Ladipo Market Factional Leader, Okoli Still In Prison

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There is no reprieve yet for factional President of the Aguiyi Ironsi Traders Association, Ladipo, southwest Nigeria, Jonathan Okoli who has been languishing in jail since April this year.

He has not been able to perfect the bail granted to him by the Lagos High Court. He was charged with stealing the sum of about N40 million belonging to the association. He, however, pleaded not guilty.

His lawyer, Lorrison Quicker, SAN, filed a bail application on his behalf.

Justice Olatunji Akinlade acceded to the lawyer’s request and granted Okoli bail with two sureties with five million naira each, and one of the sureties must own a landed property in Lagos State, the Certificate of Occupancy, C of O, of the landed property must be verified by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

The bail was perfected but the Registrar of the court  rejected one of the sureties with the C of O of the landed property on the ground that the said surety has stood surety for his in-law in another matter. In view of this the accused had to look for another surety with C of O.

As the bail process has to start all over again, the new surety with the C of O has been presented to the EFCC for verification.

The matter has been adjourned till 26 November 2013.

Earlier in 2012 Okoli was arraigned before an Ebute Metta Magistrate’s Court in Lagos,  charged with armed robbery.

The police at State Criminal Investigation Department, SCID, Panti, Yaba, Lagos had arrested and investigated Okoli for his alleged involvement in terrorism in the state.

Thereafter, a seven-count charge of terrorism, illegal possession of arms, attempted murder and extortion was preferred against him.

According to the officer in charge, OC Legal of the court, Chukwu Agwu, the offences Okoli allegedly committed are contrary to Sections 409, 410, 51 and 166 of the Criminal Code Laws of Lagos State of Nigeria, 2011.

His plea was not taken.

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The presiding magistrate, Mrs. M. O. Olajuwon ordered that the case file be duplicated and sent to the office of Director of Public Prosecution, DPP for advice.

She also ordered that the defendant be remanded in prison custody while the matter was adjourned till 3 December, 2012 for mention.

Sources close to the police informed P.M.NEWS that Okoli’s arrest and subsequent arraignment was sequel to his alleged role in Ladipo Market crises. He was alleged to have imported arms such as guns, machetes and hired thugs popularly known as ‘Bakassi Boys’ from southeast Nigeria to terrorise traders and residents of Papa Ajao, Mushin and its environs.

Okoli, 49, from Ndiowu in Anambra State, southeast Nigeria, was the leader of Ladipo Market. The crises rocking the market started about six years ago when his tenure ended and he refused to conduct election or vacate his seat.

The traders became divided and many factions emerged in the leadership of the market. A faction went to court and secured judgement against Okoli, yet he remained adamant.

Instead of obeying a court order and bowing to the popular wish of the traders to conduct elections, he allegedly brought thugs from the southeast to unleash terror on the traders.

The thugs chased out his opponents from the market in2011.

The developer, Paramo Development Venture, was also attacked and chased out of the market.

Chairman, Mushin Local government, Mr. Babatunde Adepitan who was on a truce mission to the market was also attacked by thugs. But Okoli denied having a hand in the attacks.

The Lagos State House of Assembly intervened in the crises and invited the warring factions to the floor of the House at Alausa, Ikeja where the Assembly advised Okoli to step aside. He snubbed the legislators.

Similarly, efforts by the Lagos State government through the Ministry of the Environment to bring peace to the market was allegedly rebuffed by Okoli.

—Akin Kuponiyi