12th July, 2012
Trapped tenants occupying a three storey building 1, Osoro Street, Papa Ajao, Mushin, Lagos, southwest Nigeria, have sent a Save Our Soul, SOS, message to the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola after the 3 storey building was sealed up by officials of the Ministry of the Environment on Monday.
According to Mr. Kenneth Onwumere, whose wife and two kids are still inside the sealed up building, “the house belongs to a railway pensioner and it was sold about two months ago. The new landlord came to introduce himself as the new owner to the tenants and he was asked if he intended to retain us or ask us to quit.”
Kenneth said the new landlord reportedly told all the tenants to quit within one month. He said they later agreed to stay for six months. He said after they held the meeting, the landlord had not come back only for him to appear on Monday with his lawyer and officials from the Lagos State Ministry of the Environment to sealed up the house.
His wife and two kids and other children were inside the building when it was locked up, he claimed.
Kenneth told P.M.NEWS that the tenants lodged complaints with the Area ‘D’ Command for assistance and two policemen were sent to the house.
The policemen went back and told the Area Commander that the house was sealed up with some occupants inside.
The Director of Programmes and Project Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, Lagos State Chapter, Comrade Adewale Ojo, who heard about the issue told P.M.NEWS that his organisation called the office of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency for assistance and the Commissioner for the Environment, but lamented that LASEPA only visited the scene but could not free the trapped tenants.
He said his organisation will take up the case on behalf of the tenants, adding that their right to freedom has been violated.
When P.M.NEWS visited the house the hapless tenants were seen at the balcony of the top floor of the building on Wednesday and this morning.
In a chat with P.M.NEWS this morning, Juliet, Kenneth’s wife said it is her husband that passes food through the burglary proof to her and her two kids.
She appealed to the Ministry of the Environment officials to come and unlock the padlock to enable them come out of the building.
P.M.NEWS observed that the children are already looking pale and they may require urgent attention to prevent them from falling sick.
Reacting, the Lagos State Ministry of the Environment denied that it locked some people inside the building after sealing it up, saying that they were only acting out a script to draw sympathy for themselves.
A top government official in the ministry, who craved anonymity because he is not allowed to speak to newsmen said the house was shut over horrible sanitary situation and that government had told the landlord to put things in order before the house would be re-opened. The official said the people broke government seal at the gate and placed it in a position to depict that they were locked inside the house, saying that government could not anything like that.
The government official added that there were two entrances to the house and that some people might have gained entrance through the other entrance whose seal was broken and pretended to be locked in.
“Some media houses have come here to verify the same story and we told them to go there and investigate and that we cannot lock people inside the house while we are sealing up the place,” the official stated.