Nigeria is commonly called the giant of Africa not because it is the largest country on the continent, but because it is one of the most developed and boasts the largest economy. The nation owes much of this economic power to one state, Lagos state, in which lies the mega-city of Lagos, the commercial and financial capital of Africa.
The city of Lagos beats Tokyo, Beijing, and Los Angeles in size to rank alongside New York, London, and Bombay as the largest cities in the world. However, like any mega-city, it is actually a combination of several smaller cities. Lekki is one of such cities and the cost of living there is much higher than in Los Angeles.
The Lekki Peninsula, located on the south coast of Lagos, is a long, narrow strip of land that separates the Atlantic Ocean from the large inland lagoon known as the Lagos Lagoon. On the eastern tip of the peninsula is the wide channel through which the waters of the Lagos Lagoon flow out into the Atlantic Ocean and on its western section, two rivers flow out of the Lagoon to join up with a larger river bound for the Atlantic. Thus, the entire peninsula is effectively cut off from mainland Lagos and actually seems to exist in a different world.
Sandwiched in-between these two rivers are the busy islands of Lagos Island and Ikoyi, both of which served as the headquarters of the British colonial government that ruled Nigeria for about two centuries until independence in 1960. These two islands act as a gateway from the Lagos Mainland to the Lekki peninsula; a network of bridges and roads link them up in such a way that anyone coming in from the mainland must pass through one or both islands and eventually end up on the Lekki superhighway that runs through the entire length of the peninsula.
While Lagos mainland can be called a typical third world city in that it is characterized by dirty neighborhoods, overpopulation, poverty, and disorganization, all that begins to change from Lagos Island and Ikoyi onward. The cities and districts on the Lekki peninsula are more comparable to those in the best parts of the United States and Europe.
The Lekki peninsula and its supporting islands of Lagos Island, Ikoyi, Atlantic City and Banana Island are home to the highest population of millionaires and billionaires in Africa. Some of the wealthiest and most powerful people on the entire continent live and work here and so do a lot of wealthy Americans and Europeans. Most of the big multinational companies operating in Africa, from ExxonMobil to Microsoft, Samsung Heavy Industires and Huawei, have their administrative headquarters here and also present are the embassies of wealthy countries.
One can live for decades in the vast hell that is the Lagos mainland and never set eyes on a skyscraper or a high luxury vehicle like a limousine, but once across the first bridge and into the ever busy tiny Lagos Island, the skyscrapers are everywhere. From there onward into the Lekki peninsula, multimillion-dollar mansion, other impressive real estate properties, and high luxury cars are the order of the day.
The Lekki peninsula itself is divided into three main parts and two are model cities; the cities of Victoria Island on the outer west side and Lekki, which is deeper inside. The third area, Epe, is beyond Lekki and is more of a nature reserve. Victoria Island, like the outer parts of Lekki and the islands of Ikoyi and Eko Atlantic City which border it, contains both residential and business districts and is home to the truly rich, but the luxurious paradise of Lekki itself and the peaceful nature reserves of Epe beyond are home to the super-rich only.
Everything about the Lekki peninsula and its islands is different from Lagos mainland. It is all about sophistication and wealth on an international level. Also on an international level is the crime….
QUEENS OF DARK CRIMES CHAPTER ONE… Episode Two
The large white mansion was located in the highly exclusive Victoria Garden City area deep within the paradise of Lekki. It was less than six hundred yards from the breezy Atlantic Ocean and the steady sea air swept through its lovely gardened grounds freely.
It was a lovely Saturday afternoon and a celebratory atmosphere was upon the mansion. The large parking lot within the big compound was packed with exotic cars and they overflowed onto the quiet wide street outside. Hefty bodyguards in smart dark suits were positioned around in a tight security setup that was prepared for any trouble.
A crowd of guests was being entertained out on the spacious lawns in front of the large mansion. Most of the male guests were important looking men and many had their families with them. It all looked like a very normal party, but it wasn’t, which was why most of them had come very early.
