Manhunt For Okoli, Ladipo Market Leader

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A massive manhunt has begun for the factional leader of the Aguiyi Ironsi International Market, Ladipo, Mushin, Lagos, Southwest Nigeria, Jonathan Okoli.

Members of the Lagos State House of Assembly disclosed this at the floor of the House during plenary yesterday afternoon.

They said he had security issues concerning some atrocities he had committed in his desperate effort to hold on to power even when it was clear his tenure had expired.

According to the lawmakers, law enforcement agents had earlier stormed the Assembly while the House was looking into the crisis in the market, but were stopped by the lawmakers from arresting him pending the resolution of the House on the leadership tussle in the market.

Some of the lawmakers said they were informed by the law enforcement agents that Okoli, who lays claims to the leadership of the market had allegedly committed some crimes for which he needed to answer questions concerning such alleged illegal activities wondering why one man would decide to hold the state government to ransom.

SOthers further called for his arrest and prosecution, alleging that he was a man with heavy criminal tendencies.

Raising the issue on the floor of the House, a lawmaker, Mudashiru Obasa, informed his colleagues that the crisis at the Ladipo market was getting out of hand and needed a drastic solution.

He suggested that since Okoli had refused to abide by the agreement reached between the House and other stakeholders on the issue, the House should invoke the implementation of the shutting down of the market, which was one of the conditions given by the House for peace to reign.

Another lawmaker, Mufutau Egberongbe, said he was convinced that Okoli had become a “desperado and one with questionable character,” suggesting that the House should call on the State Security Service to handle his case so that he would be checked since he is already becoming a threat to the state.

Funmi Tejuosho, a lawmaker and member of the Committee that handled the issue and came up with a report calling for the dissolution of the leadership of the market, told his colleagues that before the law enforcement agents started looking for him, Okoli had gone to the Office of the Public Defender, but sneaked away after the issue had been resolved there and it was time to sign a memorandum of understanding.

She said Okoli disappeared because he thought the outcome of the resolution by the OPD would not favour him.

Tejuosho said after Okoli tried the police and it did not work, he decided to come to the Assembly adding that now he was threatening through his lawyer to go to court to protest the resolution of the Assembly.

“We can see that Okoli is one that goes around crying wolf and when the odds do not favour him, he runs away.

“His criminal activities are excessive and the police and task force have been looking for him,” she added.

In his submission, Chairman of the Committee that looked into the crisis, Sanai Agunbiade, confirmed that the law enforcement agents had been searching for him.

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Agunbiade further told the House that the head of the State Task Force, Bayo Suleeiman, also confirmed that Okoli was on the run and that they were prepared to get him arrested and tried.

Agunbiade said after allowing the House to pass its resolution, Okoli decided to write through his lawyer to the House in protest against the House resolution and to make the House look irresponsible.

He said it was better for Okoli to go to court to challenge the decision of the House confirming that the same Okoli had been to the OPD over the issue previously, but that he had always been found wanting.

Agunbiade said Okoli had refused that a new election be conducted despite the fact that his tenure had expired since 2007.

He explained that during investigations into the issue, the Committee had carefully looked at over 100 documents most of which were submitted by the embattled Okoli.

He reminded his colleagues that it was Okoli who came to the House weeping as if he had been wounded and sincerely needed the House to intervene.

He said Okoli had promised to abide by whatever decision reached by the House and that he would withdraw the case he already had in court concerning the crisis.

He said the House had done its best and the implementation of the report, which had been adopted by the House, was the duty of Mushin Local Government Council.

The House had decided to look into the crisis after Okoli led some of his loyalists to the Assembly to protest against what he called the illegal activities of some government agents and police officers in the market and a plan to take over the leadership from him.

A report released last week stopped any leadership activity in the market and instead suggested the setting up of a care taker committee to run the affairs of the market for a period before a new election is conducted.

The report also barred arrow-heads of the factions from participating in the election activity and this, according to some of the lawmakers, may be the reason Okoli secured the service of Bamidele Aturu, who has written the House to inform the members that they could not resolve an issue that is currently in court.

The House also responded to what they termed disparaging comments against the House credited to Okoli and his lawyer, Aturu and published in a national daily after the House passed a motion dissolving the leadership of the market.

The lawmakers warned Aturu to be mindful of how he portrayed the House to the public.

—Eromosele Ebhomele