Despite having positively impacted many lives through his spiritual devotion, job creation and philanthropic activities, Mr. Daniel (surname withheld) and his family are in grave danger and the battle of a lifetime, over threats by some people to exterminate him, his family and business, writes, Metro Daily Editor, MESHACK TONY IDEHEN.
As a devoted Christian committed to impacting the lives of those around him, Mr. Daniel believes in creating jobs in ways that sustainably sustain people and nature.
Born at Illushi, one of the remote villages of the Esan Ethnic Nationality in the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria, Daniel is always a stickler for godliness and excellence since childhood. He eventually settled in Lagos, where he became an entrepreneur after venturing into real estate development and allied industry.
Before settling in Lagos however, young Daniel graduated from one of the Federal Universities in Eastern Nigeria, and he already had his sights set on his University of Liverpool UK, MBA degree in Entrepreneurship before his current travails.
After working hard, going through school and becoming an entrepreneur, Daniel went on to become a member of several relevant Professional bodies in Nigeria. He combines those activities with being a devoted family man, with a wife and their three children. He also functions as an Associate Pastor in one of the Pentecostal Churches in Lagos.
For this serial entrepreneur, devoted family man and committed philanthropist, his troubles: threats to his life/family and grave injury to his business interests began back in 2013, during the Ado-Odo ethnic crisis that led to the eventual deposing of the Oba of the Town, and the wanton destruction of lives and properties. Though peace has since returned to the Ado Odo community after the crisis, but the activities of those “agents of destruction” remains unabated.
Ado Odo is a town in the Ado Odo/Ota Local Government Area in the Ogun West Senatorial District of Ogun State. The Town and its environs are mainly inhabited by indigenes of three three sub-ethnic groups, which are the Eguns (Ogu), the Aworis and the Egbas.
Before the crisis in the Ado Odo Community, Daniel’s company (company name withheld for obvious security reasons) had purchased a large expanse of land (about 200 acres) in July 2010 from three families of the Egun (Ogu) sub-ethnic minority tribe in the Ado-Odo, Ogun State. His company did all that was legally possible to confirm the veracity of the three families’ claim to the ownership of the land, through the company’s solicitors. Upon receiving the green light, his company made a part payment for the land as agreed.
However, immediately after the payment and commencing the development of the land by deploying workers to site, threats messages began to emanate from a group that said the land they purchased did not belong to the above families, but to them, the Aworis, who are the native indigenes.
According to the worried entrepreneur who is now in hiding “On our inquiry to identify their mission and the people behind the threats, we discovered that they were group of land grabbers led by one notorious land grabber (name withheld). In local parlance, these land grabbers are referred to as “Omo-Oniles”. Their stock-in-trade is to dispossess people of their lands, and properties, unleash mayhem, and even kill their victims – all for the sake of land grabbing.
It was gathered by our reporters that the “Omo-Oniles” or “land grabbers” are a group of well-armed lawless miscreants that have, quite unfortunately, become a part of governance in states and local governments in Nigeria. They operate with some support from the Nigeria Police, traditional rulers, and other security agencies. The activities of these groups, it was further gathered, have led to maiming, wanton destruction of properties, and death of many. It was to curb their menace that the Lagos and Ogun State Governments passed the Anti – Land Grabbing Laws. But, investigations reveal that Lagos State appears to be doing more than Ogun State to nip the menace in the bud.
Sometime after the land transaction for the 200 acres, but before his troubles began, Mr. Daniel’s company was introduced to another 29 acres transaction. If only he had known what was to come and had refrained from consummating that transaction! Right in the middle of the 29 acres was a shrine – a fairly big tree with some items, most of which appeared new. The family that sold the land to his company (family name withheld) assures Mr. Daniel that they can easily relocate the shrine and even received N200,000 from him for that purpose. So, based on the family’s assurances, he brought in bulldozers and they cleared everything – including the shrine. To add insults to the injury of the ultra traditionalists, Mr. Daniel, the Pentecostal Pastor brought “Prayer Warriors” from his Church for 3 days prayers to “cleanse” the land.
It was these turn of events that the land grabbers latched upon to declare that Mr. Daniel was guilty of “religious sacrilege”, for which the punishment is death!
According to Mr. Daniel, an attempt to dialogue with the parties through their representatives, his company lawyer, and the land agent, a native of the Ado-Odo community, who connected him to the family, did not end well, as they were attacked by the hoodlums.
He said, “While our company lawyer, escaped death or serious injury by the whisker, the land agent (name withheld) was not as lucky. He was beaten to unconsciousness and had to be rushed to a hospital by sympathizers. Thank God that I heeded advice and did not go with them. The land grabbers hid under the canopy of the inter-tribal and religious tension to dispossess us of our lands and properties”.
He further lamented: “They have stripped us of our land, and I am about to lose my investments. But, those considerations pale in significance when compared to my safety and that of my family”
Daniel told our reporter, that it has become evident that these persecutors would stop at nothing until they carry out all their evil threat on him. He said, “They have accused me of religious sacrilege, an offence punishable by death. This is a ploy to get more sympathies from other Omo-Oniles, and the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC). And these made things worse for me, as I now have more enemies to contend with”.
After we thought every concern regarding the shrine has been settled, until on the 11th July 2015, when a group of men numbering about six vandalized my Lexus 300 SUV, when they broke into my compound at about 2: 45 AM apparently to enter my home to unleash mayhem on us, but for my neighbor, who raised alarm on sighting them through his window.
“When we reported to The Nigeria Police, we were told to get a court affidavit before they can commence investigation into the matter. We got the affidavit as required but the matter was never investigated as the officer-in-charge further requested that we give them money before they would do their job. A request which I turned down, because I reasoned it would be better for me to get my vehicle fixed by my Insurer than to go through the rigors of Police investigation which at the end would not yield any result”.
“Since both of our project sites had been engulfed with crisis, we decided to focus on our third project site which is in a different town far off from the two earlier sites, a 50-acre landed property; we acquired in March 2017. Somehow, they got wind of that fact and, armed with charms, bottles, machetes, and guns, the hoodlums came searching for me, chanting the name of their gods whom they claimed I desecrated. Fortunately for me, I had left the site just some minutes before they came. That was my saving grace”.
According to him, the attackers nonetheless, succeeded in driving out all the workers from the site, and threatened to kill him anywhere they could find him
He lamented that his attempt to move his family and business out of Ogun State to Lagos State did not achieve much result as the Omo-Oniles have boasted they would pursue him even to the end of the earth. “They made good their threat, when they sent their agents and field boys after me”.
When asked what he had done so far, he showed our reporters several acknowledged petitions he had either written or instructed his lawyers to write to several formations of the Police and other security agencies as well as the Ogun State Government, all to no avail. He is therefore calling on the government, human rights organization and the international community to come to his assistance as his life is no longer safe.
“Every day I look at my children and see this innocence in their eyes. For the past few years, I have been living my life in hiding with fear of attack from these desperadoes. My family has experienced the worst fears. We have suffered great losses. My family has been unsettled as we have changed residence several times in the past years, and my children have had to change schools more than a few times also, since protection from the Nigeria Police and government was no longer guaranteed”.