Many will term it an absolutely inhuman act. On Monday, March 11, some policemen and bailiffs stormed the Ikeja Central Hospital, Lagos, and forcefully sacked the staff and patients, including a woman who just underwent a caesarean section.
They also threw out all the medical equipment before they locked up the hospital, located at 23 Shanu Street, Off Awolowo Way, Ikeja. The woman, Chioma Chukwuemeka, who just underwent surgery, was allegedly thrown out naked with her two-day-old baby.
When Daily Sun visited the hospital, the medical equipment flung in the street had been moved close to the building. Patients loitered around, unable to receive treatment. A man and his heavily pregnant wife, who was due for delivery, met with the reporter in the hospital.
They looked dejected as the Medical Director, Dr. Emeka Iwuagwu, told them that he had to refer them to another hospital because of his present predicament. Iwuagwu, a 1982 medical graduate of the University of Ibadan, rented the apartment that served as his hospital about 15 years ago from one Mr. Aoko, a lawyer, who was said to have passed on about four years ago. He said he never defaulted in the payment of his rent.
The last rent he paid, according to him, will expire in May. The 55-year-old doctor said he never got any quit notice or court summon and he did not have any idea that he had a case in court, insisting that he would have appeared in court to defend himself if he had been summoned.
The claimant in the case was given as the Estate of Otunba S.O. Aoko. According to Dr. Iwuagwu: “I came to work on Monday and I was consulting when some people came and said they were from the magistrate court. They told me they had a court order for my immediate eviction from the apartment. I said I didn’t know that I had a case with the court. I never received any summon. I never appeared before any court.
“I was not even summoned by the family on rent. So, how come there is a judgment against me?
“The bailiff and the policemen said the only thing that could stop the execution of the order was if I called the magistrate. I said they should give me time.
“They sat down and gave me 15 minutes to call the magistrate. I didn’t have her number. I called the caretaker and reported to him that I had tried the magistrate’s number but that I could not reach her. He said maybe the magistrate was in court.
“After about 30 minutes, the policemen and the bailiff said since I could not get across to the magistrate, they had to execute the order. So, I made some calls and the Commissioner of Police detailed a Divisional Police Officer from Alausa to intervene.
“He came with some of his men. Then they met the officials, who came to execute the order. He took one of the policemen and myself to the Lagos State Police Command, Oduduwa, Ikeja GRA, where we met the officer in charge of operations.
“I am not dead but I don’t think this is fair. I don’t think this can be fair by any definition. What pained me most was the issue of one 18-year old woman that underwent CS, Mrs. Chioma Chukwuemeka, with a two-day old baby, with stitches, with drip. They threw her out and locked up the hospital.
“If a landlord, at all cost, wants you out of his or her building, he or she should give you time to go. Even if I am owing and I am no longer able to pay, he would still give me time to vacate.” Iwuagwu stated that he registered the Ikeja Central Hospital in 1988 and he had been using the ground floor of the house as the hospital for more than 15 years.
After the death of his landlord about four years ago, he started paying his rent to Mr. Babatunde Aoko, a lawyer and one of the sons of the deceased. He noted that some officials of the Lagos State Government visited his hospital for inspection and advised him to improve on the outlook of the clinic.
“By then, my landlord was dead. So, I approached his first son, who is a lawyer too, Babatunde Aoko, and asked for his permission to carry out the renovation. He said I could go on with the renovation, as far as the cost would not go to the family or to my rent. I agreed. So, I spent about N2.5 million on the renovation and it was not counted as my rent. So, I continued to pay my normal rent to Babatunde Aoko.
“About one year later, his sister, who is a magistrate in the Ikeja Magistrate Court, gave me her bank account number. She told me to be paying my rent into the account and not to Babatunde Aoko again. I have paid two rents to the magistrate and I pay in advance annually.
“The last payment I made to her account number for one year was in June, 2012. It has not expired. I pay N200, 000 every year. I occupied the entire eight rooms in the down floor of the house. Some tenants live upstairs,” he said. When this reporter sought to know the reactions of Babatunde Aoko when his sister requested that the rent should be paid into her account, Iwuagwu responded: “I learnt that they had shared their father’s property and the lady, who inherited the place I am using stays in the United States. May be the magistrate is acting for the person that is abroad.”
“While the bailiff and the policemen were here on Monday, I called Babatunde Aoko. He told me that they had shared the property. The apartment I am using, he said, did not fall into his possession.” Iwuagwu explained that since there was a judgment already passed in a court, he would obey the judgment as a law-abiding citizen but he vowed to challenge the legality of the eviction in court, even as he wondered why a judgment against him should be given behind him.
Counsel to Iwuagwu, Mr. Matthew Nnanka, said his investigation revealed that the case against his client was filed in a Lagos magistrate court on January 31, 2012 and came up for mention on February 20 of the same year. On March 27, the claimant applied for an abridgement of time to hasten the process and it was granted.
The case also came up for hearing on April 28, April 30, May 17, May 28, June 5 and June 22 before the judgment was delivered on June 25, 2012. “From the briefing I got from Dr. Emeka Iwuagwu, it was like what happened prior to the execution of the order was a kangaroo thing, which, unfortunately, some lawyers engage in. In the first place, by law, my client is entitled to peaceful possession.
“As an annual tenant, he’s entitled to statutory notice of six months after which if he refuses to go, he is entitled to seven days notice of intention to recover possession.
“No such thing was ever done. No court summon was served on him. No hearing notice was served on him. I have officially applied for the records of the court and I have paid all the necessary fees.
“When I scanned through the records, I found out that it was a rushed justice. Invariably, it was arranged. Something must have happened where a matter was filed and within five months, judgment was passed.
“There were no hearing notices from the records. There was no service of the summons. From the records, the bailiff stated that he personally served on Dr. Emeka. If you are serving a process, the person you are serving would endorse that he has received. If he refuses to sign, you would state it on the face of the affidavit of service that he refused and you dropped it for him. But he said he served him personally and there was no such thing.
“Invariably, the tenancy is still subsisting. From my instruction the tenancy is still subsisting till May. Assuming there was a notice to quit, it is ineffective and it is void,” Nnanka said.