By Vivian Onyebukwa and Pelumi Oyinlola Adewale
He walked into the premises of the Lagos City Office of The Sun in Ikeja, his face wearing a picture of frustration and confusion.
Christopher Onwudiwe, who lives in Alagbado, a Lagos suburb, came to complain of what he described as injustice meted out to him by his landlady, one Alhaja Kuburat Aduke. Onwudiwe claims he occupies a three-bedroom flat at a house on No 14, Iwuchukwu street, Alagbado, Lagos belonging to Alhaja Aduke.
A native of Awka Etiti, Anambra State and an entrepreneur dealing in rubber products at Alagbado, Onwudiwe narrated to Saturday Sun how he rented the apartment, and how his landlady flouted their agreement.
His words: “On June 10 2020 when I wanted to rent the house, the landlady asked me to pay N300,000 without agreement fees, because according to her, she does not collect agreement fees from intending tenants. But in addition, I paid N30, 000 for agent fees. When I requested a prepaid meter, she said I should pay an additional N50, 000 so she could use the money to process the prepaid meter for me. I paid. The total fee I paid was N380,000. Sometime after I moved into the apartment, officials of Ikeja Electric Distribution Company (IKEDC) came and cut the light in the building because each of the flats owed about N200, 000 and they didn’t want to clear the debts. Then the landlady was still processing the prepaid meter for me. After three months, the prepaid meter came, along with that of one other tenant, Kayode Oyedeji who lives downstairs and who personally processed his own prepaid meter. The landlady had promised that any tenant that wanted could process his meter and settle it with her afterwards. So the two meters came the same day. Then the landlady decided that I wouldn’t use mine alone, but that I should share it with other tenants, which I refused. Before then, each tenant had his own separate analogue meter and the bill comes to each of the six flats separately. Each meter has its number from IKEDC. My number in the analogue meter for my flat is the same number they used to process the prepaid meter for my flat. I have the receipt.”
Onwudiwe stated that when he refused to share his meter with others, a meeting was organised by the landlady. In attendance were her son, Bashiru and two other landlords living around the area. Onwudiwe alleged that the purpose of the meeting was to convince him to compromise IKEDC meter by sharing the meter with other tenants.
“They said we should be buying card maybe once in three months, and tap the meter, compromising it so that it will not be reading. But I refused. I made it clear to them that I am not cut out for corruption. The other tenant, Kayode Oyedeji agreed to share his prepaid meter with only one person.”
Onwudiwe said to his amazement, he discovered that they went ahead and did what the landlady’s son, Bashiru told them to do, which is compromising the meter.
“They would take one life wire from my own and take a neutral from the other man and they shared it. The meter would be running without reading. When they wanted to share it, they would remove my line. I would stay for a week without electricity. So I threatened to report them to IKEDC because it is corruption which is against what I stand for,” he said.
He recalled that another meeting was scheduled for November 8 2020, adding that this time, the landlady, her husband and her son, Bashiru, were in attendance. Onwudiwe stated that their mission was to again, persuade him to agree to their terms. He said he refused again and threatened to report them to IKEDC. He alleged that it was at this point that a co-tenant called Rotimi, tried to stab him with a knife but for the timely intervention of another tenant, Kayode Oyedeji.
“After this incident, the landlady told me that I must succumb to what they said, that if I could not beat them, I should join them. But I insisted I would not join them,” Onwudiwe said.
He recalled that the threats continued, forcing him to make a formal report at the office of IKEDC in December 2020. The Marketing Manager was not available that day, he said.
“The staff I met told me to call an electrician to remove my wire from under the staircase and put it in front of my flat, which I did, to stop them from tapping the line. It was after this that they stopped tapping my line until February this year. By February 2nd, 2021, the caretaker, Mr Taiwo, informed me that they have a new tenant, and that I should use the line with the person. When I refused, the caretaker told me that he did not even need my consent. So two days after, on February 4th, 2021, the caretaker, the landlady’s son, and the new tenant, Dapo went and called an electrician, tapped my wire and started using it. So when the money in the card was exhausted, they asked me to bring the remote control to the meter. I refused. At this juncture, they reported me at the Alagbado Police station. After writing my statement, the two IPO’s, Inspector Edwin and Inspector Obasi, started pressurising me to bring the remote, which I refused. They threatened to lock me up in the police cell, but I remained adamant. They even asked me to call someone who would bail me once they locked me up, which I did. When they saw that the threat could not work, they asked me and the caretaker to go and meet the then DPO, CSP Uro Justine Oko, which we did. After explanations, the DPO dismissed the case and told the caretaker that if truly each of the tenants has a personal meter, they should stop tapping my line and leave me alone to use my meter.”
