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Lagos ministry, proprietor bicker over school demolition

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The Queen Diana International School, Oja Oba, Abule Egba, Lagos before the demolition (up) and the school after the ministry pulled down the structures.

The demolition of Queen Diana International School, Oja Oba, Abule Egba recently by the Lagos State Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development has pitted the school management and the state officials.

Already, the principal of the school, situated on a three plots of land of approximately 2009.649 meter squares at 5/7 Ugochukwu Close, off Ahmed Mohammed Street, Oja Oba, Mr. Samuel Ikechi Kanu, has called on Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu to urgently intervened over the demolition of his property carried out by officials of the state’s Physical Urban Development Planning.
 
The principal has alleged that the said property was demolished contrary to a court injunction that all the parties involved in the matter should stay the action pending when the case would be determined.

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Kanu said it is imperative for the governor to intervene to save the career and future of over 500 students among which 100 had already paid and are preparing to write their West African Examination Council (WAEC) later in the year in the demolished three storey building. 

The school was alleged to have been demolished under the instruction of the Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Dr. Idris Salako under the excuse that the government planned to use the land for Computer Village and allies Business Park with short notice of seven days to the proprietor to remove the properties.

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Ikechi further claimed exclusive possession of the said property, with documents that include Certificate of Occupancy he obtained from the state government on September 28, 2001, that was registered as number 89 on page 89 in the volume of the Federal Inland Registry, Ikoyi, Lagos State.

The principal also tendered other documents he obtained from necessary government agencies to justifies his ownership of the property.

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These include Approved Site Planned dated March 2001; Structural Approval dated March 2002; Environmental Impact Analysis Report for the proposed school building dated January 12, 2001, and Lagos State Ministry of Education School approval dated May 28, 1993, June 8, 1993, and October 14, 2007.
 
Although the embattled proprietor lauded Sanwo-Olu’s administration effort of developing infrastructural and development plan for Lagos, he noted that such proposed development plan should not exclude school, which serve the generality of the community. 

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The school, Queen Diana International school is a massive property made up of the three-floor long building in ‘U’ shape. So the establishment, the school has served the community and has been accepted as a community school.
 
The school sits over 500 pupils and students with over 40 academic staff and over 20 non-academic staff strength whose lives and those of their families are dependent on the school.

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However, before the property was finally pulled down, the ministry gave them removal notice, dated January 17,2020. Sadly enough, the property was demolished at the same time the court was granting the injunction that all parties involved should stay action.
 
According to Ikechi, “Following the removal notice, I wrote to the governor, the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN) as well as Commissioner for Physical & Urban Planning and the Permanent Secretary of the state government through the chambers of Dr. Paul Ananaba.

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“Government locked up the school on February  17, despite the notice of the court processes pasted on the wall, showing that the case has been filed in court.”
   
While Justice Oyindamola Ogala was granting an injunction to restrain the defendant from entering the property, demolishing or interfering in any way whatsoever, the place was been leveled to the ground.
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In the suit marked ID/2675LM/20, the court restrained the respondents and their agents, privies from demolishing the property and asked the claimant to serve them within 24 hours.

But the Ministry of Physical Planning Planning and Urban Development has denied that the officials served a short notice on the school, while the Commissioner ordered the demolition of a school in defiance of a court order.

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The ministry in a statement signed by the Commissioner, Salako stated the government had engaged occupants of the area in a series of stakeholder-engagements prior to the administration of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu.

It stated that the relocation of Computer Village in Ikeja to Katangowa, which began during the administration of the past Governor, Senator Bola Tinubu, is a key project in the urban renewal drive of the State Government designed to address the disorderly development in Ikeja and also bring development to Agbado/Oke-Odo LCDA as the project involves massive road construction and the growth of other ancillary services in addition to the proposed ultra-modern ICT Park.

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The commissioner stated that people whose property were affected by this development had not been taken unawares as the Lagos State Government had opened channels of communication with stakeholders in the Agbado Oke-Odo LCDA since the inception of the project.

One of such engagements, he said, was the stakeholders’ meeting convened by the State Government on the premises of Agbado Oke-Odo LCDA in 2017, where modalities of the project were discussed with the people.

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“More recently, on Friday, December 20, 2019, another stakeholders’ meeting was held at the frontage of the Agbado/Oke-Odo Local Council Development Area, where stakeholders were sensitised on the commencement of the project and requested to submit all relevant documents for consideration of compensation.

“The message was also echoed in the publication by the Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development in The Nation Newspaper of the 19th December and the Punch of the 20th December 2019.

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“As part of the process, a final seven-day notice was given to all affected stakeholders, while additional seven days were conceded to Queen Diana International School to allow for the removal of its items, even as the owner was adamant and resorted to the use of uniformed men to stop officers of the Ministry from working.

“It is also worth mentioning that no court order was served on the Ministry before the demolition, neither was there any pending court case, while it is also not true that the Commissioner, an astute professional and a compassionate individual, ordered that students be locked inside the school.

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“It is inconceivable and illogical to assert that any official of the Lagos State government will direct that students be locked within the school premises during the removal of structures; it is also intriguing that the reporter made no attempt to balance his story by seeking government’s side of the story in line with ethics of the journalism profession.

“While we sympathise with the affected stakeholders, it is essential to reiterate that societies are able to cope with emerging physical and environmental challenges through painstaking efforts at urban renewal to engender an organised, liveable and sustainable environment.

“Lagosians can rest assured that the State Government will remain law-abiding in its quest for a Greater Lagos”, it added.

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