It was exactly at 7 am on Friday, March 27, 2020 that my wife frantically called for my attention that a man in plain clothes who introduced himself as a policeman had come to arrest her.
I came out of the house immediately and saw a man in T-shirt who said that my then landlord in Awka had invited him to arrest my wife.
I told the policeman to allow my wife go to the hospital to keep her scheduled appointment with her doctors before coming to the police station.
I gave the policeman my name, and he asked for my phone number which I quickly supplied before asking for his own name.
He showed me his ID card and insisted that my wife must report to the “B” Division police station after the hospital treatment.
The landlord then came down from his upstairs lodgings and met the policeman, shouting that he built his house and anybody who cannot abide by his rules must leave his house.
In the morning of the previous day, the landlord had locked the smaller gate leading into the compound, and my wife who had gone out came back knocking for about 30 minutes. The landlord came out, saw my wife and went back to his apartment without opening the gate.
When my wife eventually got in she told the landlord: “Where is your humanity?”
I guess it was this statement made by my wife that led the landlord to go to the police to claim that my wife had threatened him!
Going further back, at about 2 pm on Wednesday, February 12, 2020 I witnessed a scene straight out of a Franz Kafka novel: Nightmarish!
I was inside the house when my second son said that a man he didn’t know was looking for “Mr. Uzoatu.”
I was surprised that anybody could be looking for “Mr. Uzoatu” because only a few family members knew I was living there.
I came out and beheld a youngish man who introduced himself as a court bailiff who gave me a paper that read: “In The Magistrate Court Of Anambra State Of Nigeria – In The Magistrate Court Of Awka Magisterial District Holden At Awka. Suit No. MAW/Rp/372/2020. Between: Barr. Obi Okonkwo (Suing through his Attorney, Barr. Albert Okwudinka) Plaintiff And Mr. Uzoatu Uzor Maxim Defendant.”
The paper then went on: “NOTICE TO QUIT: I, Barr. Albert Okwudinka, an Attorney and Solicitor to your Landlord Barr. Obi Okonkwo and on his behalf, hereby give you SIX MONTHS NOTICE TO QUIT and deliver possession of THREE BEDROOM APARTMENT and appuretenances (sic) thereto, situate at No. 7 Olisaonyeka Close Commissioners Quarters, Ifite Awka Anambra State which you hold as a tenant thereof on or before the 31st day of August, 2020. Dated this 12th day of February, 2020.”
The paper bore the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) stamp of Albert Nwabufo Okwudinka.
Astonished, I told the bailiff that I had not been charged to court as a Defendant or whatsoever, adding: “I never made any appearance in your court.”
I went into the house to fetch a N400,000 receipt issued by the landlord which clearly stated that my rent would last up to August 31, 2020.
Well, it was then it became clear to me why three tenants had packed out of the building in the three months we lived there – after unprintable shouting matches with the landlord and his wife.
The rent was fixed at a steep N400,000 (Four Hundred Thousand Naira) per annum which I had promptly paid.
Even as the rent covered the water needs, the landlord demanded for N3,500 (Three Thousand, Five Hundred Naira) to repair the pumping-machine which I duly paid.
Ever since, I have lost count of the number of times my family has had to fetch water with jerry cans from outside.
The landlord asked me to pay N6,200 (Six Thousand and Two Hundred Naira) for the clearance of the general sewage after only three months of stay, which I paid.
A clear and present danger to the family was the unhealthy poultry the landlord put directly behind our apartment which oozed unbearable stench.
The landlord always insisted that one must submit the originals of PHCN receipts for him to keep.
I can understand a landlord asking me to pack out of his house when my rent expired, and I would duly pack out according to the law of the land, but trying to evict me by violent underhand means when my rent was still running was quite primitive.
As I was still a bona-fide tenant, I deserved to have free and unfettered access in and out of the compound.
The landlord’s insistence on locking the gate at night and opening it in the morning as he liked led to my wife telling the landlord that he lacked humanity.
He kept the only key, and not even prisoners were treated arbitrarily this way, and I had been informed of the landlord’s fondness for sinister use of the police and the courts.
It topped the class in evil to plot the arrest of an unwell woman on a Friday in the vain bid to make her spend the weekend in a police cell.
It smacked of satanic oppression to break the law by locking out a paying tenant only to run to the police to arrest the victim.
I wrote a petition to the then Anambra State Police Commissioner which was followed up by some civil society leaders.
The landlord got shamed and sad when the Police Commissioner ordered his officers to henceforth refuse to do the man’s diabolical bidding.