… My landlord evicted me illegally, destroyed my property
•No, he didn’t pay his rent and the court ejected him, says lawyer
From Emmanuel Uzor, Abakaliki
On Friday, August 12, 62-year-old Okechukwu Mgbemena left his apartment at No 5, Oti Street, Abakaliki, the Ebonyi State capital, for his home town, Isuochi. But he never knew that he would have no home by the time he returned.
Okechukwu had travelled to Isuochi to be part of the crusade organised by the community and tagged ‘Isuochi for Christ.’ He had hoped for many miracles at the retreat, among which was the grace to enable him build his own house and stop being a tenant.
But fate had other plans for him. While he was leaving with all his household to be part of the miracle crusade, little did he know that upon his return, even the little he had would be taken away from him. But he said by the time he came back to Abakaliki with his family, all he saw was that his entire property had been thrown outside by his landlord and his agents.
The man, a trader at the Abakpa main market, Abakaliki, said his landlord also used another set of keys to lock his family out of the house.
According to the dejected Okechukwu, he was alerted to the pathetic situation by his neighbours who kept calling him frantically. He said he was told that his doors had been forced open by agents of the landlord, with all his property thrown outside and left under the rain while another key had been used to lock the house, thereby preventing him and his entire household from gaining entrance into the house.
The landlord has denied the claims, however. He said Okechukwu was evicted from his house on the orders of a court.
Okechukwu, while narrating his ordeal, noted: “I was away with my children to be part of the ‘Isuochi for Christ’ crusade, a prayer session that we, the Isuochi people, do every year, I was called by some of my neighbours in Abakaliki that my house had been broken into by our landlord and his agents. At first, the picture I got from the call was that a group of boys looking like cultists invaded my house which made people to stay away, but it was later discovered that they had the backing of the landlord. They came in, broke into my house and brought all my property outside and left them under the rain.
“When I returned, I saw all my property outside the house and the door was locked with another key. I was confused because I had no problem with the landlord or with the lawyer to whom we pay the house rent. What I did after I waited for some time was to first rush to the Ekumenyi Police Station to lodge a complaint.
“When I got there, the policemen told me it was already late, that I should go back and that they would call me in the morning. The next morning, I couldn’t even wait for their call. I returned to the police station and it was then that the policemen advised me to go and ask my landlord if he was aware of the illegal ejection. I went back to the house. I knocked at the landlord’s door and he answered from inside and told me he was not going to open the door. I told him it was me Okechukwu, your tenant and he said he knew it was me. We exchanged some words and when I was about going, he opened the door.
“I went in and asked him if he was aware of the ejection and the inhuman treatment meted out to me without any notice, but he said he did not understand what I was saying. After some minutes of argument, he told me to go and look for whoever threw my property outside.”
Okechukwu said after his encounter with his landlord, he had no other doubt that the action was masterminded by his landlord and his agents. He said he returned to the police station to report his findings and the outcome of his meeting with his landlord.
“The police officers requested for the phone number of Mr. Emeka Uwakwe, the counsel to the landlord and they placed a call to him. They asked him to come to the police station for some information. After wasting so much time, the lawyer appeared at the police station, brandishing one paper which he gave to the policemen and said he had court orders to eject me. It was at that point that my confusion grew bigger because I never at any time had a problem with the landlord or anybody in the house. I never had any notice of court action against me. It was more worrisome that the lawyer presented a purported court judgment whereas I was never served a quit notice or court summons.
“I am very sad and sick now because since the incident, all my property have been destroyed by the rain. I am hopeless and homeless. My children are homeless and my entire family is in disarray. I am using this medium to call on the state government to come to my aid. I also call on human rights activists to help me and get justice because I have been wrongly and criminally judged, and all I have laboured for have been destroyed by my fellow man just because he built a house and I lived in it.”
However, the landlord, Chief Ogbonna Agwu said Okechukwu was not telling the whole truth. Agwu, who spoke through his lawyer, Mr. Emeka Uwakwe, described the allegation of false and illegal ejection as baseless, adding that Okechukwu was duly served with court order and other relevant legal documents.
He said: “It is baseless that he said that he was never served. As I am speaking with you, he paid his rent last in December 2015. There is no how a lawyer managing a property will allow such for somebody who paid his rent last in 2015 to continue to stay. And when he paid the rent for December, it was in January, 2016. Between January and now, he has not made any payment. He said he was not served, but he contacted his son in Lagos and the man called me on phone. He confided in his son that he was served. So his allegation that he was not served any court order is a big lie.”