Iwaya De­mo­li­tion: Again La­gos Raises More IDPS

The Guardian (Nigeria) - - CITY FILE - By Eno-abasi Sun­day and Geral­dine Akutu

ON Thurs­day Au­gust 17, Razak Ji­moh, an ar­ti­san made money avail­able to his wife, Azzezat, for the pur­chase of dresses for their daugh­ters, ahead of the Mus­lim fes­ti­val of Eid-el-kabir, which re­cently held.

On his re­turn from work same day, Ji­moh was too tired to ap­praise what his wife had bought, as has been the prac­tice. He promised to do that on re­turn from work on Fri­day, Au­gust 18, since he had to meet up with a client as early as 6.00 a.m., that Fri­day.

But by the time he was sum­moned home by his weep­ing wife, the three new dresses, shoes, and eye wears for the kids, along­side all other per­sonal ef­fects of theirs, were un­der the rub­bles at Ba­lo­gun Ex­ten­sion, Abete-iwaya, Yaba. Put dif­fer­ently, they had no place to call home again, and so had to be­gin the search for where to put up with their three young daugh­ters.

Ac­cord­ing to the wo­man, a breast­feed­ing mother, she sud­denly fell asleep while breast­feed­ing her baby and was wo­ken up by loud bangs on the door by neigh­bours, who knew she had no knowl­edge of the ram­pag­ing bull­doz­ers at the be­hest of the La­gos State Gov­ern­ment, through the Min­istry of Phys­i­cal Plan­ning and Ur­ban De­vel­op­ment.

The bull­doz­ers flanked by a bat­tery of gun-tot­ting mo­bile po­lice­men roared into the com­mu­nity, and within a few hours, de­mol­ished over 200 houses, de­stroyed prop­erty worth mil­lions of naira, and mul­ti­plied the num­ber of In­ter­nally Dis­placed Per­sons (IDPS) in the coun­try.

Be­fore the de­mo­li­tion, the com­mu­nity, like oth­ers, played host to lots of schools, churches and sundry out­fits.

The com­mu­nity, which shares bound­ary with the Univer­sity of La­gos (UNILAG), and over­looks the Third Main­land

Bridge, be­fore be­ing lev­elled, was home to an es­ti­mated pop­u­la­tion of over 5,

000 peo­ple.

What many of th­ese peo­ple IDPS are now al­leg­ing is that the state gov­ern­ment never gave them a hint about de­mo­li­tion, which would have en­abled them seek al­ter­na­tive ac­com­mo­da­tion, or pre­pare for the worse.

Like the dis­traught res­i­dents, busi­ness own­ers are equally aghast as to what kind of gov­ern­ment would an­ni­hi­late small-scale en­ter­prises with­out re­course to the im­pact they cre­ate at the lower rungs of the state’s econ­omy.

While de­plor­ing the state’s pen­chant for de­mol­ish­ing what they de­scribed as “poor peo­ples set­tle­ment,” as shown by re­cent spate of de­mo­li­tion, they call on civil so­ci­ety groups to come to their aide in wrestling a gov­ern­ment they claim has dis­dain for the poor.

Bo­ladale Sa­muel, whose father’s res­i­dence and church build­ing were brought down, ex­pressed anger at the man­ner they were treated by the po­lice­men, and mem­bers of the La­gos State En­vi­ron­men­tal Task­force.

“The po­lice­men upon ar­rival started ha­rass­ing us with their guns threat­en­ing to shoot us. They ac­tu­ally fired into the air. We could not even ex­press our­selves. All we could do was just standby and watch in shock as the bull­doz­ers tore down our house. My father, who lives within his church build­ing, was not al­lowed to pick any of his prop­erty. This is so un­fair in a coun­try, where we are cit­i­zens. We were thoroughly in­tim­i­dated by the po­lice, and even­tu­ally left in our agony,” Sa­muel lamented.

Mrs. Olaren­waju, a tri­cy­cle op­er­a­tor, whose res­i­dence was also brought down said she had to race back home after she was in­formed of the de­mo­li­tion, through a phone call.

“I rushed back home im­me­di­ately I re­ceived the phone call. But by the time I got there, I saw no struc­ture and my house was no more. I lost every­thing I had, and I feel very bad. Cop­ing with this con­di­tion has not been easy for me be­cause this came un­ex­pected. On that day, two peo­ple lost their lives in the process. This is in­deed a rude shock. I have left every­thing in the hands of God and moved on with my life. Presently, I am squat­ting in a mosque. So, the state gov­ern­ment should com­pen­sate us for the harm they have brought on us be­cause peo­ple bought their plots of land and erected struc­tures that gov­ern­ment brought down wan­tonly. The gov­ern­ment should also pro­vide a safe place for peo­ple that have nowhere to go to be­cause they are here in the open, and are ex­posed to dan­ger.

A busi­ness pro­pri­etor, whose out­fit was also lev­elled ex­pressed shock at what hap­pened say­ing, “Al­most ev­ery­body here is stranded. Two peo­ple died in the process and an­other went into coma. It is a hope­less sit­u­a­tion. I can’t com­pre­hend how peo­ple will just come and de­mol­ish all that oth­ers have laboured for just like that, with­out any no­ti­fi­ca­tion. This is a busi­ness and res­i­den­tial place. Things have been tough for us be­cause we are now home­less, peo­ple lost their jobs and busi­nesses. Some peo­ple are now squat­ting while oth­ers that have no money for ac­com­mo­da­tion are sleep­ing with their fam­i­lies in this open place.”

