Tears, protests as NRC pulls down structures over Lagos-Ibadan rail tracks
The NRC had on Friday commenced the demolition ahead of the commencement of the 155-kilometre Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge train project, which was recently launched by the vice president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo.
Managing Director of the NRC, Fidet Okhiria, had at the weekend told newsmen that bulldozers would clear all “illegal” structures on the railway line, pointing out that property owners with valid documents would be compensated. He also said owners of the affected structures had been duly notified to pack their belongings.
Shortly after Okhiria made his intention known, the corporation swung into action clearing all structures blocking the rail line beginning from Yaba up to Surulere, Mushin, Oshodi, Ikeja, Iju-Ishaga, Agbado, among others.
As many Nigerians were celebrating Easter and the holidays, many structures were being pulled down on the rail line while several houses are currently marked for demolition with residents currently living in fear and anxiety.
No fewer than five churches, three mosques and two preparatory schools were reduced to rubbles in the demolition carried out by the NRC to clear the rail track for the Federal Government Railway Modernisation Project.
The demolition started around 8a.m. on Friday when many of the traders were yet to open for business. The operation was led by the chairman of NRC Committee for Removal of Illegal Structures, Mr. Anthony Ochuko Onyokoko. More than 2,000 shanties were demolished in the operation.
Some of the affected occupants and traders could not be consoled as they counted their losses. Mrs. Kabirat Adeniji, 48, who operated a wholesale liquor store rolled on the floor as her three shops were brought down. She said she had recently stocked her shops with goods worth N500,000.
Mrs. Adeniji, who said she rented the three shops 18 years ago, said: “These people (NRC officials) have finished me. There is nothing my children and I will eat again. As you can see, my source of livelihood has just been destroyed by the Railway Corporation. I don’t know where to start again. As I am talking to you, I don’t have anything again.”
However, residents and landlords are crying foul over the demolition, saying they were caught unawares as they were not adequately notified neither was any compensation paid to them.
Briefing newsmen yesterday, landlords and residents of Railway line in Mushin, off Olateju street, said the notice given to them was very short. Besides, there was no form of compensation paid to them, they claim.
Warning the Federal Government to thread softly with the demolition, spokesman of the Landlords’ Association, Mr. Daniel O. Daniels, said they at first thought the demolition was a rumour until the NRC brought cranes to their area.
“We were caught unawares because the notice that we were given was too short. Nobody was prepared for it and so far no compensation has been made. Everything was just like a rumour. Then it came to pass and we were told that this is the first batch, that they are still coming for the second batch, which would affect the real houses in this area.
“The notice we were given is just too short. They came on Thursday and they started demolition on Friday, less than 24 hours,” he added.Chief Imam of Sadiku Oloro Central Mosque, already marked for demolition, said most of the landlords in the area are widows and pensioners who are already living from hand to mouth. He said pulling down their property would worsen their precarious situation.
Also speaking, Alhaji Abdullateef Adegboyega said he has been living in the area for the past 50 years. He pleaded with the NRC to settle them before embarking on any demolition. He said his building marked for demolition has valid documents.