This was the forty-ninth birthday celebration of Madam Augustina Benson, aka Madam T, head of the Benson crime family, one of the most powerful criminal organizations in Nigeria with connections overseas, and so almost all the VIPs of the elite world of organized crime had come from far and wide to pay homage. Still, there were those that came to do quick business and ask for favors as Madam T was known to be quite generous and gentle-hearted on such a special day, a rare thing indeed.
A very popular musician and his crew were performing to the delight of the guests, some of whom were seated at tables while others moved around, mingling in groups, as they enjoyed the endless supplies of refreshments and waited patiently for the celebrant to show up.
Madam Augustina Benson, richly dressed for the occasion, but attending to business, sat comfortably in the high backed swivel chair behind the high-polished, large black desk in the air-conditioned comforts of the large study that was her office. Business before pleasure, that was her rule. She sat quietly, listening attentively to the words of the well-dressed elderly man seated in one of the two chairs across the desk from her. Helen, her lovely adopted daughter, and Louis, her nephew and powerful right-hand man were sitting on the long black leather sofa against the wall to one side of the big room, listening attentively too. Two big bodyguards in smart dark suits stood close by the door and more were outside. Security was always very tight around the queen of the Benson crime family and no risk was ever taken.
“…. My son, he was rushed to hospital by his friends while the security people at the nightclub called in the police and handed over the gangster who shot him. My son died the next day and that was when I found out that the boy who shot him had already been released to his father who was a top politician in the ruling political party. It was now murder a case so the police rearrested him, but took forever to charge him to court while his father kept trying to persuade me to drop the case. I refused and insisted that the matter must go to court and my son’s killer would go to jail like he deserved. The man finally told me to my face that his son would never see the inside of any jail and that was the last time he approached me. Next thing I knew; the murder weapon went missing in police custody. The persecutors said we still had a good chance with the witnesses, but on the day of the trial, when we got to the court, four of the seven witnesses had suddenly developed blank memories. For some unknown reason, the judge threw out the testimonies of the remaining three witnesses and then dismissed the case. I just stood there like an old fool and watched my son’s killer and his father walked free. They looked at me and laughed and there was nothing I could do about it. The day after I buried my boy, I just knew I had to get justice for him because I couldn’t eat or sleep anymore. I have come to you for that justice since the law has failed me.” concluded the elderly man with a heavy sigh that was a reflection of his emotional burden. “I want to be able to sleep and eat normally again, madam, and that can only come from having some peace in my heart over my son’s death.”
There was complete silence in the room as the man finished speaking and then Madam T sighed.
“You know, John,” she began gently with a gesture of her hand, still sitting comfortably in the high backed chair. “If you had accepted my offer of investment in your company two years ago that would have brought you and your family directly under my protection and none of this would ever have happened. My men would have stepped in the first time the police failed to handle the threat of those gangsters and your son would be alive today.”
The old man sighed again and spoke with deep gravity. “There is no undoing the past, but it is possible to fix the future. Whatever you offer might be now, I accept. We can draw up an agreement in due time, but please, give me what I want now.”
Madam T inclined her head. “And that is?”
“Justice for my dead son and protection for my family,” said the elderly man at once. “I want the gangster who killed him dead too. I want his father to know the great sorrow of burying a child and I don’t want to fear anything he can do to me or my family.”
Madam T nodded. “Consider it done. Go home to your family and sleep peacefully.”
The elderly man let out his breath in a heavy sigh and his entire body relaxed visibly. He closed his eyes and bowed his head, sitting perfectly still for a moment, then got stiffly to his feet and bowed low to the beautiful woman sitting across the desk. “From the bottom of my heart, I thank you.”
Madam T nodded once, but said nothing.
The elderly man turned and walked towards the door. One of the two big bodyguards there got it open for him and closed again after he went through.
Madam T stared at the closed door for a moment, then looked over at her nephew. “Find out how many sons this big shot politician has. If it is more than three, I want two dead, including the one who did the shooting. Give the job to Humphrey and tell him to turn it into a slaughter if the rest of that gang show up at any point. He is to keep a close eye on things from now on.”
Louis quickly made a note on his iPad.
“How many people are there left?” asked Madam T.
“Three,” Louis looked up. “The Americans, Mr. Southgate and Alhaji Musa.”
