Outrage as Lagos leases coastal road to church, private developers
Residents of the estates in Lekki communities are protesting against alleged leasing of the coastal road, an alternative to the tolled Lekki-Epe Expressway, to private developers by the Lagos State government. They are infuriated that instead of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu fixing the road as promised while campaigning for election, he resorted to leasing it to private developers on temporary basis, which may later become permanent. The residents are afraid that if nothing is done to fix the road before the Dangote Refinery, free trade zone, airport and others on the axis become operational, Lagos would be creating another Apapa gridlock situation in Lekki with its dire consequences for the economy and social life of the people in the area. CHIJIOKE IREMEKA reports
Recently, protest erupted in Lekki communities over alleged allocation of the Lekki Coastal Road, an alternative to the ever-busy Lekki-Epe Expressway, to private developers by the Lagos State government.
The residents, who demonstrated against leasing part of the road to private developers, including a church and an event centre on temporary basis, said life would be miserable on the axis if inventors were allowed to develop the land for their own gains.
They are further alarmed that such temporary allotment of the land, if allowed to continue, would soon become permanent and would worsen the traffic situation in the area. They described as disheartening the government’s refusal to fix the 55-year-old road despite revenue it generates from the Lekki axis.
The residents said the project initially designed by the Federal Government to run from Lagos through Ondo, Delta and Rivers states was long overdue for construction, lamenting that absence of such coastal road has exposed them and other road users to gridlock on the Lekki-Epe Expressway.
Saddened by the development, the protesters from over 100 estates on the Lekki corridors took to the streets recently after all efforts made to stop the government from leasing the road yielded no fruit. They carried placards with different inscriptions all saying they wanted a coastal road and not private developers or event centre.
“The only road that cuts across this region is the Lekki-Epe Expressway. If you live in this area, you will know that already for one to move out of the home to go to office, one needs to wake up at 5am,” President of Lekki Estates Residents and Stakeholders Association (LERSA), Olorogun Emadoye said of the gridlock on the road.
According to him, it came as a thing of joy and relief for the residents during the campaign in 2019 when Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, then All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship candidate, promised to construct a coastal road to ease movement on the axis, but their happiness has turned to worry when the governor resorted to leasing the road to private developers.
“Just recently, when the residents saw bulldozers clearing the road, they went to church celebrating, thinking that it was about to be constructed, but to their amazement, the road is being allocated to private developer for temporary use (10 years),” he said.
Calling for stoppage of the allocation, LERSA argued that allocating such a place to a church would bring about mindboggling developments on the land within one year that the government may find difficult to destroy when the church is eventually asked to quit.
“We have over 100 estates and communities around Lekki from 1004 Area to Epe. We are protesting to let Lagos State know that allocating the coastal road, even though temporarily, to developers is not acceptable to the people of Lekki for many reasons.
“If we allow this so-called temporary allocation, in one or two years, we would hear that it has become permanent. Then, the government will begin to tell us that there are no funds to pay compensation. We do not want it.
“We are ready, as a people directly affected by the development of this road, to cooperate with the government in whichever way necessary to ensure that the road is maintained and life is made bearable for the people. All we are saying is for the government to stop the allocation.”
The protesters told The Guardian that they were worried that another Apapa gridlock situation might happen on the axis if proactive measures were not taken to expand the road infrastructure, especially as Lekki is located along the coastal line of Lagos.
Lekki, they noted, is probably the fastest growing economic and industrial hub in the state with the establishment of the Lekki Free Trade Zone that sits on a total land area of 16, 500 hectares.
More so, Dangote Oil Refinery, which is the largest in Africa, with its conglomerates like the fertilizer plant, petrochemical plant and sub–sea gas pipeline project, are expected to commence operations in the local council development area in a couple of years to come.
It was learnt that the Lekki Deep Sea Port, which will also be sited along the coastal line of Lekki, will, after completion, increase the revenue from Lagos ports from its current N250 billion to over N600billion.
The people are agitated that as this happens, importers, who are currently using the plots of neighbouring countries, would switch to the Lekki Deep Sea Port, thereby creating another Apapa kind of traffic dilemma on the axis.
There is concern that these investments will put pressure on the only existing road, hence the need to develop the Lekki coastline road.
“It is also heartless of the state government not to construct this road in spite of all the investments coming to this place. The reason the government gave for leasing the land is unfounded,” Emadoye said.
The government said it leased the space to prevent hoodlums from occupying the land as they did to the areas earlier cleared.
A member of the House of Representatives, Adebayo Balogun (Ibeju-Lekki Federal Constituency, Lagos), in a motion titled ‘Urgent Need to Construct the Lekki Coastal Road from Akodo Ise to Victoria Island, Lagos State’, urged the government to expedite action on the project.
He highlighted a number of developments coming to the axis and the need for the government to construct the road. According to the lawmaker, the Lekki coastline road starting from Akodo Ise in Ibeju Lekki to Ahmadu Bello Way, Victoria Island in Eti-Osa, is part of the Federal Government’s proposed Port Harcourt – Lagos coastal road project that has now become the state government’s responsibility.
