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Omole Phase Il Estate: Residents move against bastardisation,contravention of planning rules  

By Eno-Abasi Sunday
04 December 2022   |   3:50 am
When most residents of Omole Phase II Estate, in the Olowora area of Lagos State moved into the facility, they craved a neat, orderly, secure environment to raise their kids, enjoy functional amenities, and reside with pleasant neighbours.

Some of the affected houses

When most residents of Omole Phase II Estate, in the Olowora area of Lagos State moved into the facility, they craved a neat, orderly, secure environment to raise their kids, enjoy functional amenities, and reside with pleasant neighbours. They found all these in the facility. But of late, things have gone awry. 

  
Specifically, the bastardisation and contraventions of planning rules, and the fallout of some residents converting their structures into hotels and short-let apartments in the last five years have left many residents agitated. 
  
They insist that such actions will compromise their security, hence the need for the state government to hearken to their appeals, and do the needful. 
  
Established by the Lagos State government in the 1970s, the estate comprises about 1, 200 houses and apartments, with an estimated 10, 000 residents.

By the last count, eight house owners have breached the residential designation of the estate, and turned their buildings into hotels and short-let apartments. 
    
Affected plots include Plot 703, Somide Odujinrin Street; Plot 865, Durosimi Abokunwa Street; Plot 606, Toyin Elearamo Street; Plot 660, Toyin Elearamo Street; Plot 12B, Sowande Street; Plot 832, Oyebode Street; Plot 665B, Tawaliu Bello Street, and Plot 7, Olatanji Adetutu Odunlami Street
  
Expectedly, transformations like this, come with their diverse security challenges, and that is the fear that the residents are beginning to express.

  
According to the Chairman, Omole Phase II Community Development Association (CDA), Mr. Moshood Shehu: “The hotels and short-lets started springing up about five years ago. Some residents started converting their apartments, contrary to hotels and short-let apartments, but the approvals that they got were for residential premises. These premises have now been converted to commercial uses without any formal application for conversion, or to operate a hotel. We wrote several letters to the affected residents and the Lagos State Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Developments to abate the practice.”
  
One of the letters dated August 18, 2022, to the commissioner, Lagos State Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development, Ikeja, entitled, “Request To Shutdown Hostels And Short lets In Omole Phase II Estate Lagos, reads: “We refer to previous letters to your ministry whereby we sought assistance for the abatement of commercialisation and contravention of planning rules in Omole Phase Il Estate.
  
“We have had a recent proliferation of hotels and short-lets in our estate, which is compromising the security and well-being of our estate. Some prostitutes were recently seen patrolling major streets of our estate, and the proliferation of hotels and short lets was responsible for this. 
  
“The hotels and short-lets are residential premises converted without approval from your ministry. There are also no approvals from other government agencies to operate as hotels. With the security situation in the country, our residents are not comfortable with the influx of strangers in their midst.
  
“We, therefore, seek your intervention and assistance to shut down the hotels and short-lets…” the letter added.The letter to the commissioner was done about two months after the affected owners of the converted structures were equally communicated to.
  
The letter written to the owner of Plot 703, Somide Odujinrin Street, on June 27, 2022, titled: “Notice To Stop Operation Of Hotels And Short-lets In Omole Phase 2 Estate reads: “It has come to the attention of the CDA that your premises is currently being used and operated as a hotel or ‘short let.’ Lodgers who are not residents of the estate are admitted into the premises and lodged for a fee usually for a short period.
  
“The operation of hotels and short-lets is contrary to the residential designation of the estate, the conditions of the Certificates of Occupancy for premises in the Estate, and the planning approvals of the Lagos State government.
  
“The General Meeting of the CDA at its meeting on June 25, 2022, resolved that, in view of the current situation of insecurity in the country, and to assure the safety of lives and property in the estate, operation of hotels and short-lets in the estate should stop within 30 days, i.e., on or before July 26, 2022
  
“Consequently, you are hereby advised to cease the operation of your hotel/short-lets by July 26, 2022, as the CDA shall take appropriate steps to resist the contraventions and the bastardisation of the estate.” The letter that was signed by Shehu and the General Secretary, Lola Johnson. 
  
Speaking to The Guardian on why activities of the hotels and the short-let apartments became a source of concern to residents, Shehu said that it was “when we started seeing commercial sex workers in the estate. We also started seeing several strangers, including suspected Internet fraudsters better known as Yahoo boys, and alleged drug addicts. They are alleged to be the patrons of these hotels and short-lets.”
    
Another resident that is peeved with contemporary realities on the estate is Mr. Toyin Omotoso, who has lived in the facility for over three decades. 
  
Taking a drive down memory lane, he recalled: “I’ve been in the estate for over 30 years, and the then classification of the estate as a strictly low-density residential estate was the major attraction as no more than two families were allowed per plot. There were a lot of facilities such as libraries, recreation centres, etc planned for the estate. Early “settlers” invested so much in the development and provision of infrastructural facilities including roads, constant electricity (supply of a minimum of 20 hours per day) water, schools, and the provision of security, etc.”
  
