Soldiers seize Jonathan’s cousin’s business premises, chase away workers
Troop of soldiers, late Friday, seized a construction site used by former President Goodluck Jonathan’s cousin, Azibaola Robert for the provision of engineering infrastructure for Maitama Extension District in Abuja.
The soldiers stormed the premises at about 8:00pm Friday without any notice, warning or explanation, and remained there till Saturday, chasing preventing workers from entering the premises.
The seized construction site shares boundary with the Lungui Barracks of the Nigerian Army along the Kubwa/Asokoro Expressway in Abuja.
The massive premises houses Kakarta Civil Engineering Limited owned by Azibaola.
Our correspondent who visited the premises on Saturday saw soldiers drive away workers from the site with some of them manning the entrance gate to the massive construction site while a few others kept vigil inside the premises overlooking the Katampe hills.
None of the soldiers was willing to talk with our correspondents except a low rank officer who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity.
According to him, “We are here on order from the Chief of Army Staff to take over this place and not to allow anyone in or out of the premises,” a junior soldier, mounting sentry at the first gate, warned our correspondent, who attempted to penetrate the compound.
“It was one of our generals, who led the team of soldiers to take over this place but we do not know the reason for our being here,” the soldier said but refused to give his name.
As a result of the invasion of the premises of the construction firm, workers who reported for the day’s work on Saturday were chased away by fierce-looking armed military, who said they were under strict instruction to bar anyone from entering the place.
The development comes a few weeks after the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission had charged Robert and his company, One-Plus, to court with the purported offence of receiving a $40 million security contract from the office of the former National Security Adviser, Col Sambo Dasuki.
Robert and his company were granted bail by a Federal High Court after the charges were read to them but it is not clear why the army swooped on his construction premises approved for him by the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCDA) to use as a base for the coordination of the provision of services for the owners of plots at the Maitama Extension District.
Senate President and other principal officers of the National Assembly as well as very prominent Nigerians are developing their plots of land allocated by the FCDA in the same area being invaded by the soldiers.
Although the Nigerian Army is yet to give official explanation for the takeover of the firm, our correspondent learnt from a top officer that the army was laying claim of ownership to the premises being used by the former president’s cousin, which borders with its Lungui Barracks.
The officer said the army was uncomfortable with the presence of the company near its barracks, describing it as a breach of security.
It was also gathered that the use of blasting materials for construction by the firm close to the army barracks was offensive to the army authorities but they could not voice their aversion to the development while Jonathan was the president and commander in chief.
“It is true the army authorities deployed soldiers to close the place last night and prevented workers from entering the premises today,” the army officer said.
One of the site workers, Mr. Maxwell Udom, told our correspondent that no site worker was allowed to cross the site gate by the armed military men, stressing that no prior notice was served before their action.
Udom said, “We closed from work yesterday peacefully. We came to work on Saturday to continue with our previous job only to discover that the site had been invaded by armed military men. Their leader has refused to explain what brought them here.
“He only warned us not to come close to the gate in our interest. We have no option than to obey the order. As I speak, we are confused on what led to this action,” Udom stated.
Mr. Austin Ekeinde, Kakatar’s spokesman, confirmed the army invasion of the premises, saying that the beleaguered workers had been directed to return home to avoid any confrontation with the armed soldiers.
“I can confirm to you that armed military men have suddenly taken over our site in Maitama and we have asked our workers to go back to their respective homes till further notice, while we try to get clarification from the military on their provocative action.
“This action has led to huge losses as even asphalt we cooked overnight for laying this morning has been allowed to cake and waste”.
The Managing Director of Kakatar, Mr. Azibaola Robert, has been having a running battle with EFCC over one of his companies, Oneplus Holdings.
This has led to EFCC freezing Kakatar accounts, forcing the firm to sack over 2000 workers recently.
The EFCC action has stalled on-going capital projects in the Federal Capital Territory being handled by Kakatar. It is however not certain if this present military invasion of the company’s premises has to do with his running battle with government for which persecution has been alleged.
All efforts to get the official reaction of the military proved abortive at the time of filing this report.