By Eric Elezuo
The 28th of November, 2020 brought a near positive climax to the activities of criminal elements living and operating within the UACN Property Development Company Plc (UPDC) residences, which shares a common compound with the high profile Festival Hotel (formerly Golden Tulip Hotel) and Festival Mall, which houses Shoprite.
Relishing in the euphoria of the successful raid conducted by officers and men of the Nigeria Drug law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) in the early hours of November 28, 2020, the executive committee of the Golden Tulip Residents Association, an umbrella body, which also accommodates the UPDC Residences and residents led by Mr. Moses Olanrejwu, in a press statement signed by the Public Relations Officer of the association, Mr Oke Odhomor, the executive expressed profound appreciation to the agency for their intervention, stating that “For almost a year, the EXCO has complained to the UPDC management about the short let operations within the building which has attracted unsavoury characters that use the temporary accommodation for illicit activities including drug use, internet fraud and many illegal activities.”
The PRO remarked that the raid was just what the residents needed to stem the tide of untold criminal activities that have gone on for long, and had got so bad that residents and their families live in fear of the unknown while most of them have found alternative accommodations. It will be recalled that it was from this estate that someone or a group of persons were seen throwing money in large quantity from the window of the second floor, causing a stampede below.
The PRO wondered who in his right senses does that, or who will ever do that if he makes his money legitimately.
“It has gotten so bad that residents and their families are not comfortable within the environment while some have been moving out,” he said.
He blamed the facilities managers for the high crime rate in the estate, stressing that the company failed to live up to expectation in the discharge of their duties, especially their involvement in the unlawful act of allowing people to sublet apartments to unknown characters, who in turn become uncontrollable nuisances.
He noted that all the efforts the residents have made to stem the tide of crime in the estate were rebuffed by the facilities manager Mrs. Alaba Fagun of UPDC, whose security personnel were indicted as being in cohort with the criminal elements.
The chairman of the Resident Association Mr. Olanrejwu Moses in one of his letters to UPDC management read in part:
“The EXCO has made several entreaties to UPDC verbally and officially (we have the letters as evidence) requesting that they terminate the running of the short let operations because it is the source of the illegal activities.
“The very act of the commercial operation is an illegality as one of the clauses in the UPDC rules and regulations is that the apartments are not to be used for commercial and illegal activities.
“However, UPDC Plc has flouted this regulation and has encouraged the use of the apartments for short-let accommodation which has attracted a number of criminally minded youths who use the place for internet fraud activities, smoking of illegal substances, rowdy parties that break all the COVID-19 safety protocols which has exposed residents to physical and health dangers.
“The operations are done with the full approval of the security personnel and UPDC on site facility managers Mr. Tomiwa Fasida.
“It has gotten to a point whereby the influx of these temporary occupants have made legitimate owners uncomfortable in their homes.
“Throughout the year, there have been security incidents caused by these short-let occupants which has disrupted the peace and quiet of the environment.”
In their reaction however, the UPDC management communicated to the residents through individual email after the raid, saying that all was well, and they were on top of security matters.
The UPDC residences, which comprises 198 apartments of one and two bedrooms, and also houses offices and staff rooms, have been in the news for a while for the wrong reasons as residents consistently complained of siege and barefaced insecurity owing to activities of criminal elements, who found their ways to the estate through shortlet accommodations initiated and perpetrated by the facilities managers, UPDC.
In their desperation to make the estate habitable for the occupier/owners and their families, residents engaged UPDC to live up to their professional billing, including inviting the officers and men of the FESTAC Divisional Police station, who intervened and made some arrests, but that did not deter the facilities management.
More so, some whistle blower letters, especially the one dated July 23, 2020, which was sited by The Boss were also sent to the Chief Executive Officer, UPDC, Mr. Fola Aiyesimoju, to get him to react positively, but he never did.
The residents claim that over 27 petitions have been sent to Mr. Aiyesimoju on such matters.
