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Ibeju Lekki: Now is time to stem hostilities

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Lekki Free Zone

Lekki Free Zone

There had been disputes in the Ibeju Lekki area of Lagos over land matters. It was, however, the murder of the Managing Director of the Lekki Free Trade Zone (LFTZ), Tajudeen Disu, and three others, following a clash between youths of Okunraye community and policemen that made the headlines.

The villagers had embarked on a protest against ‘forceful takeover’ of their land by the Lagos State government for the LFTZ, but were resisted by the police.

One of the people, who spoke to The Guardian after the incident, had accused LTFZ officials of encouraging billionaire businessman, Aliko Dangote, to move ahead with construction, assuring the mogul “nothing will happen.”

Some aggrieved landowners had blamed the LTFZ for forcibly ejecting them and using policemen and soldiers to harass them for resisting the perceived injustice. They claimed the security personnel fired shots at people and homes during protests. Some other people, however, said the uniformed men, who forced them out of their homes and lands, were not real police officers but armed thugs in the employ of some politicians.

There have been instances of touts and fake community leaders defrauding innocent citizens over sale of plots of land. One particular case was that of seven people, arraigned in an Igbosere Magistrate Court, recently, for allegedly obtaining the sum of N3.4m from one Aghinone Oghenetejiri, with a view to selling plots of land to him at Okeduberu, Ibeju Lekki.

The entire Ibeju Lekki area is currently a beehive of commercial activities, and is witnessing rapid expansion. Ever since major construction began, the communities have been at loggerheads with the government and investors over land issues, which if not properly handled, could lead to more hostilities and breach of the peace.

Worried by the trend, which is beginning to scare potential investors, some concerned citizens of Ibeju Lekki have resolved to stem the tide with the establishment of the Ibeju Lekki Development Foundation, a platform that aims at uniting the communities, and coordinating communication with investors. Besides showcasing economic potentials, the foundation also seeks to encourage the people to shun violence and make the best of opportunities by investors.

An initiative of Prince (Dr.) Ademuyiwa Oniwonlu, the foundation already enjoys the backing of the five traditional rulers in the area. The royal fathers, who are also on the foundation’s board of trustees, are: HRM Oba Rafiu Olusegun Salami, The Onibeju of Ibeju; HRM Oba Olumuyiwa Ogunbekun; The Onilekki of Lekki; HRM Oba Hamzat Atiku, The Onimedu of Orimedu; HRM Oba Abdul-Ganiu Adebowale Adegbesan, The Onise of Ise Land; and HRM Oba Tajudeen Elemoro, The Onitedo of Itedo.

Prince Oniwonlu, who is also the president of the foundation, said the initiative “has become extremely necessary to re-unify ourselves as a people, re-establish our objectives and community goals for the sake of our children. A people divided cannot fulfill destiny. After several and extensive consultations with our royal fathers and other stakeholders, it was popularly accepted that a common platform and front for our people is long overdue.”

Conceived November 1, 2015, the foundation, which will formally be launched Thursday, May 26, 2016, is expected to, henceforth, represent the general and common interest of Ibeju Lekki communities.

“Ibeju Lekki is experiencing industrialisation. The commercial hub of Lagos is heading towards us; we must be prepared. It is time to put aside our differences; this is the time to form a common front and speak with one voice,” he said.

The core agenda of the foundation, according to Oniwonlu, is to attract investment, pursue infrastructural development, and fetch jobs and opportunities for training and manpower development for youths. It also aims to pursue healthcare development and education, and present the community as a tourist haven. The group will also make environmental, social and health impact assessment, secure welfare for community leaders and resolve communal disputes.

For Oniwonlu, lack of communication between government and investors on the one hand and communities on the other, remains a major challenge. “The truth is that some people don’t know what the government is planning for the area; they need to know that these companies are going to provide employment for their children and make life better for them,” he said.



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