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Ikorodu homeowners decry activities of land grabbers, others

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Seven months after 17 houses were brought down on the orders of the Lagos State Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development, the owners of the affected homes and lands are still crying out to the Lagos state governor, Akinwunmi Ambode to come to their aid and ensure that justice is done and they get appropriate compensation.
   
The residents of Opere Street, Lagoon View Estate, Owode-Ibese in Ikorodu are still floundering in the wind, confused and counting their losses, which is running into billions of Naira. Spokesperson of the residents, Victor Armstrong, revealed that several plots and twists have continued to emerge as several individuals and families are claiming ownership to the area in dispute, with each party throwing their might and asking residents to ratify the land with them. “We all bought plots of land from the Asajo family for millions of Naira, some of us years ago whilst others bought recently. Suddenly, another family came and said they’re the rightful owners and we must re-buy the land from them. The Asajos told us not to panic, describing them as usurpers. As I am speaking, we are taking this case to court. Suddenly, another set came, this time, one Mafad & Co, admitting to me that they were the ones that went to the ministry to organise and financed the demolition, claiming to be the rightful owners and they had approval from the government to build a jetty and blocks of apartments. The CEO, one Fuad Oki, who was present during the demolition, dropped his telephone number with the shocked and grieving former home owners to call him if they have any questions or inquiries.”
     
According to Armstrong, the M.D of the company, one Mustafa Adams, had earlier met with one of the residents, one Alhaja Bilikisu, a widow, early last year, asking her and other residents to come and re-buy the land from him or he would demolish their properties and take over the land. “Alhaja told me he asked for N3million but she pleaded and bargained with him to accept a million Naira. He accepted and gave her his standard bank account number to pay in the money. Unfortunately, her son fell ill and she used that money for his treatment and couldn’t pay Adams. Her house was among the houses that were demolished by him.”

       
A representative of the Asajo family, one Prince Adeola Kosoko told The Guardian that they were surprised at the turn of events that the matter had taken so far. “Our family is the rightful owner of this area and we have the documents to prove it. We have never had any issues in the past but people have seen the potentials of this place and want to use the government to cheat us.” He added that he didn’t want to say much as they were in court already with another family.

Armstrong said they are still confused as to the purpose of the senseless demolitions. “Does he want us to buy the land back from him or what? If so, why demolish houses we built and render us homeless? Or was that to teach us a lesson or show he is connected to the commissioner and governor? He (Oki) admitted to me in a phone conversation that he was the one that wrote said petition and boasted that he has the right connections to see him through. Before demolishing people’s life sweat and blood, what steps did he take to meet with everyone to settle this matter amicably or at least get a court order? This is wickedness and a show of power and high-handedness from the parties involved. Do we have to ‘know’ the right people to get justice in this country?” he lamented.
       
Reaching out to Fuad Alade Oki was impossible as calls and several messages sent to his mobile phone were unanswered and unreturned. His M.D and CEO on the other hand, Adams, said he couldn’t comment on the matter and directed all questions on the matter to his lawyer, one Otunba Tunde Seriki of Tunde Seriki Chambers. Providing Seriki’s phone number as 08033204090, he said the lawyer was the only qualified person that could speak on the demolition. However, calls put to Seriki’s phone were not answered either and most times, the number remained unreachable. Text messages and even e-mails were left unanswered till going to print. The text message and e-mail read as follows, “I am calling you concerning the demolished houses at Lagoon View estate in Owode-Ibese, Ikorodu. I was asked by Mr.Adams to speak to you as the lawyer in charge. I would appreciate if you can get back to me with your official reaction to the allegations leveled by the homeowners.”

       
Speaking with an aide of the former commissioner of Physical Planning, Wasiu Anifowoshe, who was commissioner as at the time of the demolition, (name withheld), she answered brusquely, “What exactly do you want me to do? This is a new commissioner now and he has no prior knowledge of this case. Anifowoshe is no longer here and there is no way I can reach him.” Calls and text messages put to Anifowoshe’s mobile phone were unanswered and unreturned as at the time of going to print.
     
When asked last year, Anifowoshe denied all the allegations, claiming he knew a petition was written to the Ikorodu LABSCA office relating to the matter and the first petition was forwarded to his office in which they meditated upon the matter by inviting the affected parties. He also added that the governor approved the demolition as no demolition can be carried out without the governor’s consent and knowledge whilst asking the aggrieved homeowners to bring forth their titles and permits. Armstrong claims that just one person, Alhaja Bilikisu got the notices that were served and most of the other residents had no idea of said notices.     

While the parties involved throw accusations and counter accusations, a resident, Joke Adesanya is pleading with state governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, to come to their aid and ensure they are not cheated and strong-armed out of their lands and houses they built.


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Akinwunmi Ambode
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