Madam T sighed tiredly. She had been attending to people all day and could really use some major help. Things were becoming too big for only her to handle now. She glanced at her daughter sitting quietly on the sofa, looking so lovely and capable, and one part of her mind reached a decision. The time was right for her.
Madam T shifted her eyes back to Louis. “Bring the Americans in.”
At a nod from Louis, one of the two bodyguards left the room to summon the visitors.
After the two American Dons, top representatives of the powerful Caldarelli crime family based in New York came and left, Michael Southgate was shown in.
Michael Southgate was a hard-faced man in his fifties with skin that was as black as coal and a shiny bald head that reflected the light in every direction. He controlled a good chunk of the profitable criminal business in the ancient city of Ibadan, the third largest city in Nigeria after Port Harcourt and Lagos. Two of his rivals had teamed up against him and were encroaching on his territories so he needed some major help to do some serious encroachment of his own.
Madam T was very pleased with his gift of an expensive diamond necklace and so listened to his proposal. They quickly reached a deal and Michael Southgate left with a happy heart.
Next to be seen was Alhaji Musa Adole, CEO of Storton Investment Nig. Ltd, one of the many firms that laundered the endless flow of illegal cash that came from the Benson family. He had a large gift-wrapped box in his shaky hands, a pathetic look on his face and a very detailed story of how he’d been covering up a financial shortfall from her for the last three months. He had used approximately one million dollars of her money in an investment of his own, which had failed. His quick promise of a complete refund plus interest if given the chance and just a year didn’t seem to have the desired pacifying effect on his powerful benefactor.
Madam T’s lovely eyes bored into the pot-bellied middle-aged man in an expensive white robe standing in front of her desk. He was scared and sweating like a fool. Nonetheless, a fool who saved her a lot of trouble and money.
“You’ve got nine months to make a full refund,” she said coldly. “And if you try stealing from me ever again, I will have you skinned alive and burned. Do you understand?”
“Yes, yes, madam, I understand. Thank you,” Alhaji Musa bowed low, his relief clear. He was truly glad he’d had the good sense to come clean today before he was caught.
Louis stepped forward and took the gift-wrapped package from him and Madam T waved a lovely hand in dismissal. Alhaji Musa bowed again and left the room quickly.
The door closed behind the departing man and Madam T looked over at her adopted daughter.
“Where’s Charles?” she asked.
“Out on the street with Bruce,” replied Helen. “There’s a problem with some Interpol agents parked in a vehicle down the road.”
“Those bastards will always watch even if it’s their own funeral. Provided they stay a good distance away from my gates, they can keep watching for all I care. Tell Charles to get back in here at once, I want him by my side when I go out to greet my guests. You as well.”
Helen was surprised at her sudden inclusion in the all-important welcoming committee, but hid it well as she got on her phone.
Madam Augustina Benson’s emergence from the house was greeted with a standing ovation from the sizable crowd of guests. The music crew struck up a new song in her praise and the guests cheered happily.
Flanked by her two children and surrounded by four watchful bodyguards, Madam Augustina Benson, attired in a lovely floor-length blue dress with glittering jewelry in all the right place, acknowledged the cheerful, well-wishes of her guests with graceful waves of her hands, smiling and nodding in the direction of the most important people.
A pretty girl of about ten hurried up with a large bouquet of white roses and the bodyguards made no attempt to stop her. Smiling brightly, Madam Augustin Benson accepted the flowers graciously from the girl to the sound of more cheers and applause. None of the other guests made the mistake of trying to approach the celebrant directly, they all know how things worked.
Madam Augustina Benson moved around for a few short minutes as she watched the crowd, taking stock. Satisfied that all the right people were paying her homage correctly, she turned and walked majestically away, heading back into the house. More bodyguards closed up around her and her family and they all disappeared through the wide glass front doors of the house.
The feasting and merriment continued till nightfall.
The big black Lincoln jeep parked about a hundred yards down the road from the Benson mansion stayed there till nearly midnight. The two Interpol agents inside the air-conditioned interior of the jeep never came out but kept taking photos of every vehicle that came and went from the mansion that day.