Omotoso, an engineer who informed that residents are registered and known to each other, added that efforts by residents to make the estate a conducive one “attracted all shades of interest. Thus, the population of the estate rose significantly, and as security challenges in the state worsen, the estate also got hit primarily because of its location on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, which offered a quick getaway for unscrupulous elements.
 
“This development,” he alleged, “gave rise to the conversion of purely residential houses to short-let apartments, and hotels, which patrons are usually not profiled, and constitute a huge security concern to residents,” he said. 
 
“Additionally, the buildings are not built and approved by the authorities for use as short lets and hotels, therefore, they lack the necessary facilities to cope with their use for such functions.
  
He added that the presence of sex workers in the facility now is not just frustrating, but threatening the proper upbringing and development of children, and therefore poses a big threat to the nation’s security. 
   
Sharing Omotoso’s sentiments is Mrs. Dolapo Ademola, who moved into the estate in March 2012, and for the 10 and a half years that she’s been there, “the location, serene environment, security, and peaceful atmosphere endeared me to this estate. 
  
“I am very bothered because of what is going on. I work in Ibadan, Oyo State, so I leave Lagos on Mondays and return on weekends when I can. Sometimes I stay for two weeks. Before now, I didn’t have to worry about the safety of my family whenever I am not around. Some old tenants in the estate are moving out due to the demolition of old buildings by developers to construct new ones. The new houses are getting unaffordable and the new landlords’ quest to commercialise the buildings, is making us prone to unnecessary discomfort, fear, and infiltration of questionable characters in our estate.”
  
Fearing that the worst could still be in the offing with the sprouting up of hospitality outfits in an exclusive residential estate, she exclaimed, “I don’t want to imagine this, but we know what estates like Festac, Lekki, Omole Phase 1 were before the emergence of hotels, lounges, short lets, etc. They felt they could control them, but see how that has turned out. 
  
“Environment is one of the key factors that I consider in raising my kids and that is the reason that I moved here (at a premium as the rent here is more expensive). If that is lost, the value and respect attached to our beloved estate will be eroded. Some of us have struggled and toiled to make our estate the estate of our dreams, and will not allow some persons who liked what they saw to hijack the concept for their selfish interest. So, we say a big no to the commercialisation of our estate.”
 
 Mrs. Bosede Coker, who has also lived in the estate since 2018, said that for her, “security, the residential nature of the estate, amenities, and accessibility” were some of the attractions, “ but the appearance of unknown faces in the estate is a big security breach and of huge security concerns to me. My worst fear is that of exposure of residents, especially our teenage children and youths to people of questionable character. What is happening here will compromise the environment and reduce the value and the upscale image of Omole Phase 2 Estate as the best estate on the mainland. It’s very annoying and frustrating to have hotels where sex workers will be patronising our estate. As residents, we kick against commercialisation and want to preserve our environment, the dignity, and the sanity of where we live.”
  
For Joseph Umolu, another resident who moved into the facility in June 2018, what is happening in the estate “is a major concern because you cannot guarantee who the next person is, and this, in the face of a rise in the rate of robbery, kidnapping and other violent crimes. Moreover, I think that the presence of new, strange, and, in some cases, uninvited faces, will put a lot of strain on our security arrangement and might indeed overwhelm the system.”
  
Umolu a lawyer stressed that with the proliferation of hotels and short-let apartments, “there is no guarantee as to the identity of the tenant or lessee. He/she could very well be anyone/criminal disguised to wreak havoc or act as a spy, which could compromise our security architecture. We will find ourselves fighting an enemy from within.
  
“One of the attractions to the estate is that you can guarantee the safety of your children (including moral safety). But when you start having persons of easy virtue within the estate, that attraction could very well be lost. Indeed, such persons should never be allowed within residential premises, nor be allowed to ply their illicit trade with the premises of the estate. This is further strengthened by the fact that as of today such “employment” is still illegal and morally reprehensible among reasonable and well-meaning people,” he concluded.
  
With the concerns expressed by the residents, Shehu, the CDA chairman says he expects the state government to go beyond marking the structures to sealing “the premises as they have no formal approval and constitute a danger to the security, mental and moral health of our community.
 
“For now, the premises are still being operated and if the situation persists, residents may protest this brazen disregard of the law to the Government House or the Assembly as it is only the government that can deal with this menace. Our Estate used to be one of the most secure estates in the country, but the operation of the shortlets is threatening that now. We hope the Lagos State government will come to our aid soon. We are hopeful. Some of the hotel owners were cooperative. Two or three of them have shut down their operations, but some have been very recalcitrant.

One of the owners of the affected properties, Commodore Akinrinade, who accused the estate authorities of allegedly storming his property with “unknown gunmen,” added that he has instituted a case against the CDA.

“I have an apartment for short/long lease in the estate, but the estate CDA carried out an illegal invasion of the place, thereby taking the laws into their hands. Even if they had a case to make, they are going about it the wrong way. So, I am instituting legal actions against the estate authorities,” he said.

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