There was commotion at the Redeemer Excellent Men Housing Foundation, Pyakassa Lugbe, a suburb of Abuja, as residents of the estate were prevented from going out and about for their daily routines on Thursday by the management of the estate.
The management of the estate had locked the gates in order to force the residents to pay a contentious police security fee. Many of the residents had refused paying the fee saying they do not see the effect of the service as they are still being robbed.
The management of the estate has been a source of controversy to residents who have been asking for accountability and transparency in handling of its affairs.
One of the residents, Meyanga Oguche, said residents have suffered extortion and harassment by the management of the estate.
“The height of the harassment was what was done today as I got to the gate with my wife and children to take them to school only for me to get to the estate gate and find it locked,” Mr. Oguche said. They even had to engage my wife in a fight to deter us from unlocking the gate to leave.”
He said residents had been responsible for organizing the security in the estate using local vigilante and the police.
“But when we suspected discrepancies in the deals with the police, we agreed at the meeting that we should stop paying money into the association’s account for policemen and use just the vigilantes. I see no reason why they should come out and enforce the payment for something that we organized and we say we are not doing again.”
Mr. Oguche explained further that “presently, there are about 60 residents in the estate being asked to pay N3, 000 each as police security fee as they claim to be paying N140,000 to the two police used on night patrol of the estate.”
Mr. Oguche said even though he was an executive member of the resident’s association, he was not aware of the N140,000 payment to the police especially as meetings of the resident association have been suspended.
Another resident, Prosper Abu, said he also had to fight with the estate managers to leave the estate on Thursday morning.
“We are having issues in our estate and this issue has really lingered,” he said. They are treating us as slaves, and it is unfortunate that some of us affected cannot speak up because they are afraid.”
He gave similar reasons as Mr. Oguche for refusing to pay the ‘police charge’.
“I for one, I am not paying for the police charge because it is a vigilante that we have organized that we are paying for,” he said.
“They are working with a resident member who I think is a retired police officer and I won’t be surprised if they arrest me this evening and start harassing me because that is their style of intimidating and keeping people quiet.”
The residents complained that previous fees for infrastructure upgrade paid by residents were misappropriated by the management with no infrastructure like roads and drainages to show. They said they believe any other payment made will also be misappropriated.
A member of the estate’s management who locked the gate, Sunday Adeagbo, established that the gate was truly locked to prevent people who had not paid their security fee from going for their daily activities.
He said the action would still be repeated as the management is trying to force the residents to pay the police security fee.
“We are getting the security fee and they are aware that they should pay security fee,” he said. “We are enforcing it at the gate that you show your payment and you go.”
The estate manager added that “we are collecting security fee as we have been using our cars to carry the police to transport them down to the estate to secure the place.”
Mr. Adeagbo argued that the estate’s management needs the fees to provide assistance to the police.
“We have to mobilize the police and transport them to our estate; we want to get vehicles for our police since the Nigerian government cannot get vehicles for them and we have to use this to mobilize and get the money to secure the estate” he added.
The police, however, denied that they receive payment for such services.
The Abuja police spokesperson, Usen Omorodion, in a telephone interview said an estate can apply for police presence with a genuine reason to help secure their environment if they have security challenges. He, however, said there is no basis for payment for police presence as the service is meant to be free.