Secretary General of LERSA, Gbemi Adelekan, said the coastal road project initially belonged to the Federal Government, but a court ceded it to Lagos State government when the state challenged the Federal Government in a littoral suit.
“Lekki will be worse than what is happening at Apapa in the next five years. If the Lekki-Epe road is the only road in this region in spite of these developments, it will be a disaster. The government needs to build infrastructures to accommodate the kind of development projects that we are envisaging.
“The expressway is falling apart and we are even paying tolls. Projects worth billions of naira are coming to Lekki – airport, refinery, seaport and many others. Sometimes, we spend four hours on the road before getting home. The alternative road is not good but a portion of it is manageable if you have a Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV).
“Already, over 20 plots of land on the coastal road have been allocated to an event centre and the Christ Livingspring Apostolic Ministry (CLAM) at Goshen Beach Estate. We are surprised that CLAM is willing to embark on this illegality and also rushing the structure,” Adelekan said.
Chairman of Goshen Beach Estate Residents Association (GBERA), Mrs. Teniola Jaiyeola, said the problem of the miscreants-dominated areas posing threats to the residents is what the state government should be solving rather than creating more problem for the future government.
“The allusions that areas allocated or leased to CLAM and the event centre are infested with hoodlums, miscreants and shanties are not factual. It is a misrepresentation. All the areas that are heavily infested with hoodlums, miscreants and shanties are still there. The area that was allocated to CLAM and event centre by the government was never populated by hoodlums and miscreants. It is the only section on the stretch of the coastal road that is secured and well maintained.
“What we had there was well organised paving stones, making individuals known to the residents of the adjourning estates with proper security arrangements and safety measures. There has never been issue of security breach at the section of the coastal road allocated to CLAM church and event centre.
“The only access road to the stretch of the road allocated to CLAM and the event centre was constructed by the residents of the abutting estates at their own cost, having paid New Towns Development Agency (NTDA) and other Lagos State government agencies to construct the road.
“All other roads in the neighbourhood constructed by NTDA are completely gated without access to the coastal road, putting pressure on the road constructed by the residents in the area and aggravating traffic situation.
“It is curious that the areas given priority in the leasing are the ones of least concern for reasons given by NTDA and the state government. None of the areas heavily populated by hoodlums with shanties, without residential estates, has witnessed any construction activities on the coastal road.
“LERSA and the adjourning estates have indicated interest to maintain the stretch of the road where the estates are to ensure that no shanties or miscreants spring up there by setting up recreational facilities and green areas with minimal structure.
“This is a win-win situation for everyone. The problem of accentuated traffic logjam, disturbances of peace and tranquility of residents are averted and the government can commence the coastal road construction forthwith the moment they are ready without hitch,” Jaiyeola said.
When The Guardian journeyed through the coastal road from Goshen Estate through Aboki Estate to Orile-Ilasan, Plantain Chips axis, Ghana School, Elegushi Beach Area and ended at Jakande, it was discovered that it continues till Ondo State.
It was learnt that Aboki Estate, which is highly populated by the ‘miscreants’, got its name from the number of Hausa settlers there. The Hausa, popularly called Aboki, were seen on the road doing their business of waste sorting and recycling.
It was a village of its own where everything happens. The residents are so observant to detect any stranger to the axis. Once they see a new face in their environment, they will focus on the person to know his or her mission.
One photograph taken from the site alerted them to the presence of The Guardian reporter and one could hear them muttering some words, which forced the reporter out of the area to avoid being attacked.
It was observed that the areas where ‘miscreants’ settle are not touched while some shanties were found on the coastal road. In fact, at Ilesan, permanent structures were seen on the road, but it is believed that they will be destroyed as soon as the government is ready to move to the site.
To forestall a situation where people will be allowed to build houses on the coastal road and have them demolished in the future, thereby causing pain and agony, a property lawyer, Emeka Ndukwe urged the government to end all forms of occupation of any portion of the road by any individual and think of constructing the road.
“If the government allows this to happen, it will lead to litigation when the state declines compensation for the structures it is going to demolish afterwards. The best way to deal with this if the government wants to ensure that the land is not occupied by miscreants, is to cordon it off and monitor any form of encroachment on the road, and not leasing it out to private developers,” he said.
It was learnt that the miscreants gathered themselves to attack the protesters on the day of protest but they tactically withdrew from the areas that they occupied upon hearing the plans against them.
“They regrouped to attack us but we got the wind of their plans. It was terrible that when they leased the area, they used culvert to block the road and people were suffering. It took our regular complaints to get the NTDA to open a part of the road,” the residents said.
The Guardian observed that almost three quarters of the coastal road have been given out, while mechanic workshops have taken over the other side, leaving only one lane. The space left will not accommodate two vehicles at once; one has to wait for the other to access the road first, else both will be stuck.
