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FESTAC land allottees to take possession 30 years after

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Following outrage over Sunday’s demolition of illegal structures in FESTAC Town, Lagos State, by officials of the Federal Housing Authority (FHA), the public has been urged to show sympathy to the allottees rather than owners of demolished structures.

Some of the allottees have died without getting access to their land while people ripped them off by making money on their land for almost 30 years.

The Guardian learnt that the demolition, which started around 5.00a.m. and continued till around 3.00 p.m, affected about 12 churches and two mosques on 2nd Avenue, as well as automobile shops and workshops and markets.

Some leaders of the affected churches had queried the marking of their structures stressing that they had been there for long. For example, the leader of the Gate of Righteousness Evangelical International Church, Pastor Joshua Obong, claimed that he started his ministry in the community 18 years ago and wondered why his church was targeted for demolition.

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He said: “The officials first came last week and started marking our buildings. After they were done, they left and returned two days later. That was when they gave us a seven-day notice, which expired last Wednesday.

“On Sunday morning, around 5.00a.m., we suddenly saw bulldozers at the First Gate, FESTAC Town. They got to my church at exactly 11a.m.; they demolished all the churches along the road, except the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Communion Chapel and CPM, which they spared. All other churches were brought down.”

Obong said there was no other warning prior to the seven-day notice. Also, the Overseer of Christ Gospel Church International, Pastor William Ehiorenren, said a senior government official had advised them to send a lawyer to Abuja to sort out the matter. He said his church usually paid tenancy rates to landlords, who he claimed had legal claims to the land.

But Managing Director, FHA, Senator Gbenga Ashafa, said the demolition of illegal structures was not done to target religious organisations or any group as speculated.

He said at a meeting with stakeholders at the estate, the ongoing demolition of illegal structures was to give way for dredging a canal and dislodging illegal occupants.

Ashafa, represented by FHA South West Zonal Manager, Mr. Akintola Olagbemiro, said the measure was also to ensure a proper survey in line with the FESTAC master plan, to give possession to the real allottees.

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He also vowed to sustain the ongoing efforts to return the lost glory of FESTAC Housing Estate. He said: “Last Sunday, we started the implementation of the second phase of the consent judgment, which was for clearing the illegal structures within the buffer zones along the Second Avenue as well as the expressway.

“Before then, we had earlier implemented the first phase of the judgment, which was to dredge the canal along the buffer.

“This will allow the clearance for the proper survey and development of parcels of land along this axis in accordance with the master plan,” he said.

Ashafa said the measure was to keep his mandate of restoring the lost glory of FESTAC, adding that several quit notices were served on the illegal occupants before the actual demolition was carried out.

For the Chairman of 1st -2nd gates allotees, Kole Olatunji, said the land between first and third gates was allocated to different allottees over 30 years because of the court case between FHA and the resident association. He regretted that the delay gave room for illegal squatters and occupants on the land.

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President, FESTAC Town Residents Association, Mr. Shola Fakorede, said the demolition was the start of the implementation of the second phase of the judgment to clear the shanties along the border.

He noted that though the exercise was very painful and unfortunate, the law must be obeyed. He said: “If we must be sympathetic to any stakeholder, it must be the allottees.

“Somebody is using your land for almost 30 years without giving him a dime, it is very unfair. We have to secure the place now that it has been cleared to ensure that the allottees take possession of their plots.”

Also, Mr. Victor Nweze, a resident of 112 Road, commended FHA for the demotion and called for its sustenance to rid FESTAC off criminal elements as over 50 per cent of okada riders reside in the affected area.

On his part, Executive Chairman, Amuwo Odofin Local Government, Valentine Buraimoh, praised the FHA for the action and called for immediate takeover of the cleared areas by the allottees to avert further illegal occupation.

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