RESIDENTS LOSE CONFIDENCE IN UPDC
On November, 24, 2020, another letter, addressed to the CEO Mr. Fola Aiyesimoju was sent by the Golden Tulip Residents Association, who at this time has lost faith in the administration of the facilities managers as a result of the dilapidated state of the estate, inability to repair or replace damaged installations despite huge service charge paid by residents which amounted to N1,045,000 per apartment of 1 and 2 bedrooms. This is one increment, according to the PRO, the Resident Association considered illegal because the procedure for such in the UPDC rule books which provides that before any increment is made, the residents must approve of it and shall jointly manage the facility with the management company but that was not followed coupled with the state of insecurity that has turned residents into vegetables in their own apartments.
The Executive Committee, by the letter had demanded within 24 hours a detailed account of income and expenditure of the estate so as to know why there is paucity of funds to attend to estate development affairs.
The following were areas the EXCO find the facility managers wanting, and demanded explanations according to the letter:
“We are also bringing to your notice the on-going works at the section of the collapsed ceiling on the 4th floor. Please see attached pictures showing that the contractor is using planks as props and not timber as was stated in the letter sent to the EXCO by UPDC. The industry practice is that steel props are used in cases like this.
“The EXCO has previously requested that UPDC assesses the qualification and experience of the contractor that it is engaging to carry out this work as UPDC will be held responsible for any injury or loss incurred by residents during the repairs of this building.
“The EXCO is aware that residents have been paying the insurance premium for the building.
“We would like to know the insurance company that is providing cover for the building and evidence of premium payment.
“Despite the notice sent on the termination of short let operations, this activity is still going on.
“The temporary occupants are still causing a nuisance within the building including the smoking of weed in the common areas and lift.
“We would like to know what measure UPDC is taking to implement the termination order?
“Can you give a timeline as to when this activity will stop?
“The EXCO is still awaiting the security report on the October 2020 break in of the 4 hoodlums into the complex and also when the physical security audit will be carried out.
“There are still gaps in the security architecture of this complex and the mobile policemen are not staying at their beats.
“We do not know when there will be another security incident within the vicinity of the complex and the complex should not be left exposed to attacks.
GAS PIPELINE/GAS CYLINDERS
“The EXCO would also like to remind you about the potential danger of not securing the area around the gas pipeline.
“This gas pipeline was channelled by UPDC to the complex to feed the IPP so UPDC has a responsibility to ensure that the area is well protected.
“There is an abandoned container and other illegal commercial activities taking place on the gas pipeline route which should be a cause for alarm to UPDC.
“The cooling system for the gas cylinders behind the shopping mall has still not been fixed. This is extremely dangerous given that an explosion will probably cause fatalities and multiple damages to buildings and properties in the vicinity. We are approaching the festive season and it is expected that the complex will be well populated by families and young people who will come to enjoy the facilities that the complex offers. UPDC needs to urgently get experts to fix the faults in the cooling system.
“We will continually remind you about all outstanding issues and we pray that you take on board our concerns and the UPDC does the needful in resolving all our concerns,” the letter noted.
DIARY OF SECURITY BREACHES UNDER UPDC-LED MANAGEMENT
The residents, many of whom told The Boss that their lives are insecure in the environment, lamented security breaches. In their separate responses, they narrated as follows:
In February 2020, some members of the resident association security committee had to call the UPDC Plc former Chief Security Officer, Mr Jude, to control the activities of drug smokers in the car park.
In March 2020 members of the Resident Security Committee apprehended a short-let occupant smoking cannabis in the car park and handed the person to the UPDC former CSO, Mr. Jude but to our dismay the matter was not handed over to the police or NDLEA and It was not recorded in the security log book or included in the weekly activity report given to the EXCO of the resident association.
There was a rape incident by six boys that happened during the year that was not reported by ASCO Security, (the security company employed by UPDC Plc to guard the complex) despite the fact that the rapists were arrested but later released by the former CSO and the Mopol attached to the Festival Mall. In fact the CSO of ASCO security confessed to the DPO Festac Town on phone when he was interrogated on the rape case.
Again there was no follow up nor was it logged in their security log book.
On 28 August 2020, there was an incident that went viral on social media were some temporary occupants of the short-let apartments caused a disturbance and were seen throwing naira notes out of their windows to a crowd of people in the car park area facing the Festival Mall. There were three ASCO security personnel in the crowd captured on video.
It took the action and presence of the police to restore peace and order.
