Abule-Ado residents to lose property as FG plans take-over of explosion site
Monarch, landlords’ association claim explosion caused by bomb blast
There may be more trouble for the distressed residents of Soba, Abule-Ado, Lagos State, as the Federal Government has initiated plans to take over the area affected by Sunday’s explosion. This disclosure was made by the acting Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Federal Housing Authority (FHA), Umar Saliu Buntu, who visited the site of the explosion yesterday.
According to Buntu, the Federal Government had acquired the large expanse of land from Ojo Barracks to Trade Fair, including the Soba axis, sometimes around 1970. The FHA boss, who commiserated with affected persons, however noted that many of the building in the area had encroached into the government acquired land, making them illegal occupants.
He said: “The Amuwo-Odofin residents are claiming ownership while the government has acquired this land for a long time. The land spread to the Ojo Cantonment up to Trade Fair but over time, the family (owners) was still selling to unsuspecting members of the public.
“The government is coming back to take charge, a task force has been constituted by the government and the Lagos State government is going to help the Federal Government to sanitise this place after proper investigation have been done and decision taken.
“Most of the land owners here did not buy from FHA and if they did, let them bring the title they have. They don’t have any title with us, we are not aware. All along while we have been coming here, the place kept expanding and the family kept selling to unsuspecting members of the public and they don’t have anything to show for it.”
Reacting to the claim of the FHA boss, the Baale of Soba, Chief Raheem Agbebeji, maintained the affected portion of Soba is a family property and not government owned. The Baale who spoke through the family secretary, Alhaji Umaru, said: “Soba is not an illegal community. We were formally in trade fair complex, but when the federal government came with trade fair complex, they shifted us here, which was part of our farmland we inherited from our forefathers.
“The government compensated us for having to destroy our farmlands at Soba to build houses, after moving us here. The truth remains that Soba town has been in existence for over 300 years and we have it in the government archives. We own even down to Barrack and Volks. We have common boundary with Amuwo-Odofin.
“There is a barricade by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), that is the boundary that we cannot cross and we did not cross. Last month, the army and NNPC even cleared makeshift houses and containers around that area.”
On their part, the landlords of Soba said they had legal documents backing their stay in the community. Addressing newsmen yesterday, the chairman of Landlords/Residents Association of Soba, Chief Gani Adams, said they had been communicating with FHA to finalise the process of getting their certificate of occupancy, before the tragic incident.
The chairman, who was represented by Mr. Chime Umadim, said: “Some of us have been here for over two or three decades, and we have meet FHA on several occasions. They have our master plan and survey plan, and they know we are living here. We are not aliens and we have been working hand in hand with them. We are not illegal occupants. Our documents are intact. They even delineated this place to us. They know we are here.”
Speaking of the suspected cause of the explosion, the association faulted the NNPC, saying the explosion was a bomb blast. According to the chairman: “Contrary to the submission of the Group Managing Director of NNPC, Mr. Mele Kyari, that the blast was caused by some gas depots close to the pipeline right of way, an information that is totally false, with deliberate calculation to suppress the fact, we are convinced that it was a bomb detonated on the pipeline which caused the unprecedented blast and damage to lives and properties.
“Suffices to say that at no time has pipeline explosion caused the type of heavy blast that resonated far beyond the immediate communities such as Festac Town and Satelite town to farther communities as Ijanikin, Badagry, Orile Iganmu, Surulere, Ijegun, Ejigbo and Oshodi to mention just a few, leaving behind at its wake shattered windows and roof of houses.
The Landlords/Resident Association called on the Federal and State government to set up a high-powered fact-finding committee to unravel the immediate and remote causes of the explosion, which they described as a national disaster. “It is indeed very unfortunate that we lost our BoT chairman, wife, children and over 30 others. We need help from the government to put our lives together.”
An affected landlord, Chief Emmanuel Ume, who said he lost two duplexes, a luxury hair saloon, a sewing factory, all worth over N130 million, advised the Federal Government to thread with caution as a take over of the affected areas may do more harm to victims.
Narrating how he escaped death, Ume said: “I had gone to church with my family that Sunday morning and that was what saved me. When we got back, we discovered we had lost everything. What I and my family are left with is the clothes we wore to church. We want the government to come to our aid.”