Maroko evictees deplore persistent harassment by land-grabbers in Ikota
Want Govt To Take Serious Action Against Outlaws
Despite several warnings from the Lagos State government to land-grabbers to desist from seizing peoples’ land, or demolishing their houses without following due process, the latter has continued to perpetuate their dastardly acts with impunity.
Recently, residents of Ikota Low-Cost Housing Estate, along Epe Expressway, Lagos, had a taste of this bitter pill when, without prior notice, hundreds of them and their children were forced out of their homes and rendered homeless by land-grabbers.
According to one of the victims, on that fateful day, they were woken from their sleep by the heavy sound of bulldozers pulling down their houses, while the land-grabbers and security operatives stood by to supervise the demolition.
Not knowing where to run to, the evictees were forced to stay by the roadside throughout the day expecting help to come their way. Their hopes were dashed as some spent the night in the cold.
Sadly, some of the evictees were among those evicted from Maroko in 1990.
Recounting how the Lagos State government relocated the Maroko evictees to Ikota Low-Cost Housing Estate 32 years ago, one of the aggrieved residents, Mrs. Aina Saka, said: “The Governor Raji Rasaki-led administration brought us here, and July 14, 2022, will be 32 years since we have been living here. But these developers come once in five years to disturb us. Sometimes, they set some of our houses ablaze as a ploy to make us leave so that they would take over the land.
“With impunity, they seize our plots of land and build duplexes and an ultramodern market on them. In 2018, they grabbed Mobil Road and Isakaba Road from us. It resulted in a riot that claimed seven lives,” she recalled.
Mrs. Saka revealed that the land-grabbers recently took over some plots of land in the Gedegede area of the state, which belongs to Ikota Housing Estate, and demolished houses there with their bulldozers.
According to her, these land-grabbers carry out their dubious acts with the support of compromised security operatives and hordes of ruffians better known as “area boys.”
She added that sometimes, “they come with documents, which they coerce their victims to fill, and sign at gunpoint. After signing these documents, money ranging from N10, 000 to N20, 000 will be given to the landlord/lady as compensation.
For the Chairman of Ikota Landlord Association, Mr. Titus Ewarawon, the only solution to this repeated demolition is for the Lagos State government to intervene by developing the area.
According to him, even though the Lagos Building Investment Company (LBIC) under Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, met with some of their leaders and thereafter claimed to have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with a multipurpose infrastructural development company (MIDC) to develop the area, members of the association later found out that the said document was signed by only a few members of the community, while the majority resisted.
He disclosed that the LBIC later informed the residents to liaise with MIDC against any external intervention, and the people obeyed because the LBIC has the Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) of plots in the estate.
He added that the LBIC has been informed of the latest happening in the estate, and the Landlord/Residence Association is still awaiting a reply.
However, the secretary of Ikota Landlords’ Association, Mr. Olushola Adeyemi, has called on the Lagos State government to intervene to stem a repeat of the ugly incident that happened after the demolition of Maroko.
He noted that many young girls suffered during the displacement, as they got impregnated and could no longer attend schools.
“After the Maroko demolition, the government relocated some of us to Ikota Housing Estate, and others to Dolphin, Jakande estates, and other places, these land-grabbers are here again and want us to move. Initially, they said that we were going to be relocated to Ogombo, which we kicked against,” he added.
Recalling what happened in the community in 2019, Adeyemi alleged that the land-grabbers who came with gunmen ended up killing nine youths that obstructed their legitimate activities, calling on the government to step in to avoid the loss of lives again.
As a way of ensuring peace, the representative of Eti-Osa Constituency, in the state House of Assembly, Noheem Adams, recently called a meeting of the Landlords Association, CDA, and some residents where he urged all to cooperate with the developers, Sole Capital, to further develop the estate and its neighbouring communities.
Stemming from this, Adeyemi accused the government of being insincere, saying that his group also found out that no company in Lagos State goes by the appellation, Sole Capital.
Recalling how some of them became landlords, one of the evictees, Comrade Eshiet, said that when they were evicted from Maroko, some of them moved to Ikota and occupied some of the unoccupied structures allegedly built for the Nigerian Navy, in the estate, adding that the Lagos State government later allocated the buildings to them.
He said: “Because the structures were not occupied, we (the evictees) took over them until the Lagos State government allocated the houses to some of the landlords that were evicted from Maroko. We were living in these structures up till July 1990 before the Lagos State government used its powers to send everybody packing.”
He disclosed that Mr. Femi Falana, on August 1, 1990, stood for the evictees at a Lagos High Court, Igbosere, and the judgment was that the people should be given a 21-day ultimatum to quit. He noted that up to date the quit notice is yet to come.
Eshiet, who claimed that the government needed Maroko, hence it exchanged it with Ikota, stressed that if there is any change of mind on the part of the government or its agents regarding the Ikota settlement, the beneficiaries should be returned to Maroko for peace to reign.
The General Secretary, Maroko Evictees Association (MEA), Mr. Benson Oketola, while also narrating his version of the story, stated that in 1982/83, the government in the process of constructing an expressway, demolished many houses along the road, and the landlords and landladies of those houses were relocated to Dolphin, Jakande, and Ilasan housing estates, among others.
He lamented that the frequent evictions carried out by the state government and land-grabbers in different parts of the state were sending many landlords and landladies to their early graves.
According to one of the landlords, Joseph Jackson, the government is only aware of two categories of residents in the Ikota Estate — allottees and the non-allottees.
According to him, the allottees have documents for the plots of land that they built on, and the flats, which they occupy, while the non-allottees do not have documents to back up their property.
He informed that even among the allottees, there are those allotted the “HFP flats” and those that were given bare land to build on.
Jackson informed that some of the houses demolished belonged to those who were not given HFP flats because they were built on government land.
The current leader of Maroko evictees, Alhaji Tajudeen Jegede, reiterated that since 1990 when Maroko was destroyed, his association has taken the Lagos State government to different international organisations, including the African Charter that sat at The Gambia, and other humanitarian organisations. And up to date, there has not been any concrete result.
He disclosed that the Lagos State government went to the extent of stopping the Ford Foundation from building alternative houses for its members in the Jakande Estate.
He, however, said that respite was on the way, as the state government has promised to relocate them. This notwithstanding, Jegede said that they were still completely uncertain of what fate awaited them, or the next place that the government may be planning to take them to.
He said: “If the government demolishes Ikota Housing Estate, to where will they relocate the people?”