Some Lagos and Ogun landlords have abandoned their homes because of persistent robbery attacks.
During youth service, he had worked with a computer company in Port Harcourt. Apart from receiving a monthly stipend from the National Youth Service Corps, he enjoyed free accommodation and a generous transport allowance from the company.
Martins had wished that he could continue to work for the company. But the management hardly gave jobs to outgoing corps members as a matter of policy. He had to return to Lagos and find a job. That was in 1993.
Soon, he was offered a teaching job in a private school near his home.
But one day he got home only to discover that all the tenants had been kicked out of the compound and their belongings thrown outside. Unknown to him and the others, the landlord had sold the house to a new owner.
Apart from seeing himself as the harbinger of bad luck to his hosts, Martins felt it was time to be on his own and he vowed to build a house in Lagos before long.
Not long afterwards, he was offered employment by a commercial bank in Lagos Island. He rented a mini flat apartment and in no time, acquired a parcel of land in the Igbogbo area of Ikorodu.
Within four years, Martins had built a four-bedroom bungalow. He moved into the new house about one week after he got married. Unfortunately, armed robbers chose that same period to visit him in the night.
Although the criminals took away everything that had value in their home, Martins was glad to have survived the attack. But his wife was traumatised by the incident. As a result, she was unable to keep a stable pregnancy for long.
For some time, the memory of the robbery attack kept haunting the couple until Martins decided that they had to leave the compound and relocate to somewhere else.
“It was quite terrible. I had to put the house up for rent and take my wife to Ketu, where we rented a three-bedroom apartment. Finally, she was able to conceive normally,” says Martins.
“Before I quit my banking job, God had blessed me with another house in Magodo, where we live now. Even now, when we sit down and chat, my wife does not like to be reminded of that dreadful night.
“When I said I would sell the house, she did not offer any suggestion until an uncle of mine offered to manage the place for us. Anytime I visit the house, my wife does not ask me what it looks like.”
The case of Muyiwa Sunmola, a Lagos-based businessman, is different. Three years ago, he bought a plot of land in Pakuro, opposite the Redemption Camp of the Redeemed Christian Church of God on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.
At the end of the third year, he had built a block of two three-bedroom flats. While he lived in one of the flats with his family, he rented out the second one.
But about three months after settling in his new home, Sunmola was desperate to buy a new house again due to an incident which nearly cost him his life.
Sunmola actually had an encounter with some gunmen on his way home from work. “After I drove off the road after turning at the Redemption Camp, I noticed that about four people were tailing my car. I phoned my wife and told her that I was being followed by strangers and so I would make an emergency arrival,” says Sunmola.
“I told her to release the dogs in my compound. The moment I approached the entrance to my compound, the young men were hot in pursuit. I stopped and jumped out of the car and ran towards the gate.
“I was trying to enter the gate, which was being opened for me, when they shot me in the leg. But I managed to enter the compound. The robbers made away with my car, but they were unable to enter because of the dogs.
“Although the community is making an effort to combat crime in the area, I am scared. My experience after the incident was painful. I was in hospital for many months before the leg healed. As soon as I succeed in securing a suitable apartment inside the Camp, I shall leave with my family and rent out the flat.”
Sunmola adds that the joy of living in a serene environment such as Pakuro had vanished after the robbery attack.
“Maybe in future when the entire community is developed with a good road network, I may change my mind. I hardly switch on my big power generator to illuminate the compound whenever I am at home for fear of being attacked again.”
Robbery attacks have in the recent past destroyed the peace and joy of many homes in Lagos. Both Martins and Sunmola are just two among many landlords in the city, who have been forced by the activities of robbers to flee their homes with their families and settle elsewhere.
In some cases, the rampaging robbers were said to have sexually abused the wives, female children or housemaids of their victims.
One of such victims, Tiamiyu Adesewa, moved from Onipanu to his own house in the Agric area of Ikorodu three years ago. Now, he lives in a rented flat in Ogudu, no thanks to armed robbers, who raided his house three times and took away several items valued at millions of naira.
Adesewa says, “I was finally forced to pack out of my own house when the armed men sexually assaulted my housemaid. The poor girl was the only mature female at home when the robbers struck. My wife had travelled in company with some of our neighbours, who had gone to attend their grandfather’s coronation ceremony in Ondo State.
“When she returned, she said that if I failed to move out, she would leave before any hoodlum attempted to rape her in my presence. We had to rent out the house and everyone is happy, at least without having to expect a visit from armed robbers every night.”