However, Onwudiwe alleged that instead of heeding the DPO’s advice, the next day his entire electric wire was cut off. “They first of all cut off the whole lines in the building, but later they restored only their own meters by connecting to my own meter, leaving me out. They also cut off my water supply. Since then I have been living in a dehumanised manner. Many at times I will not bathe. I spend more than N2, 000 to buy water every week. If I don’t manage it well, I can spend up to N4,000,” he lamented.
Onwudiwe stated that as all this was happening, a certain Muyiwa who worked for a company that partners with IKEDC, had called to tell him that his landlady’s son, Bashiru, came requesting for the second remote control to the meter. “When I narrated the issues to him, he warned me that I should not allow anybody to be tapping the line as the meter is meant for one flat alone which is the policy of the company. He said the line would be damaged if people tapped from the line. He promised to talk to Bashiru, and advised me to go and meet the IKEDC marketing manager at Abule Taylor, which I did. I was directed to one lady who promised to follow up the case. The next day, I travelled to the village for my father’s burial. I was there when I got a call from Meiran Police Station that Bashiru reported me concerning the prepaid meter. The police officer who called ordered me to bring the remote control to the meter to the police station. The officer promised to call me once I returned from the village, but he never did. Now, they have connected to my light and cut me off. I don’t know how they managed to do it.”
To avoid arrest from Meiran, Onwudiwe said he wrote a petition to the State Criminal Investigation Department, Panti, Yaba on the same case.
“The IPO in charge of the case at Panti, Inspector Patrick, who delegated one officer, Nicholas to invite the parties, invited only the landlady and the caretaker without inviting me, saying that there was no need to invite me. Few days later, they came for inspection from Panti, after which the police officer said he could see nothing to show that they cut off my light. So I pointed the place to him and explained how they did it. The inspector then said that he could understand that when they brought the prepaid, other tenants decided that I should not be the only one to use it, which is why they cut it.
“When the IPO invited us to Panti, the other parties refused to appear. I tried calling the DPO but he was not picking my call. When my brother called him, he responded and told him that those people said they had no money for transportation, except if I would bring money for the police to invite them again,” he lamented.
Suspecting that the police might have been compromised, Onwudiwe said he decided to approach The Sun as he continued to seek justice.
“In this my case, any attempt to get justice has always hit a brick wall. The corruption in this country is overwhelming. I want to expose the ills in this country. My aim is to liberate the poor masses in the street that are going through different types of intimidation and wickedness and they never get justice because of lack of money and connection,” he noted.
He informed that he had already been handed a quit notice by the landlady, though his rent has yet to expire.
When Saturday Sun visited Alagbado Police Station on July 6, 2021, the current DPO, Abba Frank, said he had spent only seven days as DPO and was unaware of the case. He invited Onwudiwe, who explained his case to the DPO. The DPO then summoned other parties, insisting that Onwudiwe was to use the prepaid meter alone. He warned Onwudiwe that he would be punished if he shared the meter with any other tenant.
EKEDC officials also visited the house on inspection following complaints by Onwudiwe. They described the connections in the house as illegal and subsequently disconnected the entire house from their network. They also confirmed that the prepaid meter was for Onwudiwe alone. They discovered that the landlady and her son had suspended the bills for four flats, with all the flats hooked on Onwudiwe’s prepaid meter.
When Saturday Sun called Bashiru, the landlady’s son to hear his own side of the story, he asked the reporters to contact the police.
When contacted, the caretaker, Taiwo told Saturday Sun that he knew nothing about the case. “I’m not his agent. The issue is between him and his landlady. I am also a landlord too in the area, but I took someone to the compound. I am so surprised you are calling me again because this Christopher has written a petition against me to Panti regarding this same issue. Can you believe that? And other people were there. Can you see that? I am not involved. Even when Panti called me, I was not around and they had to come down to the house to check the house because they know I am not Christopher’s agent, and Alhaja also said I was not the one who brought him. Even the tenants in the house said I was not the one who brought them. So whether they gave him a quit notice or not, I did not know and I was not involved.”
Several calls were made to the landlady, Alhaja Kuburat Aduke, but she neither picked nor returned the calls.