By Seun Akioye
Assistant Editor, Seun Akioye yesterday kept duty with the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) team at the residence of Buruji Kashamu while awaiting extradition order and reports that it was waiting for godot.
The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) special operations team called SWAT that laid siege to the residence of Senator-elect and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) financier at block 21, plot 100, Oladipo Omoteso Cole street in High brow Lekki Phase 1 did not bargain for the long wait that accompanied their operation when they arrived the residence early on Saturday morning.
That day, the impression was that like most of the operations of this nature, the siege would be over in five hours especially when the wanted personality was caught in his own home.
In a Gestapo style, they cordoned off the street and two of the surrounding streets namely Mobolaji Johnson way and Furo Ezimoda Street. to secure these streets, a tape was used to demarcate the affected streets while residents were directed to exit the street through another route.
According to aides of Kashamu who claimed they were in the house when the security operatives arrived, the men entered the house like “robbers who expected to encounter a violent shoot-out”. One of them who declined to be named but who claimed to be a close aide to the senator-elect described it as a terrible invasion.
“ It was like armed robbers have entered the house, they broke a window downstairs to gain entrance, broke another upstairs and also destroyed a door. But the man was not running anywhere and there was no need to have entered his house like a thief,” he said.
For two days, Kashamu was held in his own fancy and fashionable apartments in the equally high brow neighbourhood while he waited alongside his lawyers for the next move of the NDLEA on Monday 25th May, 2014.
The Nation correspondent arrived at Kashamu’s residence about 10:am yesterday. Inside the vast estate, commuters flatly refused to take any passenger to the street for fear of arrest by the security operatives. At the residence, about 12 operatives of the NDLEA were scattered in front of the house, some sat under the tree, others inside the security van while the rest stood by the door of the gate.
It was noticed that the gate of the house was opened and operatives constantly move in and out at will. Adjacent to the house was Mobolaji Johnson road which had been blocked on the right lane and 20 security vans were parked at strategic locations on the road, behind the house is Furo Ezimoda street whose entrance has also been blocked.
The Nation counted 25 security operatives outside the house and in the adjourning streets, abot 15 of them had long assault rifles and were dressed in black jeans and shirt with head covers which revealed only the eyes and nose. They looked intimidating and frightening.
The siege has caused unexpected disruption to the perfectly arranged lives of the rich in the neighbourhood. “We now have to go around to access our own house, we have all these soldiers staying here and dictating how we should live our lives and where we should go. When will they leave our estate?” one of the drivers of a resident said.
Aside the disruptions to the movement of the residents, some businesses were also affected, for instance Kammu Kitchen on Mobolaji road had closed its doors since the siege began. One of the workers who came to see if the operation had ended said the restaurant cannot afford to open while customers would be prevented from entering.
Also affected by the siege were 18 exotic cars belonging to Kashamu, the cars were unregistered and said to be for sale. In front of the house, The Lagoon School, a highbrow school for the rich remained shut. On enquiry, sources at the school said the school has declared a one week holiday because of the siege.
But there are businesses that profited from the siege like the road side food sellers who are patronized by the security operatives. “ We dey sell well now, we have even extended our closing time,” Halima said.
The security men made no pretensions that they do not want any press around and they are not welcoming of passersby who stopped to look at them. They kept shouting “ keep moving, move away from there.” Itinerant business people also suffered as they were asked to move far from the scene of the siege.
The press suffered the most, one of the operatives who did not know The Nation correspondent identity said: “ We do not have the orders to entertain the press, if our boss comes and allowed them it is fine by me. But except that, if we see any press taking pictures and we know how they use phones to take it, we will deal with them, that is why we warned them to leave.”
Waiting for a warrant
If the SWAT operatives who had been at the house for two days thought respite would come on Monday when the NDLEA would be able to get an arrest warrant at the court to end the stake out, they were grossly misgiving. Throughout the morning, the operatives held out hope that they would receive the orders to storm the house and arrest Kashamu and by mid-day, that hope was becoming thin.
When The Nation asked one of them if the siege would end on Monday he said: “ I hope we end this today, we have not slept for 10 minutes for 24 hours. I want to go home to my wife, but if they said we should be here, it is our job we have no choice,” he said.
But it was evident the operation has started to weary the men, some of them were seen sitting on the posh lawn of the Lagoon school away from the stinging rays of the sun. many literarily slept in front of Kashamu’s house under the tree away from the sun. According to one of the security men who went inside the house, Kashamu himself was in high spirit and was speaking in an optimistic manner.
At 1:25 pm, two counsels to Kashamu arrived at the residence, after some talks with the operatives they went inside to meet with their client. At 1:45 pm, one of the counsels, Ajibola Oluyede returned and was engaged by The Nation.
“ We are waiting for the NDLEA and the Attorney General to put their acts together, they have not filed any motion in court and I am going back to the court now. We understand they are filling something but we can’t do anything until they are there in court. What they are trying to do now is what they should have done before this action. It is going to be messy, you will see,” Oluyede said.
It was at this time that families and friends of Kashamu began to arrive from his Ijebu Igbo hometown. These people included chiefs and distinguished looking elderly men and women. They gathered in front of the Mobolaji Johnson police post to discuss the situation while also conferring with the lawyers.
One of them Rowaye Jubril spoke to The Nation . “ There is a process for extraditions and Nigeria cannot afford to treat its own like this. Is this the process they followed when they wanted to extradite the Minting press president, in Gestapo style?”
Jubril said Kashamu is not running away from Nigeria because he is a popular person and a public figure. “ Ordinarily, he should have been invited by the NDLEA, they should not invade his house with his children and a pregnant wife. The UK has tried this man and didn’t find him guilty after four years, we believe that due process is not followed because he has a case pending on this matter for May 27th. If due process had been followed, Kashamu would hand himself over to the law,” he concluded.
Kashamu other friends based their argument on sentiments. “ Look at a man who is feeding over 1,000,000 people in hs home town and you think you can just take him out. I have the powers of heaven and I can place a curse on them,” a man said and afterwards raised his cap which had the inscription “Jerusalem” to heaven.
At 2:pm a water tanker came to fill the tanks in the house using the blocked section on Mobolaji road. The hose was passed over the fence of the house, it must be noted also that this was done under the watchful eyes of the security men.
By 4:pm there was no word from the NDLEA that a warrant for the arrest of Kashamu has been issued by the court, the sun rose and was beginning to set. It looked set that the operatives would spend another long and dreadful night accompanied by merciless mosquitoes- which prevented them from sleeping according to one of them- waiting to arrest Kashamu.
But in confidence one of the security men told The Nation: “ We will do everything to get him, didn’t we get the mint guy? I am telling you we will get him and it will not go beyond today. We are just waiting to exhaust all options before we use minimum force. Nobody will sleep here tonight, God Almighty knows.”
This was first published in The Nation Newspaper on May 25, 2015