Concerns mount over compensation for victims of Abule Egba Demolition
Four months after over 1,000 houses, banks, churches, mosques, filling stations and shops were demolished in the Abule-Egba area of Lagos State, to pave way for road expansion, affected shop and property owners are bewildered, as hopes of promised compensation by government dim.
Now, left with no source of income, some of those affected are squatting with friends and relatives within the vicinity, waiting for the government to redeem its pledge.
Since the invasion of the area on Tuesday, October 4, 2016, the victims, especially landlords have continued to count their losses. Banks, shops and filling stations owners, among others that were caught unawares, have incurred mounting debts due to their sudden closure. For now, their hopes appear to be forlorn as several attempts to reach the state Commissioner of Works and Housing, Wasiu Anifowose, by affected property and business owners have not been fruitful, as they alleged.
Their fears are made worse by feelers from government circles that the demolished area was a “government acquired area,” consequently the compensation may not be forthcoming.
The Guardian learnt that long before the area was demolished, a big concrete signpost had been erected with the inscription: “Federal Government Acquired Land.” That notwithstanding, plots were still sold to unsuspecting members of the public by some land agents.
It was learnt that three years ago, a notice was issued by the Babatunde Raji Fashola-led administration for occupants to vacate the area. After that, there was no follow up till September 2016, when the residents were issued a 14-day notice, and later a seven-day notice before the bulldozers arrived on October 4.
One of the affected landlords, 70-year-old, Alhaji Abdulsalam Amsat, whose storey building, four shops, a mosque and other structures were destroyed said his great-grandparents lived in the demolished house until they passed on.
Amsat told The Guardian that even though the area had been designated a government acquired land, it had served as their ancestral homestead before the marking.
“Even before the marking was done, we were given what government termed village extension, which extended to the Ekoro area. Later on, the ban on other areas was lifted and government started issuing land documents to people.
“However, somewhere along the line, we received a notice for a meeting of landlords at the Agbado-Oke Local Council Development Area (LCDA) fixed for September 22, 2016, with the Commissioner of Works and Housing, Wasiu Anifowoshe. It was there we were told that there was going to be road extension that would affect some of the property in the area.
“The commissioner promised that four notices would be issued before demolition would take place, and that government would not subject people to undue sufferings, but would pay compensation for whatever was demolished, including fences,” he stated.
Amsat informed that in September last year, they were mandated to submit their building documents to the state government within seven days, to which they complied.
After that, he said what followed was the arrival of land valuers, who visited shortly after they received the first notice and marked out areas meant for demolition. But three days after their visit, bulldozers and caterpillars were unleashed to level the structures, even beyond the marked areas.
Amsat, who valued his destroyed property at over N200m, said everything he had worked for all his life was within the destroyed building. “We have formed a body to press home our demands. We have been visiting the Governor’s Office since last year, but its like nobody is ready to come to our aid. Majority of the landlords are suffering because the decision was too sudden for us to have a Plan B. The question agitating our minds now is why has government failed to compensate us as promised. Well-meaning Nigerians should come to our aid and assist us to beg Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, because we don’t actually know where to start from.”
At one of the affected filling stations, an attendant, Mosunmola Yakub, told The Guardian that commercial activities have been paralysed. She disclosed that aside the partial demolition of the filling stations, the road construction work has prevented motorists from getting access to the station to refill.
Yakub also expressed fears that based on what she has been hearing, there is no sign that any compensation from government may come anytime soon, especially with the, “rumour making the rounds that where we are occupying is government property.”
An eatery attendant, Dotun Kalejaye, who also rued the turn out of events, disclosed that market has been bad because the demolition affected a larger part of the eatery, forcing their employer to invest heavily in putting in shape, what is left of the property.
“What we heard before the demolition was that compensation would be payed on everything that would be destroyed after inspection by the valuers, but to our surprise, the government is not only silent about the issue, what we are hearing is that this area is government acquired land, consequently, there may not be any compensation.”
Public Relations Officer (PRO), Ministry of Physical Planning, who gave his name simply as Mr. Oduniyi, told The Guardian that his ministry is not responsible for the said compensations.
Calls made to his counterpart in the Ministry of Lands, Kayode Sutton, were not answered. But The Guardian gathered that a senior government official recently at a press conference disclosed that there would be no compensation for the victims, as the area were previously acquired by the government.