A fight broke out between two temporary short let occupants over a deal that went bad and it took the intervention of a Colonel who was in the building to control the soldiers that one of the parties brought in.
In July, the car park was invaded by over 50 youths smoking illegal substances and loitering in the area constituting a nuisance. This was done in the full view of the ASCO security personnel who allowed them into the complex. It took the presence of a team from the Area E Commander who attempted to round up the youths, most of them escaped aided by the UPDC security who allowed them to exit through a black back gate.
These were also contained in a petition which the Exco said is ready to be sent to the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, through the Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba as obtained by The Boss
The residents believe that the incidents show the scale of the problems “we are facing within the complex all caused by our facility management company, UPDC Plc who have continued to allow the short let operations that is attracting unsavoury elements into the complex”.
They accused the shortlet operators of not even having a registered business with the CAC.
APPEAL TO SECURITY AGENCIES
The residents noted that they have appealed to the police and other security agencies including Barr Babatunde Irukere of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) to come to their aid as the crisis supervised by UPDC is getting out of hand. They allege that criminal elements are getting comfortable in the environment as they have bought over the security personnel, expressing the fear that it won’t take time for them to take over the environment and upgrade their illegal activities thereby exposing genuine residents to attacks, robberies, kidnapping among others.
They are demanding investigation into the activities of the facility managers, suggesting that the CEO, Mr Fola Aiyesimoju and the on-site Managers, Mrs. Alaba Fagun and Mr Tomiwa Fasida as well as the owners of the shortlet apartments and their agents be interrogated to ascertain the extent of their involvement.
“Why will they continue to allow this illegal operation to run despite numerous complaints from the EXCO and knowing fully well of the criminality that it brings to the complex,” Mr Moses had inquired in his petitions.
Further in his contribution, the PRO, Mr. Oke Odhomor, maintained that the problem with the estate transcends beyond criminal elements, who had infiltrated the environment to total disregard of infrastructure maintenance as almost every corner of the former high profile quarters is a shadow of its self. This he blamed on the unprofessional conduct of the managers of the facility.
“The way it stands, it is like our facility managers are out to meet a certain target considering how they bill the residents, and do little or nothing with the money. Take for instance, the air-conditioner broke down at a time, and UPDC gave us a bill of one million, seven hundred and fifty naira (1,750,000). We decided to try someone else and behold, it cost just about N10,000 for a fuse and everything was back to normal. So you can imagine what we have been going through all along.
“The fourth floor of the building is totally dilapidated, and likely to collapse. The same with the gas area. There, even people from the Amuwo Odofin local government collect parking fees from people who park their cars and articulated vehicles on top of the gas pipeline taped from the Gaslink pipeline, and no one is saying anything. An explosion could happen at any time. NNPC has a caution sign at the place yet UPDC looked the other way. If that explodes one day, the casualty level will be greater that what happened in Abule Odo sometime ago.
“This UPDC people are totally lawless and cares nothing about the comfort of the residents they are managing. I understand that they were chased away from managing the 1004 Estates in Victoria Island as well as the Anchorage Estate among other places they have exhibited their incompetence.
“We have at various times invited the General Manager, Lagos State Building Control Agency, Engr. Abiola Kosegbe, and the General Manager, Lagos State Safety Commission, Mr. Lanre Mojola, to come and view first hand the state of rot at this estate. Mr Mojola at his last visit was quick to shut down the illegal event centre established by UPDC. However, no one can tell what happened afterwards, and the place was reopened, and has remained in operation till date.
“The teams acknowledged that there has been non-compliance by UPDC to Lagos State building regulations specifically there is no evidence of structural integrity test and comprehensive structural stability report and no evidence of certificate of completion and fitness for habitation before use of the structure,” Odhomor stated.
When The Boss sought the opinions of both officers, their phones were either unavailable or rang out without being picked.
RESPONSES FROM THE UPDC MANAGEMENT
The Boss investigation reveals that apart from Mr. Fola Aiyesimoju, who is the CEO of the company, the likes of Mrs Alaba Fagun, the New Head of Facilities Management, Nicol Omeruah, the Deputy Chief Executive Officer and Kunle Oshilaja, who is a Non Executive Director, are some of the members of administration of the company.