An­other res­i­dent, who sim­ply iden­ti­fied him­self as Pas­tor Eli­jah, said the de­mo­li­tion has left him and his fam­ily stranded. That ex­plains why he and his fam­ily mem­bers are still hang­ing around their de­mol- ished house days after it was brought down.

“I am stay­ing here with my wife and chil­dren be­cause we have no place to go. Even my ten­ants are still here. When the de­mo­li­tion team ar­rived, many had gone to work, so they took us off-guard. All I have worked for is gone. So, the gov­ern­ment should come to our aid be­cause to my knowl­edge, this land be­longs to the El­eye fam­ily.”

Nar­rat­ing the in­ci­dent, the Chair­man, Land­lords As­so­ci­a­tion Ba­lo­gun Street Ex­ten­sion, Iwaya, Pas­tor J. A. Onugbe, said they were taken un­awares with­out prior notice. “We have been in this place since 1996. This land be­longs to the El­eye Fam­ily and not the Univer­sity of La­gos. To my knowl­edge, this land has been a sub­ject of lit­i­ga­tion since 2005. The own­ers of this land gave the Univer­sity of La­gos a place, which was de­mar­cated. We bought this land from the El­eye Fam­ily, and have our re­ceipts and Deed of Con­veyance. Some of us have sur­vey and land ap­proval from

the La­gos State gov­ern­ment.

Onugbe, said on sight­ing the ret­inue of po­lice­men pour­ing into the neigh­bour­hood, “I ap­proached them and in­tro­duced my­self as the chair­man of land­lords as­so­ci­a­tion of this area, but they ig­nored me and went ahead with the de­mo­li­tion ex­er­cise. While the de­mo­li­tion lasted, school­child­ren, preg­nant women, old peo­ple and ev­ery­one was dis­tressed as we were be­ing ren­dered home­less. To say the least, we were sur­prised at the in­ci­dent be­cause there was no notice at all. It was a very sad day for us. After the de­mo­li­tion, I’ve been to the town plan­ning of­fice, where I was in­formed that no­body was sent from the of­fice to carry out the de­mo­li­tion ex­er­cise. I am us­ing this medium to plead with Gov­er­nor Ak­in­wunmi Am­bode to use his good of­fices to help us be­cause we are suf­fer­ing and have nowhere to go to. We are re­spon­si­ble and law abid­ing cit­i­zens. We voted this gov­ern­ment into power, and we have also con­sulted hu­man rights’ groups to help us.” Coun­sel to Delfino An­tho­nio Da Meranda, pop­u­larly known as Ogun­bode El­eye Fam­ily of Iwaya, Olu­muyiwa Ogun­lami & Co, in a pe­ti­tion to Am­bode al­leged that the gen­e­sis of their prob­lem was 20 years ago, when UNILAG turned it­self to omoonile, and be­gan to sell land out­side the fence of the univer­sity.

“It all started dur­ing the ten­ure of the late Pro­fes­sor Jelili Omo­tola, as vice chan­cel­lor when sev­eral at­tempts were made to ex­pand the fence of the univer­sity be­yond what the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment orig­i­nally ac­quired. How­ever, the at­tempts were met with stiff op­po­si­tion from the fam­ily, which led to lit­i­ga­tion. The mat­ter is still pend­ing in court (there are sev­eral doc­u­ments, let­ters, sur­vey plans and no­tices of meet­ings dat­ing back more than 20 years to backup this as­ser­tion). Also the precinct and the to­tal land­mass or acreage ac­quired for the Univer­sity of La­gos had been well-de­lin­eated and de­mar­cated by high perime­ter fence, which the univer­sity built around it­self.

“It would be re­called that some­time last year Au­gust, a re­moval or­der was pasted round the houses in the com­mu­nity of which our clients in­formed us and we wrote a pe­ti­tion dated 11/08/2016 to this ef­fect, wherein both the of­fice of the Ex­ec­u­tive Gov­er­nor and the Speaker of the State Assem­bly were copied. Un­for­tu­nately, not a sin­gle re­ply came up un­til last week that the de­mo­li­tion ex­er­cise was ef­fected.

“There­fore, our ap­peal to the gov­ern­ment is that this de­mo­li­tion ex­er­cise from the agents of La­gos State should be stopped forth­with, and proper in­ves­ti­ga­tion should be launched into the mat­ter pend­ing when the claim of the univer­sity would be es­tab­lished.

“Fi­nally, it should be noted that sev­eral houses com­pris­ing hun­dreds of fam­i­lies have through this de­mo­li­tion ex­er­cise been un­justly thrown into the streets, in­clud­ing chil­dren and preg­nant women, a de­vel­op­ment, which has sub­jected them to var­i­ous in­hu­man con­di­tions. To this end, we shall ap­pre­ci­ate if His Ex­cel­lency can use his good of­fices to wade into this mat­ter as ur­gently as it de­serves, in or­der to safe our clients and var­i­ous ten­ants from the op­pres­sion of this mod­ern day Pharaoh,” the pe­ti­tion stated. Ogun­lami, who de­plored the brazen de­struc­tion of his client’s prop­erty “by the La­gos State Min­istry of En­vi­ron­ment, in con­cert with the Univer­sity of La­gos,” in an in­ter­view with The Guardian, stressed that “all le­git­i­mate steps would be taken to en­sure that my client is fully com­pen­sated. It is sad that over 50 years since the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment ac­quired land for the build­ing of UNILAG, landown­ers are yet to be fully com­pen­sated, while UNILAG is busy try­ing to claim lands that are out­side of its des­ig­nated area.”

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