Octogenarian, others detained as Lagos govt plans demolition of market

The Araromi Oke-Odo market in Lagos
The Araromi Oke-Odo market in Lagos used to illustrate the story

An 82-year-old leader of the Araromi Oke-Odo market in Alimosho local government, Taofeek Olorunkemi, has been clamped into detention by the police over allegations of murder.

Mr. Olorunkemi, the Deputy Baba Oja (market leader), and eight others were arrested last Friday afternoon and arraigned before a Magistrate Court in Igbosere, Lagos.

The others include Williams Falana, 78 (market secretary); Livinus Njoku, 63 (Igbo leader); Lawal Dan Galadima, 59 (Hausa leader); Nasiru Ango, 52 (leader); Musa Muhammad, 62 (leader); and Wasiu Anabi, 35 (leader).

The market leaders were charged with conspiracy to commit murder, murder, causing grievous bodily harm, and willful destruction of property in 2015.

They were also charged with threat to kill contractors of Alimosho Local Government Area in 2017.

Another market leader, Ndubuisi Obi, was arrested on Monday and is detained at the Abesan Police Division (Area B), PREMIUM TIMES learnt.

Jiti Ogunye, lawyer to the traders, said upon their arrest, his clients’ cellphones were seized to prevent them from communicating with anybody.

“And without being taken to any police station, without any statement being taken from them, without any investigation being conducted, and without being informed of, or confronted with any allegations of criminal offences, they were taken before Magistrate Court No. 16 at Igbosere, Lagos, at about 5.00 p.m., and arraigned on a Remand Application under Section 264 (1) of the Administration of the Criminal Justice Act of Lagos State, 2015, for the purpose of being remanded in prison custody .

“It was just before their arraignment that their cellphone sets were released to them, which enabled them to call our law firm,” Mr Ogunye said.

“After that call, we hurriedly arranged legal representation for them, relying fortuitously on the kind disposition of a learned colleague who was still in court at that late hour.”

The charge attached to the Remand Application alleged conspiracy to commit murder, murder, causing grievous bodily harm, wilful destruction of property (all in year 2015), threat to kill contractors of Alimosho Local Government Council, (in year 2017), contrary to sections 233, 223, 245, 350, and 58 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2015.

Mr Ogunye described the police’s Remand Application as “full of incongruities.”

“For example, the alleged criminal offences (state offences) stated to have been committed in Lagos State against the Criminal Law of Lagos State, was charged by FCID (Federal Criminal Investigation Department) in Lagos, without the knowledge or insolvent of the Lagos State Police Command.

“Criminal acts were allegedly committed in 2015, but were brought to court for the purpose of remand and detention in 2018; no statements were obtained from the alleged criminal defendants and no investigation was conducted before they were snatched from the market and herded to court for the purpose of securing their detention.

“The market leaders, including an octogenarian and septuagenarian were improbably being charged with the offence of murder; and the market leaders were arrested from the market, the venue where they allegedly committed the offences that were charged, a place within the Ogba and Ikeja Magisterial Districts, and dragged to Lagos Magisterial District in Igbosere that lacks the jurisdiction to try them, for the purpose of remanding them in undeserved prison custody.

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“This act by the police is nothing but an unconscionable and reckless abuse of law enforcement powers.”

On Friday, the magistrate, B.I Bakare, granted the police’s remand application and remanded the market leaders in Ikoyi prison till May 14 pending the issuance of the advice of the Director of Public Prosecution.

Phone calls to Chike Oti, the spokesperson of the Lagos State Police Command, were not answered.

Traders and residents have however, linked the travails of the market leaders to moves by the state officials to take over the market.

According to the traders, the Agbado Oke-Odo local council officials and one Chris Simon, alongside his firm, Total Value Integrated Services (said to be the developer-concessionaire partner of the local council) have been relentless in their efforts to take over the market.

On February 21, PREMIUM TIMES learnt, the group accompanied by eight armed soldiers and dozens of thugs stormed the market at about 4 a.m. to erect a new signboard advertising the proposed demolition and redevelopment of the market by the developer, a move the traders resisted.

Another attempt was made by the group the following day and which, again, the traders resisted. Subsequently, the traders began keeping vigil at the market after they received threats that the market would be burned down.

The Araromi Oke Odo (Ile Epo) market was established in 1983 by the then Ikeja Local Government Area Council, from which the Alimosho Local Government Area was later carved out, in part, before the creation of the Agbado/Oke Odo LCDA under whose governance and supervisory jurisdictions the market now falls.

At inception of the market, under the management of Ikeja Local Government Council, the market land and spaces were allocated, on payment of allocation fees, to intending traders for development of their shops and stalls. Thereafter, the traders developed their shops and stalls and started trading therein.

Mr Ogunye said there is a subsisting judgment of the High Court of Lagos State granting the ownership of the Araromi Oke-Odo Market land to the Founders and Trustees of the Market, and declaring that the activities of the Alimosho Local Government Area (Agbado/Oke Odo LCDA) on the land amounted to (and still constitute) acts of trespass.

“That judgment has not been overturned on appeal. It is, thus, a flagrant violation of the rule of law for an LGA/LCDA that is established under the law treat the orders of the court with disdain and contempt,” he added.

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