By Sunday Onyemaechi Eze
The raw show of power and authority displayed at Magodo Estate Phase II in Lagos state by the political and security timber and calibre comes with heightened interest. Scene one was opened with an unscheduled visit to the estate by the Commissioner of Police Lagos state, Hakeem Odumosu with the full paraphernalia of office. Siren blaring. He was denied access by the Private Security Guards for failure to disclose the particular house or person he intended to visit. Irked by the audacity of “bloody civilians” in uniform to stop a whole CP from meeting a strategic partner;. some of the guards paid dearly for their intransigence. The hoopla raised by the Commissioner’s behaviour forced the police command to issue a belated statement.
According to the Lagos State’s Force PRO, AdekunleAjisebutu, “On reaching the estate gate, the commissioner was properly introduced, notwithstanding the visible security details in uniform including a dispatch rider in his convoy, yet he was prevented from entering the estate by some overzealous private security guards. “All appeals to the security men to allow the CP go to see someone at a function where an urgent matter bordering on security was to be discussed, fell on deaf ears even when they had foreknowledge of his coming… When it became obvious that the security men were going overboard, the CP after about 30 minutes of humiliation, ordered the arrest of four of the security men, leaving one. The police in particular are statutorily permitted to enter any public place at any time. The Brooks Estate is a public place and the roads leading into it are highways and as such, no one has the power to prevent police officers in uniform from entering the Estate or any such public places. The internal security arrangements of the estates and other public places nonetheless, the statutory powers of the police to have unfettered access to public places must be acknowledged and respected.” Nigerians in position of authority are shameless power mongers who could do anything possible to prove their status even to the point of killing a fly with sledge hammer. We should know that to whom much is given, much more is expected especially in our relationship with people. Nobody occupies any office forever. The visit to the estate by the commissioner of police and the events preceding it became the most trending topic in the social media within the week. As usual public opinions were divided depending on where one pitches ones tent. At that point, many who became self appointed public affairs analyst on the issue did not understand the underlining game neither did they envisage the extent of power play that will be displayed days after.
Scene two opened with the visit of the Executive Governor of Lagos State Babajide Sanwo-Olu to the estate. On arrival, the governor met a detachment of police personnel at the estate. He directed, one Oyewole, a Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP), the leader of police team to inform his boss that he was around but he declined. Claiming that he is too junior to call those who sent him. The CSP also refused to disclose the number of his men on ground. Addressing the CSP before journalists, Sanwo-Olu said, “Can you call your superiors in Abuja and tell them that the governor is here and as the Chief Security Officer, you don’t have any business being in my state right now and that I want you to disengage right now?” But Oyewole replied, “I am here on the instruction of the Inspector General of Police through the AGF. I am too small or too low to call them. Your Excellency sir, you can call them sir.” The conversation between the governor and the CSP should not be pinned on the officer. The governor did not deploy him there. Someone else did. The governor should have known that the CSP was not part of his convoy; thus may not take all his instructions. By and large, it gladdens my heart and that of many Nigerians that a sitting governor has taken a full dose of the level of impunity and the prevailing common indecency among public officers not only in Lagos but throughout Nigeria.
Quipped by the action of the CSP towards a constituted authority of an elected governor, the South West Governors Forum berated the action of the police. In a statement issued by RotimiAkeredolu, the chairman, slammed the Attorney General of the Federation, AbubakarMalami and the Inspector General of Police, Baba Alkali for what he called gross moral turpitude and brazen assault on decency. We condemn, in very clear terms, the role of the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN in this act of gross moral turpitude,” If the purported Chief Security Officers of the States of the Federation require clearance from the office of the IGP on matters within their areas of jurisdictions, only hypocrites will wonder why the current security crisis deepens and there appears to be no solution in the foreseeable future.” But in a reaction, Malami in a statement by his Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations, Umar Gwandu, confirmed sending policemen to Magodo. He did not spare Sanwo-Olu and the South West Governors over the issue. He said among other things, “Let it be known that the issue is regarding a Supreme Court judgment that was delivered in 2012 long before the coming of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration in office at a time when Malami was not a minister. The judgment was a reaffirmation of the judgments of Court of Appeal and High Court delivered on 31st December, 1993…
The Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, would appreciate if the coalition of the governors will help to unravel the circumstances preventing the Lagos State Government from enforcing the court order despite several attempts from 2012- 2015 and so-called settlement initiative started in 2016. It is a common knowledge that execution of the judgment and orders of courts of competent jurisdiction, and the court of last resort in the circumstances remains a cardinal component of the rule of law and the office of the Attorney-General wonders how maintenance of the law and orders in the course of execution of the judgment of the Supreme Court can be adjudged by imagination of the governors to be unruly. We want restate that sanctity of the rule of law is not a matter of choice.”
The interest of big men in this matter was also evident in the fact that the police deployed to Magodo were not from Lagos Command. And they never reported to any police formation or informed the government of their presence.
The show of power, to many discerning minds, is garnished with some elements of economic and political interests. One, the visit of the governor was from all intents and purposes designed to reinforce and maintain the status quo. He was reported to have met with stakeholders and offered over 500 plots to the original land owners. The governor’s peace initiative should be commended. But does this gesture fit into the kind of justice the land owners want? Is the location offered to them developed and of the same value with plots in Magodo? How about legal cost and general compensation?
Two, Malami and the IGP are using the police to enforce a Supreme Court Order ignored over the years by the big men illegally using their connect to frustrate the poor. Another interested big man must have pulled the above string in favour of the original land owners. The action of the police no matter the guise is in the interest of the public and the vulnerable.
It was revealed that a military administrator of Lagos state seized landed properties of some people in the name of building a hospital and instead allocated same plots to his friends, cronies and those that matter. Those adversely affected by the ill-treatment ran to the court for justice. Justice was obtained after it grounded slowly for years. The enforcement of the court order was what the police presence sought to achieve.
Politicians and their likes have to be fair and just in their dealings with the public at all times. The governor should not have made any public spectacle of his visit knowing fully well that the police are not under his control. The CSP bearing in mind who gives him order would have handed over the office of the IGP to the whims and caprices of the governor. It would have been a disaster to do so.
The governors should have complete territorial control of the state where they are elected to govern. But the 1999 Constitution technically strips them of powers over security. What happened in Magodo has reinforced the clamour for state police and the urgent need to work out a constitution fit for our federalism. Governors should not be held hostage in containing crisis in a state. Restructuring is the way out of this quagmire. We should be fast about it.
.Eze writes via [email protected]