reporters that about 40 of the suspects were arrested and plans underway to fish out Olarinde, who at the time, had fled the community.
The Police chief also confirmed the danger the thugs posed to the area, disclosing that police intelligence disrupted their plans to attack through the waterways.
The man was trailed to his hideout around Badagry but it turned out he fled on a motorcycle just few minutes before the arrival of the police team, a source privy to the operation said.
When our correspondent contacted Olarinde for reaction, he denied the allegations against him, insisting that those who go around were youths of the community based on the mutual understanding they had four years ago with the first set of tanker drivers.
He said: “I do not have any boys except the community youths that for the past four years have mutual understanding with the first sets of tanker drivers that used to park their vehicles in the community. They agreed that the community youths will be securing their vehicles. It is the youths’ initiative to help themselves, which is what happens in other communities.
“On the allegation of taking over a park, I am not a tout and so, how can I do that? That is propaganda.
“The issue of seizing properties is not true except for properties that fall within the land shown on plan AAW/L/85A&B/85 subject to the judgment of a Lagos State High Court in suit ID/94/88. The judgment was delivered by Justice O.O. Obadina on Juky 14, 1989. Therefore, those houses were taken or demolished in execution of the court order with form N warrant of possession and form O warrant of execution.”