Five members of the executives of Home Owners and Residents Association of 1004 Estate, Victoria Island, Lagos, have been arrested by policemen, who claimed to be acting on orders from the Inspector-General of Police’s office, locking them up without a chance to contact their family and friends.
The association alleged that the policemen, numbering six claiming to be from the Special Tactical Squad of the IGP’s office, were sent on the instigation of a tenant of the estate, Mr. Akinlosi Oyelokun, said to have a connection to the IGP, Mr. Ibrahim Idris.
Initially arrested on Wednesday, November 1, was HORA’s Finance Manager, Mrs. Joy Okara;Accounts Clerk, Mr. Peace Itaribo and Mr. Olanrewaju Olaniyi.
Saturday PUNCH was told that the power in Oyelokun’s apartment was disconnected for owing the sum of N938,998.70 in service charge.
According to other tenants of the estate, Oyelokun’s wife, who was present during the disconnection visited the secretariat of the association where she immediately made a part payment of N400,000 so their apartment could be reconnected.
But it was learnt that when technicians got to her apartment for the reconnection, a cable was sighted showing the bypass of her smart meter.
The issue was said to have been reported at the HORA secretariat where a formal letter of bypass was reportedly addressed to her apartment urging her to pay or structure a payment plan towards offsetting the penalty on such cases of meter bypass.
The association alleged that she refused to collect the letter but later informed her husband who visited the HORA secretariat to explain himself. The association reportedly insisted on abiding by the house rules.
Saturday PUNCH learnt that as a result of the case, the Divisional Police Officer of Bar Beach, sent some of his officers to appeal on behalf of the Oyelokuns a week later, but the association explained that all the compromise it could offer was a down payment of 50 per cent.
At about 3.45pm on Wednesday, Saturday PUNCH was told that officers claiming to be from the Force Headquarters suddenly invaded HORA’s secretariat, allegedly to harass and detain the three members of staff of the association.
A tenant familiar with the case explained that Okara, Itaribo and Olaniyi were taken to an unknown destination but were later traced to the Adeniji Adele Police Division, where they were detained overnight.
Our correspondent learnt that while attempting to obtain administrative bail for them, two other members of HORA’s executive committee –Mr. Edet Essien (Assistant General Secretary and Mrs. Ogunbiyi (Welfare Secretary) were arrested by the same policemen and detained with their phones seized to prevent them from contacting their families.
Ogunbiyi told our correspondent that she was delegated to bail the first three members but ended up behind bars too.
She said, “Three of our members initially arrested were taken to the Bar Beach Police Station. The men from the IGP’s office said because our men did not turn up, they would not be released. One of them is a married woman with children. So, I was delegated along with Mr. Essien to bail them.
“When we got to the station, they just told us to go behind the counter to join them. While behind the counter, we heard discussions about money and we insisted we would never pay a bribe.
“They suddenly said they were leaving with us. The information they gave the people at the Bar Beach was that they were taking us to the police headquarters in Ikeja. They would have taken us straight to Abuja if it had been morning.
“Our lawyers decided to follow their vehicle but they warned them not to trail them. While in the bus, one of them said, ‘You know we can waste you and nothing would happen.’ They did some clandestine move along the way and took us to Adeniji Adele Police Station, where they matched us straight to the cell.”
Ogunbiyi said it was while at the station that they sighted their detention order, which accused them of criminal conspiracy, threat to life and intimidation.
According to her, the petition seemed to have been written in 2012.
She told Saturday PUNCH, “At least two executive committees have moved in since that year. Because they seized our phones, people could not locate where they took us to.
“They released our phones and told us to call someone from the estate to come and bail us. We were released at about 1.30am.”
According to her, the most bizarre part of the episode was that the men told them to report to Abuja on Wednesday and when asked which office to report to, the policemen told them to simply come to Abuja and call them over the phone when they got there.
They expressed anger that a tenant who allegedly owed fees could simply use his connection to deploy policemen from the IGP’s office to harm them.
However, calls and text messages sent to Mr. Oyelokun seeking his comment went unanswered.
All efforts to contact the force spokesperson, Mr. Jimoh Moshood, to find out if the policemen’s operation was authorised, proved abortive as his mobile line was unreachable.