Ambode, Patience Jonathan, MMM, other top 10 Lagos newsmakers in 2016

In Lagos, there is hardly a slow news day. You only need to tune your nose to the correct frequency. Last year, several persons, personalities, and institutions kept newsrooms across the state buzzing month in, month out.

PREMIUM TIMES brings you 10 of the regular features that made our front pages.

1. Akinwunmi Ambode: While Nigeria is facing its worst recession in years, Lagos is making money, raking in more billions than it had ever made. In fact, at N287 billion, the Internally Generated revenue in 2016 is the second highest ever in the state’s history. From constructing over 400 roads to lighting up more than 200 streets within his first 365 days in office and other people-oriented projects, Akinwunmi Ambode ranks among the best performing governors in the country.

Mr. Ambode began the year in a demolition style. While some of the shop owners were still in their villages exchanging kegs of palm wine with their kinsmen, he swooped on Oshodi and levelled the over 40-year-old Owonifari market.

In February, he hosted the Lagos Marathon. One month later, he was sealing off Lekki Gardens after a building collapse and ordering the arrest of the developers. By November, he was announcing the inclusion of Lagos State among the recipients of the 13 percent derivation fund. It was indeed a busy year for the governor.

2. The Lagos State Police Command: The police reports itself. That’s what the Command in Lagos do. They interview crime suspects, take their photos, quote sources, and syndicate the finished article across newsrooms almost on a weekly basis. The outcome has been one arrest after another.

However, when the police is reported, if the officers were not shooting a commercial bus driver for refusing to part with some money, they were being beaten up for causing the death of a Lagosian.

Fatai Owoseni, the state police commissioner, said 65 officers had been arrested by his Anti-Extortionist Squad by September – 33 arrested as at August 8, 12 more as at August 24, and another 20 by September 8.

“Some of them have been recommended for dismissal, some to be demoted in ranks. Those involved in unlawful killings have been charged to court for murder.”

Some of the police officers were arrested for improper dressing such as wearing bathroom slippers while on duty.

One of the officers, Michael Adeoya, was arrested as he emerged from a tricycle outside the Mile 12 market.

“I went to the market to buy food for my chickens which I rear at home,” said Mr. Adeoya, a police corporal.

“I was surprised when I was arrested. After I was interrogated, I was told by the police at the squad that I was arrested for improper dressing. Now there is nobody to feed my chickens. They would have all died.”

On Christmas day, a building collapse inside the police barracks killed a sergeant and his visitor.

3. Oniba of Ibaland: The hoodlums who kidnapped the Oniba of Ibaland dared the gods and stole the king while he was half-naked. For three weeks, reports of Oba Goriola Oseni’s health, ransom, and more ransom dominated the news. The monarch was finally released from captivity after 21 days.

Four suspects were arrested and charged for Mr. Oseni’s kidnap.

In November, as the prosecution’s first witness, Mr. Oseni, 73, told the judge he was kidnapped around 8 p.m. while watching TV inside his palace. He had heard a noise in his sitting room and had gone to check when nine, shirtless and armed men blocked him.

Gunmen: “This is the king.”

Oba: “What can I do for you?”

Next thing, they grabbed the king, sprayed bullets around the room that sent the king’s wives scampering to safety, and dragged their prize out of the palace.

“They started pushing me and shouting ‘Trek, trek,’ till I fell and injured my arm.”

A day after he was released from captivity, before his appearance in court, the Oba had said the kidnappers succeeded only because he was not prepared.

“I told the gunmen in the creek that it was God who permitted them to kidnap me because I am not an easy prey. I told them I was putting on only shorts and that was why they could abduct me.”

4. Kidnappers: 2016 will go down as a year kidnappers ran amuck in Lagos. A month hardly went by without a report of a successful kidnap. From poor residents to landlords to the wealthy class to school children to traditional ruler, everyone had a taste of the kidnappers’ juice. By November, the governor had no choice but to sign into law a death sentence for any kidnapper convicted in the state.

5. Patience Jonathan: Dame Peshe hugged headlines in 2015, particularly in the run up to the general election. In 2016, even with being hardly seen in public, she continued her occupation of newspaper front pages. Such is the influence the former first lady wields.

It began with the arraignment of Waripamo Dudafa, a member of the kitchen cabinet of Mrs. Jonathan’s husband, Goodluck, before a court for alleged laundering of N1.6 billion. Mr. Dudafa was charged alongside four other companies which were later linked to Mrs. Jonathan.

In September, Mrs. Jonathan dragged the EFCC before a federal court in Lagos over the freezing of her “hard-earned” $15 million, a sum accumulated from receipt of “legitimate gifts” from friends and well wishers in the last 15 years.

