By VICTOR EBIMOMI
Nigeria’s known Aso Rock Villa, the official home of the nation’s President, is in Abuja. It is the country’s seat of political power and leadership. But there is another Aso Rock Villa tucked away in Lawanson, in Surulere Local Government Area of Lagos State, and it equally wields enormous power. In fact, the Lagos Aso Rock is an official republic on its own. Given its peculiar dispensation of power and the fear it evokes, it could be ranked as an independent kingdom compared to the famous Kalakuta Republic where the late Abami Eda, Fela Anikulapo- Kuti, reigned in the 1970s.
The Lagos version of Aso Rock is a two-storey building that sits majestically on Odubiyi Street, off Cole Street. Perhaps as a sign of its dreadful power, it is the first house on the Street from the Cole street angle with “Number 24” conspicuously written on it. There are shops on the side of the building, ostensibly to satisfy the culinary and drinking needs of the occupants of the villa. The occupants of this Aso Rock Villa in Lagos are men and women who have unlimited freedom to do whatever they want in the area. They collect rent from the shops because they are part of the building.
Checks by Sunday Sun gathered that there are about 50 occupants of the Villa and they cut across different ethnic groups. Unlike the Villa in Abuja where Nigeria’s political and economic issues are discussed, the topical issues at the Lagos Villa are the sale and consumption of Indian hemp, other hard drugs, prostitution, alcohol and other intoxicants. It guarantees unrestrained smoking of Indian hemp, and recklessness sexual activities. But like in every organized setting, the occupants have their own President and Commander-In-Chief who oversees and directs the affairs of the Villa. His name is simply Tona alias Actor. He lives there with his wife.
It was gathered that an Ibadan-based multi-billionaire, who is also a popular religious leader, owned the abandoned building- turned -miscreants haven. Sources stated that the billionaire initially gave the house to a friend before their relationship went sour and he retrieved it. While the relationship lasted, the friend was said to have put Tona in charge of the house. Consequently, when things fell apart, Tona assumed total control of the property. Thereafter, he let out the apartments in the building including the open space on the ground floor and some empty rooms to some people who sleep their after their daily hustles. The tenants are also said to be good consumers of drugs.
“Tona is very rich. He has plenty of money because he is in charge of the entire house”, a resident said, adding that the rentals of the shops also go to him and his loyalists. Investigation revealed that apart from the shops, men and women literally with nine lives that fear no one including the police, occupy the apartments, and they indulge in all sorts of crimes. “All of them smoke Indian hemp including the women and they drink alcohol. They are from different tribes. We have Yoruba, Ibo, Hausa and others, but they are all birds of same feather. They are notorious people”, a source said, Another source confirmed the assertion saying nobody can stay there unless you fit into the system.
“Who will stay there? All of them that are there are the same and they do the same things, smoking Indian hemp without fear”, the source said. Checks also revealed that despite the rough life of the occupants, some of the apartments are well furnished with modern- day gadgets and accessories including rugs. There is also a viewing centre in the building where non-tenants that are, “strong men” as the occupants of the building, come to watch football matches. But despite the dreaded status of the building, it was gathered that ladies troop in every night to meet with the occupants. “They have girlfriends and those girls come there every night, but I think they are either irresponsible girls or prostitutes because they equally smoke with them. Apart from Tona, it was gathered that another strong person in the Lagos Aso Villa is simply called Owolabi.
He is the main seller of Indian hemps to the occupants and visitors and nobody dare him except Tona. “Owolabi is another strong person in the house. He is the that sells Indian Hemp to them and they also fear him”, a source in the area said. But the residents of Cole and Odubiyi Streets also live in fear of the occupants of the Villa because of their lifestyle. It was gathered that although the Villa people hardly make trouble with their neighbours, the whole area is occasionally held hostage when they engage themselves in supremacy battle. “Sometimes when they start their trouble, the shops around will hurriedly close”, a resident said. Worried about the bad image the Villa has given to the area, many residents have urged the government to take over the notorious building and chase away the miscreants for peace to reign. They wondered why the owner abandoned such an edifice.
“We want government to take over the house since the owner does not need it, so that these people will leave our vicinity”, one of them said. It was however gathered that the Police raid the building once in a while but that the occupants are used to the raids and have a way of maneuvering their way to escape arrest. “Sometimes, the police would arrest some of them but release them later and they come back”, a source added. Policemen were said to have descended heavily on the area on Wednesday, after a salesgirl in one of the shops in the building allegedly in a relationship with one of the Villa boys, had a face-off with one of them.
The girl was said to have pulled a knife and almost killed the young man before she was overpowered. Sources stated that but for the quick intervention of the police, the area would have been in flame. Built about 20 years ago, the Lawanson ‘Villa’ was said to have been nicknamed Aso Rock, because the occupants behave as if they are above the law and people dread them a lot.