Like Adesewa, a Lagos-based businessman, Joseph Odukoya and his family felt on top of the world after they moved into their house in the Liadi area of Ikorodu. For them, the feat was inevitable. It was good riddance to landlords and nosey neighbours, who had made their lives somewhat unbearable since they moved to Lagos 10 years ago.
The Odukoyas moved into their new home, an eight-bedroom duplex, pleased that they would no longer worry about the next rent or what excuse to give the landlord for not making the rent available on time.
But just two months after, they were attacked by a gang of robbers in their home. Odukoya describes the robbery attack as a terrible experience.
“I wouldn’t want my enemy to experience such a thing. I was just coming home from work and just as the gateman opened the gate for me, a car filled with seven young men followed me inside. I didn’t know that they had been tailing me since I arrived in my neighbourhood.
“They followed me into the compound and threatened to shoot my two-year-old son in front of me if I didn’t give them the valuable items in the house. They took their time and raided the whole house and carried away many items,” he recounts.
Odukoya had barely recovered from the trauma, a few weeks later, when another gang of robbers invaded his home.
“This time, they beat me up, threatened to rape my wife and stab my children. And like the first time, they went away with what the first set couldn’t lay their hands on,” he says.
If Odukoya had expected that both incidents would deter more robbers from coming to his home, he was mistaken. Instead, the reverse was the case.
He says, “The robbery attacks became a weekly thing. We were living in fear in our home. The children were traumatised. I learnt from my neighbours that robbers had always laid siege to that area.”
In spite of the robbery incidents, Odukoya still did not see the need to move out of the area till a gang of robbers attacked his home for the umpteenth time and killed his gateman.
He describes that particular incident as gruesome and the robbers as inhuman. He says, “They stole my car, beat up my pregnant wife when she told them she didn’t have any gold to give them. Then they shot me in the foot.
“When I returned from hospital, we had to move out of the house to a friend’s place in Ikeja. We stayed there till I got a rented apartment far away from Ikorodu. I am not even thinking of what to do to the property now. Our luggage is still in that house. Perhaps, when we get over the trauma, I will think of what next to do. I have a house in Lagos. But I can’t live in it because of robbers,” he laments.
Olatunji Samuel, a banker, also lived in the Agric area of Ikorodu. But, he was forced to pack out and seek refuge somewhere else after enduring two separate attacks in his home.
“It is quite painful to realise that after investing a huge sum of money on that house, I can’t live in it because of armed robbers. I would rather leave the house for them than die in their hands,” he says.
Popular comedian, Gbenga Adeyinka, abandoned his home in Ikorodu, because of a robbery incident that claimed the life of his gateman. Now lives in a housing estate in Ikeja.
Adeyinka has vowed not to return to his property. He says, “I am not going back there. I had to rent the place out. But funny enough, they don’t disturb the people in the house now.”
Also, when the Oghenetegas moved to their newly-built duplex in 2005, little did they know that they would be back to their former status as tenants in a rented flat within a short time.
As expected, they had hosted their friends and relations to a lavish house warming party. Seven years after, they were compelled to make a painful choice between relocating to a rented apartment for security reasons and staying to entertain armed robbers, who continued to threaten their lives and property.
Mrs. Oghenetega says, “We had to move out when the robbery attacks became a monthly experience. I think because my husband and I own cars, the bad boys in the area thought we were rich. We are only thankful that nobody was shot by these criminals, unlike other cases in the estate.
“I believe that some people in the area, especially the rural settlers living outside the estate, must be the ones taking a pound of flesh from us. What they do not know is that even people driving cars are affected by the harsh economic environment. They should direct their vengeance at the government and not fellow citizens. Many of us are only living on loans.”
In the end, this upwardly mobile professional couple opted for the former, painful and psychologically demeaning as it seemed.
Thus, from being landlords in a popular housing estate in Ipaja-Ayobo, a boundary community between Lagos and Ogun states, they moved back to the Akowonjo area of Lagos, after playing host almost every month to men of the underworld.
Investigations by VISTA show that no fewer than three families have moved from their own houses in Akowonjo to rented apartments in 2011. The majority of these people were forced to leave because of the high incidence of robbery in the area.
The incessant attacks clearly underscore the tension experienced by many landlords in Lagos and the need to beef up security in the state, especially within the metropolis.
Some of the affected landlords told VISTA that they hardly slept at nights. Others said that the frequent robbery attacks had deeply affected their children psychologically. And each night, they would go to bed without knowing what to expect.
