On the morning of Tuesday, December 4, 2018, thugs and louts allegedly hired by the management of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) stormed a property on ‘Line A’ at the FAAN quarters in Ikeja, Lagos and tore the roof down.
Within minutes, they had overturned the furniture, ransacked the kitchen, smashed the window panes and ceilings and kicked the occupants out with stones and sticks, residents tell Pulse.
An entire family was just about to get its day started when the thugs besieged them with stones and fury.
“My sister kept crying because she couldn’t understand what was going on or why the FAAN operatives and their thugs were so violent. They were smashing window panes and throwing stones into the house.
"My aged mother was in the house when the stones came crashing in. They almost stoned her to death. It was a chaotic scene”, says Ikenna Obidike, 30-year-old son of Mr. Obidike who has lived in the property since the 1970s.
A security personnel who keeps watch over one of the properties in this serene FAAN neighborhood, told Pulse that the thugs numbered about 10, and there was no law enforcement official in the demolition squad.
“They came screaming and spoiling for a fight. It was around 8am. And then they threw stones into the house, broke down everything in sight and ordered the occupants out with immediate effect”, says the private security personnel.
When Pulse visited the FAAN quarters afterwards, a pall had descended on the neighborhood and folks whose homes had just been broken down, were seen packing what was left of ramshackled wares.
Residents were seen discussing the demolitions in hushed tones and the Aviator’s Lounge, a pub managed by Ikenna, was free of clientele at what should be peak hours for the hospitality industry.
Paying for the 'sins' of his father
“They have done everything to frustrate my business because I am Mr. Obidike’s son”, Ikenna says through tear soaked eyes and a voice that has gone raspy from wailing for days. “They turn prospective customers away at the gates and tell them that Aviator’s Lounge is not open for business today.
“I returned to Nigeria after obtaining a Master’s degree at the Manchester Metropolitan University, to start this business in my own country. But look at what my country is doing to me. To be honest with you, my business is not growing because FAAN is frustrating me. I can’t wait to flee this country to where I came from…”
Monetization policy of the federal government got Ikenna's Dad in trouble
73-year-old Mr. Obidike got into trouble with the airport authorities when he took them to court for halting the monetization policy of the federal government.
Midway into his two-term tenure as Nigeria’s civilian President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo introduced what became known as the 'Monetization Policy'.
The monetization policy meant that government assets were going to be sold to federal employees and that payment for these assets could be made over an agreed period of time.
The policy was introduced to reduce the cost of governance, minimize waste and abuse of public facilities and promote a culture of discipline and maintenance among government employees and retirees.
“That was how my Dad ended up in this mess”, Ikenna says. "In 2005, after the Obasanjo led federal government set up the monetization policy, my Dad applied to purchase this house that has now been destroyed.
"At the time, government was granting housing allowances to employees instead of giving them houses to reside in and which they will pack out from after retirement or change of jobs. My Dad retired from the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) in 2008 as a Director on Level 17. You must be a sitting tenant of not less than 5 years to be able to purchase any of these houses. That was the law.
“Government obeyed the NIMET monetization policy and my father legally acquired this house because he’s lived here for so long. This house was sold to my Dad by government as a NIMET staff. All the papers are there and valid. In fact, when they came last Tuesday to break down the house, they couldn’t bring any police officer or court order with them because they know that what they were doing was an illegality. This was just a show of force from a government agency to prove a point”, Ikenna adds.
Why was Ikenna's Dad victimized by FAAN?
According to Ikenna, his Dad was targeted for victimization because he led the struggle for other airport workers to legally acquire government property in line with the monetization policy.
“My Dad was the one who got together all other retired airport workers and advised them to assemble a team of lawyers lead by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) to plead their case", Ikenna says.
"A new FAAN boss was trying to stop the government’s monetization policy on the estate and sell off the estate to Arik Airlines during the impunity years of the Goodluck Jonathan administration.
“When my Dad and other retirees got wind of the planned sale of the estate to Arik, they decided to slug it out with FAAN in court. My Dad's thinking was this: 'if we don't fight this thing in court now, one day, we'll wake up and be told to leave our houses'. The case has been in court since 2011 or thereabouts. The last ruling from the Judge was that status quo be maintained. But FAAN flouted this order and came here to demolish our property because they can”, Ikenna says.
Ikenna also tells Pulse that he got into a scuffle with some of the hired thugs who came to destroy his Dad’s property.
“FAAN brought louts and thugs from the Maintenance Yard. As I documented the demolition on my smartphone, they tried to seize my phone, but I was having none of it. They roughened me up to get my phone off me. They badly wanted to destroy evidence...
“I was born in that house in 1988. It’s the only home I know or have ever known. To wake up to stones and sticks and to see my mum and sister homeless and crying is one psychological scar FAAN has left me with”, Ikenna says, as more tears cascade down his cheeks.
The good old days of FAAN quarters
“This used to be a lovely estate”, Ikenna recalls now with a tinge of nostalgia and some glint in his eyes. “The lawns were well kept and mowed, the street lights worked…and I experienced my first blackout when I was 12 years old. There was constant electricity. But things started to fall apart because government couldn’t continue to pick up the outrageous bills of the FAAN management and ushered in the monetization policy. My Dad was a beneficiary of that policy. Now, look at us--homeless and in agony."
Ikenna says his dream of making Aviator’s Lounge into a decent relaxation spot for airport workers, retirees and their families, is often frustrated by a FAAN management intent on seeing that none of the Obidikes ever prospers while they are on the estate.
“If we change the bulb in this bar, we are in trouble. Everything we do is an offence, all because of my father. For heaven’s sake, I employ close to 30 people. Why is government trying to kill my business? Why??? Why this vendetta?” Ikenna asks rhetorically, balled fists punching the late evening air in palpable agony.
FAAN is saying nothing
Pulse drove into FAAN headquarters just outside the estate gates, for a reaction to this story from management.
After being directed to two offices, A FAAN employee promised that we were going to receive a phone call from their office the day after, detailing their own account of events. That phone call never came.
Two days after waiting forever for the phone call from FAAN, we rang instead and were told that we should keep trying because an official response was underway.
On Friday, December 21, 2018, Pulse rang the FAAN headquarters again after waiting for a week for an official response. The lady on the other end of the line connected us to Corporate Affairs. At Corporate Affairs, a man who introduced himself as Dimeji, reeled out the phone number of Mrs. Henrietta Yakubu, General Manager, Corporate Affairs at FAAN.
Calls repeatedly placed to Yakubu’s phone were not answered. A text message sent to Yakubu had also not been replied hours after it was sent and hours before this story was eventually published.