Confusion trails handover of Lagos trade fair complex
Their absence might not be unconnected with the BPE avoiding a contempt charge, as the concession of the complex is still being challenged in court.
But in a twist, the occupants of the administrative building in the complex were on Thursday chased out by heavily armed thugs.
By the time this reporter got to the venue, the place was filled with thugs around the building while the staff and tenants sought refuge at the Trade Fair Complex Police Station.
It was alleged that the handover took place secretly in Abuja without the involvement and presence of the Minister of Commerce and Industry as well as the Lagos State Commissioner of Commerce and Industry.
Efforts to reach the BPE boss, Ms. Irene Chigbue and another privatization consultant, Mr. Mohammed Salisu failed as at press time.
The displaced tenants told Sunday Sun that the thugs who came with two buses were allegedly led by the owner of AULIC Nigeria Limited.
It was gathered that 8 thugs who came in a grey Nissan Vanette bus with registration number LG87JJJ and has Neighbourhood Watch, Ojo local government inscribed on the vehicle, are cooling their feet at the complex police station, meanwhile the DPO, Mr. Umoh refused to comment on the issue.
Francis Dajilak, Head of administration and Finance recounted how it happened.
"We were doing our normal work when all of a sudden, thugs from no where, heavily armed, came and chased us out at gun point. According to them, they said that the BPE has directed them to chase us all out of this place because it has been sold.
We did not take anything, not even a pin out of the place, the whole place is open. The PHD office, the hospital, and patients are there, our computers, bags, laptops and so many valuables too numerous to mention.
For Dr. Ijeoma a coordinator of Adult Literacy programme in the complex, he said, " they seized my car and office keys. I was ordered out and my staff was beaten up.”
They took everything at the moment I don’t know what to do.
Taiwo Akinola, President, National Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria, Trade Fair Complex told Sunday Sun that the complex is a national monument for trade fairs and exhibitions.
"The government says that this place should be commercialized and should be run on commercial basis and that is what has been happening here. If this place is commercialized how possible are you going to take private possession to a private man.
" A private portion was given to Aulic to develop. The process for the public hearing is still on and there is also an interlocutory injunction restraining them from taking possession. We have called the BPE and they said that they didn’t give them the go ahead, so why this invasion?
The aggrieved real investors in the complex who have organized themselves under the Trade Fair Stakeholders’ Forum (TFSF) include, Auto Spare Parts and Machinery Dealers’ Association (ASPMDA); Balogun Business Association (BBA); Association of Progressive Traders (APT), Call Park Ventures; C.Tempo Nigeria Limited and others.
Chairman of the group and president of Auto Spare Parts and Machinery Dealers Association (ASPMDA), Chief Sunday Ohanasoeze told journalists in his office that "on no account will the BPE go ahead with the handover having been served on a Writ of Summons from a competent court of law".
He said any attempt to carry out such act would amount to contempt as the case is already in court and is billed for substantive hearing on October 6, 2008. He equally displayed several court documents to prove the position of his group in the raging controversy.
It would be recalled that the TFSF had gone to court shortly after the purported concession deal was about to be sealed last year and hurriedly secured an interlocutory injunction restraining the BPE or any of its agents from going ahead with the process.