A resident of Ayobo, known simply as Wakil, says that the police division in charge of the area has been working closely with the community development associations in the area to stem the tide of robbery attacks.
He said the rate of robbery incidents had reduced drastically since they followed some of the directives by the police.
Wakil said there had only been three cases of attack on the residents this year, including his own.
He describes how a gang of robbers visited his home in the first quarter of 2012 and the emotionally devastating effect on his family. He says the experience still haunts the memories of members of his family.
Wakil believes that if more patrol vehicles are deployed in the Ayobo area, there will be sanity. He commends the Ayobo Divisional Police Officer for promptly responding each time there is a threat to the lives of residents in the estate.
He says, “I can’t speak for other estates in the Ipaja/Ayobo area, but I can say that we have not had it so good for a long time. It used to be worse. We had to change the people handling security in the estate. Now, we have a neighbourhood watch and they are doing their best.
“We also made some changes in our gating system in order to create room for police rescue operations and patrol when it matters. With increased surveillance by the police, I’m sure things will be better. We know the police here need more vehicles for patrol, but we commend them for their quick response to emergencies.
“The last two attempts by robbers to operate in this estate were foiled by the police and security groups respectively, so we hope for the best. Really, at least three people have relocated on account of robberies to rent houses elsewhere. Some had additional reasons for relocating, but it is bad enough to move from one’s house to go and rent an apartment in another place.
“This is a border community. So, I don’t believe that the people living around us are the ones who are putting us under pressure, though there is a saying in Yoruba that it takes an insider to give one away to danger coming from outside. I don’t stay at home during the day: I go to work in the morning, and return at night. So, I can’t say what happens when I am away. I do not know of the bad boys in the area.”
Meanwhile, VISTA investigations show that some upscale estates in the area, such as the Vineyard Housing Estate, are in danger of attacks by robbers from neighbouring countries.
Some security sources attribute the current surge in robbery attacks in the state to mistakes on the part of some residents.
Although it is not clear if some people have abandoned their homes for security reasons, the sources say there is the need for residents to be more security conscious.
The sources noted that in some cases, the gates of some estates were found locked up when rescue operation teams arrived in response to distress calls.
One of them says there are loopholes to be plugged in order to allow law enforcement agents to function effectively and to secure human lives and property in the area.
The source says, “If you go to Vineyard estate for instance, you will find that there are many swamps and marshes around there serving as easy escape routes for the robbers, who are very familiar with the terrain. Although the estate is surrounded by high walls, there are some points in the fence that are so low that robbers can climb them easily.
“Another factor that makes it easy for them to operate unhindered is that the estate opens only one gate. So, whenever there is a robbery attack in the midnight, it becomes difficult to get anyone to open the gate for the police to drive through. Even the estate security guards would have run for cover.”
The source notes that some of the robbery attacks are masterminded by persons who have once worked in the estate as security guards. He says residential estates that employ the services of vigilance and other security guards should be mindful of how they terminate the appointments of such persons. They should try and make it amicable.
He says, “If you want to ask them to go, do so amicably so that they don’t come back to rob their former employers. Previous experiences have shown this to be the cause when there are frequent robbery cases in an area.
“Another thing is that illegal roads are being constructed by the residents of Ayobo. An example is the one made with planks crossing over the swamp linking Ayobo with Igando and Idimu. Motorists and commercial motorcyclists use this road often. The road is not recognised by the government and as such it cannot have police presence. There are many roads like that in Ayobo where armed robbers operate at will.”
To take care of trans-border incursions by robbers, especially through the Aiyetoro link road to Ayobo, the source says there is the need for the Ogun State and Lagos State police commands to work together in organising joint patrols to be manned by Armoured Personnel Carriers.
“The long and short of it is that we need more police presence here on the border roads and the swamps access,” he says.
When she was contacted for her reaction, the Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Ngozi Braide, said she was not aware that some residents had fled their homes because of the threat of violent robbery attacks.
Braide said it was not on record that landlords had been forced to rent houses elsewhere because of insecurity.
“It is not true; it is totally false. Whoever has given you this information has given you false information. We do not have such records,” she said.
The Ogun State Public Relations Officer, Muyiwa Adejobi, told Vista that the command was not aware of any security challenges facing the residents of Pakuro community in the Mowe area of Ogun State.
He advised members of the community to report such problems to the Ibafo Police Division, adding that if this is done, the police in Ogun would be alerted and itwould act immediately.