Community decries ‘illegal’ demolition by alleged land grabbing syndicate
We served notices, acted according to the law, says commissioner
Residents and homeowners of Opere Street in Lagoon View Estate, Ibese, Ikorodu in Lagos woke up on the morning of 16th August 2017 and like any other day, headed to school and their places of business. However, by the evening of that day, they had become homeless, their belongings in the wind as 17 houses were completely demolished on the order of the Lagos State Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban development, throwing several families into confusion, mourning and abject sorrow.
Clutching her daughter and fighting back tears, one of the affected homeowners, Adesanya Adejoke told The Guardian, “I want to believe I’m dreaming and I would soon wake up from this bad dream. Just imagine, the work I have done and all my life earnings I used in building this house is gone and I am back to square one. I don’t know where to start. It’s very pathetic; people rejoiced with me when I was moving into my own house just months ago, suddenly I’m homeless. This is beyond sad; this is an act of injustice. I bought this land lawfully and processed C of O from the government and it is free from government acquisition so I don’t know why someone would come and demolish what I laboured for. There was no notice; I was called while at the office that my house was being brought down. This has made things difficult for my family and I. I don’t know who is doing this to us, Asajo family sold this land to us and they are as surprised as us at this turn of events. We were told that the person that wrote the petition is allegedly a friend to the commissioner, Wasiu Anifowoshe and that’s why he is lording it over us.”
According to the residents, the policemen that came for the demolition, about 40 of them, were completely masked and allegedly brutalized the residents, hitting them with their guns as they tried to question the demolition. “They didn’t allow us record the injustice with our phones nor did they allow us take anything from our houses. I am completely finished,” she said.
Another resident, Thomas Ajasin narrated how he learnt of the painful incidence. “On that fateful day, I was on my way to work and I was called to come back, that my house was being demolished by some policemen and officers from the physical and urban planning. I took a bike from mile 12 and rushed home only to meet my house demolished. We don’t have any problem with the family, there is no pending court case, this is a legitimate property, what have we done? There was no court order, no notice served, nothing. Why is the government trying to frustrate us so much?” Ajasin says he has sent his wife and children to live elsewhere while he manages in a small shed he set up on the land. “Me, a former house owner now living like an IDP refugee on my own land that I suffered to buy and build, what did I do to this government?” he asked rhetorically.
Another resident, Olaiya Adeola couldn’t hold back tears and asked the Lagos state government to come to their aid. At the time of the demolition, her baby was 15 days old but that didn’t matter as she was chased out of the house with her child and the building promptly brought down. Speaking with The Guardian, Olaiya said, “Is it a crime to be poor in this country? Why is this government oppressing us this way? They just discharged my baby from the hospital since that black day; my older children haven’t gone to school since the incidence. I built a 3 bedroom flat now I am living in a shed with my children where snakes, mosquitoes and scorpions are dragging ownership of the shed with us and bite us severally. I have to keep watch over my children at night when they sleep so that snakes don’t bite them. I am calling on the government to correct this injustice and demand that the people behind this wickedness to compensate us.”
Speaking from her sick bed, one Mrs. Wilson another resident, said she hasn’t regained herself since that day. According to her, she slumped immediately she saw her house being brought down and woke up in a hospital two days later. “We were told that someone has bought the land to use for a hotel and we should vacate immediately. See my children and I, see the way we are suffering, who will take us in? The man that is responsible for this evil came here this morning with armed policemen to come and see if his evil deed has been carried out. After looking round, he jumped into his vehicle and drove off.”
Representing the Asajo family, one Prince Adeola Kosoko insisted that the land belongs to them and has never been involved in any form of contention and they sold it legally to the residents and there were no squatters on the land. He said the land is free from government acquisition and they had never had any problem with either land grabbers or the government and was very surprised and disturbed at the turn of events.
Brandishing several petitions, Cof Os and approval permits, the spokesperson of the residents, Victor Armstrong says they have received several threats already from the land grabbing syndicate that arrangements are in top gear to remove the debris of the illegal demolition in order to conceal the act and as well as hand over possession of the land stolen from them to the land grabbers behind the illegal demolition. He insists that the land is not under any known government acquisition, no court judgment was obtained against them and the demolition is not as a result of any levying of execution of court judgment.
The commissioner, Wasiu Anifowoshe however denied all the allegations, saying he was never personally involved but followed the law in its totality. Speaking to The Guardian, he said, “Before any demolition is carried out in the state, necessary notices are served and in this case, we served four different notices at different times and intervals, contravention notice, stop work notice, quit notice before the demolition notice. We gave them a mandatory date to respond to the ministry and they did not. The governor duly approved this demolition operation as we cannot carry out any demolition without his knowledge and permission.”
“Whatever we do is guided by the law and we can’t use sentiments to operate or oppress anyone. The demolition wasn’t done at night but in the broad daylight. If any of them have titles they should bring it to my notice.”
Asking him if the land belonged to the government or the aggrieved owners, Anifowoshe said all lands belong to the state government and the houses in question were demolished because they don’t have title document and development permit. He added that as soon as the owners get the titles and permits, they are free to build whatever they want to on the land.
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