In a telephone chat with Mrs Fagun, The Boss was made to understand that she was not in a position to speak on the matter. Mrs Fagun quickly referred this reporter to the CEO, who she said was the only one authorised to speak on the issue. She claimed it was company policy.
“I don’t have the capacity to speak. We have a company policy. Don’t put words into my mouth,” Fagun said before hanging up.
Calls put across to Mr Fola Aiyesimoju, the CEO, to get his position, were neither answered not returned in as much as they rang out. The text message also sent to his phone was ignored as well.
On the other hand, the phone of Nicol-Omeruah, the Deputy CEO was switched off when The Boss tried to reach out to her.
The Boss also tried to get the views of Mr Oshilaja, but he vehemently refused to speak on the matter, saying categorically that “it is not my business as I am only a non executive director. It is the management and executive that has a right to talk about it,” a rather angry Oshilaja said, ending with “I don’t want to talk to you” as he dropped the call.
In 2017, the occupiers of the apartments, who are not tenants but owners invested in the property with the expectation that the facility will be well run and managed efficiently by UPDC Plc. And for three years, the occupiers and the management have been having a running battle as a result of a renege in the agreement that brought them together.
The two parties, from the onset, agreed as follows:
• the apartments were to be jointly managed by UPDC Plc and the owners;
• UPDC Plc will provide a safe and peaceful environment
• Service charge budget proposed by UPDC Plc would be approved by the EXCO before any expenditure is carried out
• Ban on commercial and illicit activities
• Ban on street parties and noise pollution
• there would be a dedicated recreation area for residents and their families to relax (a rooftop garden and an area within the complex earmarked as a recreational centre)
But the owner/occupiers have claimed that none of these agreed terms has been followed through.
They call on the Federal Government and Lagos State Government to conduct a thorough investigation on the affairs of the estate as well as other private estates to determine the level or rot and corruption being perpetrated.
They accuse private facility managers of maximising profit to the detriment of the owner/occupiers through illegal and criminal activities.
It would not be forgotten that to give credence to concerns of the residents, on Saturday November 28, 2020 a team from the NDLEA stormed the UPDC Residence Apartment, Amuwo Odofin LG at about 6:45am and arrested about 48 male occupants of the short let apartments who were in possession of illicit substances and materials all found inside their UPDC managed apartments.
In his parting statements, Mr. Odhomor reiterated that “there is a high pressured gas pipeline feeding the IPP which runs along the perimeter fence of the complex. UPDC Plc has allowed abandoned vehicles to be parked on top of the gas pipeline.
“We have made several complaints to UPDC Plc about the vehicles parked on this pipeline that has the potential to cause an explosion if not cleared but our concerns have fallen on deaf ears.
“We have recently discovered that there is another potential hotspot right within the complex. Behind the shopping mall, there is a gas tank that houses two giant compressed gas cylinders which is designed to have a cooling system to ensure that the compressed air and gas do not reach extremely high temperature and explode.
“Apparently the cooling system has been faulty for several years and is yet to be fixed by UPDC Plc so this chamber is running without the required and essential component.
“The gas chamber is situated directly behind the shopping mall which attracts over three thousand people daily many of whom are children!
“There is also a Children fun park very close to the gas tank. The children park attracts over 500 children during the weekend.
“This potentially dangerous life threatening situation has been left unresolved for several years.
“You can imagine the impact of an explosion of this magnitude, the loss of lives and damage to properties.
“The public outcry will be unprecedented, especially as this will be coming on the back of the recent explosions in Lagos,” he warned.
Only in October, a gigantic snake was found and killed within the complex. The residents believe that it could only mean that there are others maybe even within the building itself and its environs.
“There is no gainsaying the obvious; nothing works in this estate, except high unbearable service charge and noise pollution occasioned by the marquee mounted and leased to party makers every weekend to disturb the peace of the occupants; government should help us get rid of bunch of managers,” Odhormor concluded.
UPDC reportedly makes a sum not less than Two Hundred and Six Million, Nine Hundred and Ten Thousand Naira (N206, 910, 000) on deposit service charge collected from residents. A total of 15 per cent of the above sum is paid to the company as management service fee and another 10 per cent as mark ups for power/energy fee. It is therefore, not expected that the company would cut corners for any reason, to the detriment of the residents.