“We pay high tax and PAYE here, why does the government wants to suffer us. The Lekki-Epe road is always busy. The other day, it took me three hours to get home from just a short distance. When this started, we had a meeting with them but it didn’t stop. We had the first meeting on December 26, 2021,” Teni said.
“We sweep that place every Friday. We pay five people who sweep it. Since the NTDA took over the site, it has been in a serious mess. We also pay Lagos Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) to carry the debris. We want to believe that these people misrepresented matters to the governor that these areas are miscreants-infested. No. They have done nothing where the miscreants are.
“We built this road and raised it with over N20 million. The contractors told us not to allow heavy trucks to move on it, as it will destroy the road. We put a barrier on the road but when the land was leased to CLAM, the heavy vehicles that brought sand and gravel for them knocked off the barrier and since then, they have unlimited access to the road.
“That is why you see that the road is being affected. We build the road and I know what it costs. So, the layers of basement that CLAM is building show that this is not a temporary thing. You needed to see the tons of iron, and cement consumed by the land.
“No person in his right senses will spend such amount of money if not in long-term business agreement. In fact, the contractors that built this road for us paid NTDA and other government agencies before constructing the road.
“An Irish company, Converse Engineering, which built the famous Folorunsho Alakija Road in Ikoyi, built the access road for us, all cost implication borne by the residents,” she said.
When The Guardian contacted the construction company on its official email addresses to know how much it paid to the government agencies to get the work done, the messages bounced back with a message: “Your message wasn’t delivered firstname.lastname@example.org because the domainconverseconstructions-ng.com couldn’t be found…”
It was later learnt that in 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, the company moved back to Ireland. Also when contacted, the Chief Executive Officer of Annie Communication, a media management consultant that manages CLAM, Mr. Umoh AniediAbasi, he said the structure being erected by the church was not a permanent one. He said the government made it clear that it was going to be a temporary structure that would be removed when they are ready.
According to him, CLAM applied for the space when the government expressed interest in the developer that will put the space into good use pending when work will begin on the road and won the place.
“It is clear that the church will be there just for a certain period of time. If you go to that place, you will see that it isn’t a permanent structure. It’s built with canopy as you can see. So, what the residents are saying that we are erecting permanent structure there is not true,” he quipped.
On how long the church will stay on that parcel of land, he said he did not know as it is contained in a document signed by the government, which he is not privy to.
“You can see another person there, who won the other side of the road; they are working on theirs too,” Abasi said.
Also, efforts to get the event centre speak failed as no one was able to mention the name of the centre that won it, nor did The Guardian see anybody on the site during the visit.
When asked why they attacked the protesters and occupied the space cleared by the government, one of those referred to as miscreants, who identified himself as Musa, denied attacking them. He said they were rather trying to protect their homes from being destroyed by the protesters. “After protesting now, the government will come and chase us away,” he said in Pidgin English.
“This is our shelter for now. Things are not right in the country and everything is expensive. We can’t afford a rent of N100, 000 when we do not have anything doing,” another occupier of the shanties at the other side of Goshen Beach Estate, Shakwu said.
‘We License People To Use It Temporarily’
But the Lagos State government debunked insinuations that it was allocating portions of the land earmarked for the Lekki-Epe coastal road to private developers.
The Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Gbenga Omotoso, told The Guardian that the government allowed temporary structures on the land to prevent miscreants from occupying it. Omotoso didn’t specify how long the structures will last on the land but said “as soon as the government is ready to work on the road.”
According to him, the miscreants have taken over the areas already cleared by the state and there is likelihood that they will do the same to the area cleared by the Goshen Estate. He said the government acted decisively.
The commissioner, who visited the site in the company of other state government officials, noted that there is delay in the commencement of work on the Lekki coastal road because the state is currently working on the regional roads and Lekki-Epe Expressway.
On the claim by the residents that the engineering company that constructed the road for them (residents) paid an undisclosed amount to the NTDA and other government agencies for approval, Omotoso said: “I don’t think so but I will find out.”
The commissioner explained: “There have been allegations that the government has been allocating the land to people for some other uses. I will like to put it on record that there has been no allocation of land there. What we have done is to license people to use this place temporarily.
“Nobody is permitted to build any permanent structure here; what you see here are temporary structures. Anytime we need to continue work on the coastal road, the work will continue again. Nobody has any permission to build something that is permanent here.
“There have been legitimate complaints and anxiety. But compared to the first place we visited, which had been taken over by miscreants (though they had been sent packing before), this place is free from miscreants. The government will, however, not allow them to continue there.
“So, for us to be able to keep the security of this environment, we allowed people who can use this place as a temporary base. We have permitted certain people to build temporary structures here as long as they would use the space for good causes.
“We don’t want shanties to grow like mushrooms; we don’t want people whose character and nature we do not know to take over the land. So, it is not true that the government is allocating the land to people permanently, what they are doing here is temporary and it’s going to be temporary until it is time to build the coastal road and everything there would be removed.
“When the residents complained that CLAM was raising a permanent structure, I went there and saw that it wasn’t a permanent structure. If the church wanted anything permanent, it would go for bricks and mortar.”