MTN, GTB, Medplus, others face shutdown in 1004 Estates, by Sunday Oguntola

1004 Estate, Victoria Island

Banks, restaurants, pharmacies, telecommunication firms, groceries and other business outfits operating within the 1004 Estate in Victoria Island Lagos are facing complete shutdown following constant threats by officials of the Home Owners Resident Association (HORA).

The officials have been demanding multiple rents and electricity charges from the firms, which have already been paid in advance.
Most of them businesses, including banks, crèches and internet firms have either been disconnected from power supply within the estate or threatened with disconnection by the officials.

 Some of the affected companies include: MTN, GT BANK, Zenith Bank. Medplus, Swift Networks, Airtel, UBA Plc and Marcopolo, among others.

They have been providing vital 24-hour services within easy reach of residents of the highbrow estate.

Investigations revealed travails of the businesses started when officials of HORA, in a commando-like style, took over management of the estate from 1004 Estates Ltd in April 2016.

They started demanding for rents and power charges from the businesses, which have existing contracts with 1004 Estates Ltd.  
MTN, which built a private telecom exchange and fibre cable network service to each flat at its cost for intra-estate calls free of charge, has a 20-year concession agreement with 1004 Estates Ltd, owners of the high rise.

In exchange for the free intra-estate calls, MTN gets power supply from the estate.  

The service has been crucial for communications within the estate particularly in emergency, evacuation, health and security situations.
HORA officials have been demanding N50 million annual rents from the telecommunications giant aside from N30m from MTN for electricity despite an existing contractual agreement, it has been learnt.

For refusing to bulge, the telecommunication giant with investments of more than N400million in the estate has been completely disconnected from public power supply.

It has been forced to operate diesel generators for 24 hours in the estate to be able to still render its free services.

Airtel Plc, which has a 15-year lease agreement for installation of a mast in the estate, has been refused access to the facility.

This has left residents with poor network reception for over two years.  

Swift Networks, which also has telecom sites, has been severally disconnected from power, a development that led to a recent fire outbreak in its control room.

Most of the telecommunications firms believe they are targeted because HORA officials work in rival organisations, making them to sabotage their services.   

Drug companies like Medplus, which runs a 24- hour Pharmacy and Mandys Supermarket are also denied access to public power supply, leading to huge losses of sensitive drugs requiring controlled temperatures and frozen foods.

Aimas, an organic /fresh vegetable and a pizza store in the estate has been completely shut down following disconnection from power supply despite paying in advance.

The company endured losses of its investments and destroyed goods/stock for months before it finally closed shop.
Marcopolo Chinese restaurant has also closed down, throwing all its employees into the labour market.

Its equipment worth over N40 million were seized and chained by HORA officials. 

Even firms that paid for power supply have experienced daily power outages without explanation from the officials, leading to financial losses, their operators told our correspondent.

It was further learnt the officials have been blackmailing the businesses to pay double rents or risk complete disconnection from power supply despite paying in advance.

This is despite severe warning from Police authorities to the HORA officials not to harass the firms.

Our correspondent learnt that the firms have taken HORA officials to court to seek redress.

But despite the ongoing legal battle, the officials have decided to target banks such as GTB, Zenith, UBA and others for disconnection.
This, residents said, will lead to complete shutdown of banking activities and services within the estate.

“How can we cope when we cannot bank or even use ATM for withdrawals,” an expatriate resident, who simply identified himself as Alex wondered.

Most of the business owners confided some of the officials have approached them to become partners in their ventures as a condition to operate within the estate.

They said refusal of the proposal is why the officials are hampering operations of their businesses.

Residents lament they are under the siege of a few occupants, pointing out services have seriously deteriorated since 1004 Estates Ltd was forcibly chased out.

They complained power supply have been at the lowest ebb despite multiple increase of service charges by the officials while they only get dirty water with most of the elevators in poor conditions.    
Attempts to speak with officials of HORA were rebuffed. When our correspondent called at the estate, one of them said there was no comment. Repeated calls and SMS were also not attended to.