In a dramatic twist, the directors of the four companies in whose accounts the ‘$15 million’ was found pleaded guilty before a judge.

Mrs. Jonathan accused the EFCC of parading unknown persons as the companies’ directors.

She sued the Commission for freezing the ‘$15 million’ and demanded $200 million as damages.

Mrs. Jonathan petitioned the House of Representatives to prevail on the EFCC to stop harassing her and unfreeze her ‘$15 million’.

She sued the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project for poking their noses into her ‘$15 million.’

Some Ijaw women numbering over 100 danced into the federal high court demanding that the ‘$15 million’ be released to Mrs. Jonathan.

In all these drama, Mrs. Jonathan never appeared in person.

6. EFCC: Since it began operation in 2004, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission had dragged suspected criminals before judges.

2016 presented an entirely different scenario.

The Commission began dragging judges before their fellow judges, accusing the former of money laundering and bribery.

It all started after operatives of the State Security Services conducted a midnight raid on judges’ homes in several states across the country. This resulted to judges, day after day, strolling in and out of the EFCC’s Awolowo Road office in Lagos to honour invitations for questioning over suspicious funds traced to their bank accounts.

7. Wole Soyinka: Nothing irks Professor Wole Soyinka like photojournalists and cameramen who, at events, stand as a wall between him and his audience.

This year, his anger came in various forms. First, it was directed to journalists who had a habit of conducting imaginary interviews with him, invent fictitious quotes, and attribute them to him.

Then the anger went several notches higher when some Nigerians began shedding their blood over the Professor’s earlier threat to shred his green card if Donald Trump wins the US election.

Earlier in the year, the Nobel Laureate’s appointment as a co-Chairman of the Lagos @ 50 was rejected by a group of indigenes in the state.

“There are very many elders, octogenarians, septuagenarians, former governor, ministers, academicians, public and civil servants and other indigenes both at home and in the diaspora who are more than eminently qualified to celebrate their state,” Oluwole Smith, a professor and president of the Eko Foundation, said in March.

“Prof. Soyinka’s choice is an insult to the indigenes and he should decline to serve, to accord with his reputation as a protester who has tirelessly protested against wrongs and injustice in the better part of his adult life.”

Two months later, Mr. Soyinka responded, saying those opposed to his appointment were “only exhibiting ignorance.”

8. Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia: There is something not quite right when a judge stands in a dock facing a fellow judge. As a judge, Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia was a no-nonsense, sometimes cold-blooded woman. Once, she confronted a lawyer in her court: “Do you think it’s a woman in your kitchen talking to you? Do you think it’s just a woman with two breasts? I will send you to prison.” The lawyer was lucky to escape unhurt. Weeks later, Mrs. Ofili-Ajumogobia sentenced Megan Chapman, an American and a Lagos-based human rights activist, to several hours in a prison room within the court for operating her mobile phone while the court was in session.

But it was in 2016 that Mrs. Ofili-Ajumogobia’s ordeal began. In February, she was found culpable for adjourning an Ogun State House of Assembly pre-election matter before her several times until the life span of the lawmakers expired and sanctioned by the National Judicial Council. She was barred from further elevation on the bench or any ad-hoc judicial appointment until her retirement. She is now being prosecuted for corruption.

9. Rickey Tarfa: In February 2016, Senior Advocate of Nigeria Rickey Tarfa tried to “intimidate and harass” Justice Aishat Opesanwo. At least, that was what the judge believed when Mr. Tarfa, facing a two-count charge of obstruction of justice and attempt to pervert the course of justice, stormed the court with almost 90 lawyers, several of them fellow senior advocates. The lawyers filled every available space in the court room and spilled to the corridor, leaving the judge with little room to breathe.

“I find no need for this magnitude of support,” Mrs. Opesanwo fired back.

“It is to harass and intimidate us on this side.”

10. MMM: Internet Slang defined MMM as “an expression of pleasure and contentment;” and 2016 was winding up as the Year of the Mavrodians. MMM Guiders – and promoters – with their sales pitch of ‘30 percent ROI within 30 days’ were getting Nigerians on board the Ponzi scheme faster than evangelists were winning new souls for the church.

Until the Mavrodians woke up one morning in December to a news that sent some people back to sleep hoping to ‘properly wake up’ later.

Disbelief turned to despair and then to devastation.

The Mavrodi Mondial Moneybox had actually frozen its website till January or Till Further Notice, depending on the individual’s level of optimism.

Nevertheless, the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency quickly put out an emergency number – 112 – to be dialled on sighting any MMMer with suicidal intentions.

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