By Uzor Maxim Uzoatu
I was shocked out of my skin at 7am on Friday, March 27, 2020 when my wife, Chidinma, who was dressing her amputated left foot for a scheduled visit to Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University Teaching Hospital (COOUTH), Amaku, Awka frantically called for my attention that a man in plain clothes who introduced himself as a policeman had come to arrest her.
I came out immediately and saw a man in T-shirt who said that my landlord in Awka, Obi Okonkwo, had asked the police to arrest my wife.
I told the policeman that he could see for himself my wife’s wounded foot and the need for her to get to COUTH as ordered by her doctors before coming to the police station.
I gave the policeman my name and he asked for my phone number. I asked for his name and he showed me his ID card which read: Innocent Ossai. He insisted that my wife must report to the “B” Division police station after the hospital treatment. I told her the treatment normally takes an entire day.
The landlord, Obi Okonkwo, then came down from upstairs and met the policeman, shouting that he built his house and anybody who cannot abide by his rules must leave his house, that I was fond of staying out late – even though his gate-locking obsession had never caught me outside the compound. It’s obvious he’s desperately frustrated that he’s not been able to lock me out!
To get to the gate-locking root of the matter, in the morning of the previous day, the landlord had locked the smaller gate leading into the compound, and my wife who had gone out came back knocking for about thirty (30) minutes. The landlord came out, saw my wife and went back to his apartment without opening the gate.
When my wife eventually got in she told the landlord: “Where is your humanity?”
I guess it was this statement made by my wife that led the landlord to go to the police to claim that my wife had threatened him!
Going further back, at about 2pm on Wednesday, February 12, 2020 I witnessed a scene straight out of a Franz Kafka novel: Nightmarish!
I was inside the rented apartment in Awka, Anambra State, when my little son, Chimel, said that a man he doesn’t know was looking for “Mr. Uzoatu.”
I was surprised that anybody could be looking for “Mr. Uzoatu” because only a few family members knew I was living there.
I came out and beheld a youngish man who introduced himself as a court bailiff who gave me a white sheet of paper.
The paper read: “In The Magistrate Court Of Anambra State Of Nigeria – In The Magistrate Court Of Awka Magisterial District Holden At Awka. Suit No. MAW/Rp/372/2020. Between: Barr. Obi Okonkwo (Suing through his Attorney, Barr. Albert Okwudinka) Plaintiff And Mr. Uzoatu Uzor Maxim Defendant.”
The paper then went on: “NOTICE TO QUIT: I, Barr. Albert Okwudinka, an Attorney and Solicitor to your Landlord Barr. Obi Okonkwo and on his behalf, hereby give you SIX MONTHS NOTICE TO QUIT and deliver possession of THREE BEDROOM APARTMENT and appuretenances (sic) thereto, situate at No. 7 Olisaonyeka Close Commissioners Quarters, Ifite Awka Anambra State which you hold as a tenant thereof on or before the 31st day of August, 2020. Dated this 12th day of February, 2020.”
The paper bore the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) stamp of Albert Nwabufo Okwudinka.
Astonished, I told the bailiff that I had not been charged to court as a Defendant or whatsoever, adding: “I never made any appearance in your court.”
I went into the house to fetch a N400,000 receipt issued by landlord Obi Okonkwo which clearly stated that my rent would last up to August 31, 2020.
Well, it was then it became clear to me why three tenants had packed out of the building in the three months we lived there – after unprintable shouting matches with the landlord and his wife.
The grave danger of extinction that my family and I are facing following the hostile activities of our landlord, Augustine Obi Okonkwo, at 7 Olisah Onyeka Crescent, off Commissioners’ Quarters Road, Awka, Anambra State deserves to be made known to the wider world.
My family was living in Lagos until my wife had her left foot amputated following diabetic complications.
She was hospitalized for three months at Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Ebutte-Metta, Lagos.
When she was discharged, we felt it would be too much of a struggle staying on in hectic Lagos, given her condition.
My wife then had to leave Lagos for Awka where I asked her to look for a decent ground-floor accommodation suitable for her ailment.
The one requirement for the accommodation was the availability of water to help heal her wound – and all assurances were given when she eventually found a ground-floor three-bedroom apartment at 7 Olisa Onyeka Street with Mr. Okonkwo as landlord.
The rent was fixed at a steep N400,000 (Four Hundred Thousand Naira) per annum which I promptly paid.
Even as the rent covered the water needs, the landlord demanded for N3,500 (Three Thousand, Five Hundred Naira) to repair the pumping-machine which I duly paid.
Ever since, I have lost count of the number of times my family has had to fetch water with jerry cans from outside.
The landlord asked me to pay N6,200 (Six Thousand and Two Hundred Naira) for the clearance of the general sewage after only three months of stay which I paid.
A clear and present danger to the family is the unhealthy poultry the landlord put directly behind our apartment which oozes unbearable stench.
The landlord insists one must submit the originals of PHCN receipts for him to keep.
I can understand a landlord asking me to pack out of his house when my rent expires, and I will duly pack out according to the law of the land. Trying to evict me by violent underhand means when my rent is still running is quite primitive.
As I am still a bona-fide tenant, I deserve to have free and unfettered access in and out of the compound. The landlord’s insistence on locking the gate at night and opening it in the morning as he likes flies in the face of reason. He keeps the only key. Not even prisoners are treated this way.
I still believe Nigeria thrives on the rule of law and not jungle justice. This dictatorial animus by landlord Augustine Obi Okonkwo must not be allowed free sway in a democratic Nigeria.
I remain heartened that there are Nigerians out there who will stand strong for the restoration of my abused rights and thus stave off the grave danger to my family by Mr. Augustine Obi Okonkwo through his sinister use of the police and the courts.
It tops the class in evil to plot the arrest of a woman nursing an amputated foot on a Friday in the vain bid to make her spend the weekend in a police cell.
It smacks of satanic oppression to break the law by locking out a paying tenant only to run to the police to arrest your victim.
It is incumbent on the police to arrest and prosecute people who use the force nefariously like this.