Iwaya demolition: Again Lagos raises more IDPs
On Thursday August 17, Razak Jimoh, an artisan made money available to his wife, Azzezat, for the purchase of dresses for their daughters, ahead of the Muslim festival of Eid-el-Kabir, which recently held.
On his return from work same day, Jimoh was too tired to appraise what his wife had bought, as has been the practice. He promised to do that on return from work on Friday, August 18, since he had to meet up with a client as early as 6.00 a.m., that Friday.
But by the time he was summoned home by his weeping wife, the three new dresses, shoes, and eye wears for the kids, alongside all other personal effects of theirs, were under the rubbles at Balogun Extension, Abete-Iwaya, Yaba. Put differently, they had no place to call home again, and so had to begin the search for where to put up with their three young daughters.
According to the woman, a breastfeeding mother, she suddenly fell asleep while breastfeeding her baby and was woken up by loud bangs on the door by neighbours, who knew she had no knowledge of the rampaging bulldozers at the behest of the Lagos State Government, through the Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development.
The bulldozers flanked by a battery of gun-totting mobile policemen roared into the community, and within a few hours, demolished over 200 houses, destroyed property worth millions of naira, and multiplied the number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the country.
Before the demolition, the community, like others, played host to lots of schools, churches and sundry outfits.
The community, which shares boundary with the University of Lagos (UNILAG), and overlooks the Third Mainland Bridge, before being levelled, was home to an estimated population of over 5, 000 people.
What many of these people IDPs are now alleging is that the state government never gave them a hint about demolition, which would have enabled them seek alternative accommodation, or prepare for the worse.
Like the distraught residents, business owners are equally aghast as to what kind of government would annihilate small-scale enterprises without recourse to the impact they create at the lower rungs of the state’s economy.
While deploring the state’s penchant for demolishing what they described as “poor peoples settlement,” as shown by recent spate of demolition, they call on civil society groups to come to their aide in wrestling a government they claim has disdain for the poor.
Boladale Samuel, whose father’s residence and church building were brought down, expressed anger at the manner they were treated by the policemen, and members of the Lagos State Environmental Taskforce.
“The policemen upon arrival started harassing us with their guns threatening to shoot us. They actually fired into the air. We could not even express ourselves. All we could do was just standby and watch in shock as the bulldozers tore down our house. My father, who lives within his church building, was not allowed to pick any of his property. This is so unfair in a country, where we are citizens. We were thoroughly intimidated by the police, and eventually left in our agony,” Samuel lamented.
Mrs. Olarenwaju, a tricycle operator, whose residence was also brought down said she had to race back home after she was informed of the demolition, through a phone call.
“I rushed back home immediately I received the phone call. But by the time I got there, I saw no structure and my house was no more. I lost everything I had, and I feel very bad. Coping with this condition has not been easy for me because this came unexpected. On that day, two people lost their lives in the process. This is indeed a rude shock. I have left everything in the hands of God and moved on with my life. Presently, I am squatting in a mosque. So, the state government should compensate us for the harm they have brought on us because people bought their plots of land and erected structures that government brought down wantonly. The government should also provide a safe place for people that have nowhere to go to because they are here in the open, and are exposed to danger.
A business proprietor, whose outfit was also levelled expressed shock at what happened saying, “Almost everybody here is stranded. Two people died in the process and another went into coma. It is a hopeless situation. I can’t comprehend how people will just come and demolish all that others have laboured for just like that, without any notification. This is a business and residential place. Things have been tough for us because we are now homeless, people lost their jobs and businesses. Some people are now squatting while others that have no money for accommodation are sleeping with their families in this open place.”
Another resident, who simply identified himself as Pastor Elijah, said the demolition has left him and his family stranded. That explains why he and his family members are still hanging around their demolished house days after it was brought down.
“I am staying here with my wife and children because we have no place to go. Even my tenants are still here. When the demolition team arrived, many had gone to work, so they took us off-guard. All I have worked for is gone. So, the government should come to our aid because to my knowledge, this land belongs to the Eleye family.”
Narrating the incident, the Chairman, Landlords Association Balogun Street Extension, Iwaya, Pastor J. A. Onugbe, said they were taken unawares without prior notice. “We have been in this place since 1996. This land belongs to the Eleye Family and not the University of Lagos. To my knowledge, this land has been a subject of litigation since 2005. The owners of this land gave the University of Lagos a place, which was demarcated. We bought this land from the Eleye Family, and have our receipts and Deed of Conveyance. Some of us have survey and land approval from the Lagos State government.
Onugbe, said on sighting the retinue of policemen pouring into the neighbourhood, “I approached them and introduced myself as the chairman of landlords association of this area, but they ignored me and went ahead with the demolition exercise. While the demolition lasted, schoolchildren, pregnant women, old people and everyone was distressed as we were being rendered homeless. To say the least, we were surprised at the incident because there was no notice at all. It was a very sad day for us. After the demolition, I’ve been to the town planning office, where I was informed that nobody was sent from the office to carry out the demolition exercise. I am using this medium to plead with Governor Akinwunmi Ambode to use his good offices to help us because we are suffering and have nowhere to go to. We are responsible and law abiding citizens. We voted this government into power, and we have also consulted human rights’ groups to help us.”
Counsel to Delfino Anthonio Da Meranda, popularly known as Ogunbode Eleye Family of Iwaya, Olumuyiwa Ogunlami & Co, in a petition to Ambode alleged that the genesis of their problem was 20 years ago, when UNILAG turned itself to omo onile, and began to sell land outside the fence of the university.
“It all started during the tenure of the late Professor Jelili Omotola, as vice chancellor when several attempts were made to expand the fence of the university beyond what the Federal Government originally acquired. However, the attempts were met with stiff opposition from the family, which led to litigation. The matter is still pending in court (there are several documents, letters, survey plans and notices of meetings dating back more than 20 years to backup this assertion). Also the precinct and the total landmass or acreage acquired for the University of Lagos had been well-delineated and demarcated by high perimeter fence, which the university built around itself.
“It would be recalled that sometime last year August, a removal order was pasted round the houses in the community of which our clients informed us and we wrote a petition dated 11/08/2016 to this effect, wherein both the office of the Executive Governor and the Speaker of the State Assembly were copied. Unfortunately, not a single reply came up until last week that the demolition exercise was effected.
“Therefore, our appeal to the government is that this demolition exercise from the agents of Lagos State should be stopped forthwith, and proper investigation should be launched into the matter pending when the claim of the university would be established.
“Finally, it should be noted that several houses comprising hundreds of families have through this demolition exercise been unjustly thrown into the streets, including children and pregnant women, a development, which has subjected them to various inhuman conditions. To this end, we shall appreciate if His Excellency can use his good offices to wade into this matter as urgently as it deserves, in order to safe our clients and various tenants from the oppression of this modern day Pharaoh,” the petition stated.
Ogunlami, who deplored the brazen destruction of his client’s property “by the Lagos State Ministry of Environment, in concert with the University of Lagos,” in an interview with The Guardian, stressed that “all legitimate steps would be taken to ensure that my client is fully compensated. It is sad that over 50 years since the Federal Government acquired land for the building of UNILAG, landowners are yet to be fully compensated, while UNILAG is busy trying to claim lands that are outside of its designated area.”