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‘Our houses were demolished illegally’

By Yetunde Ayobami Ojo
05 December 2021   |   2:57 am
The shock on their faces was visible, just as their countenances mirrored the pain they were undergoing over the demolition of their houses by land grabbers.

Remains of demonlished buildings

The shock on their faces was visible, just as their countenances mirrored the pain they were undergoing over the demolition of their houses by land grabbers.
   
The residents of the three and four-bedroom apartments, situated at Wasinmi Maryland under the Ojota-Maryland link Bridge, beside Odo Iya Alaro Canal, least expected that government officials and men of the Nigerian police could be used to carry out illegal demolition of residential houses, without following due process.

   
At about 6 a.m. on Tuesday, November 30, 2021, residents woke up to the demolition blues coordinated by a team of officials from the Lagos State government and fierce-looking armed police officers and several hoodlums. 
 
To their surprise, the bulldozer the team brought along went to work almost immediately, as it started demolishing their houses without even giving the occupiers the opportunity to take any of their belongings.
 
While trying to resist, the armed police officers prevented the residents, just as the hoodlums got busy looting their belongings.

Many of the residents started begging the officials, saying they were not issued enough notice to vacate the buildings before the demolition, but their plea fell on deaf ears.
 
At the end of the exercise, a structure that housed two office apartments and a warehouse had been destroyed. Other buildings were also affected, including detached structures for cane chair weavers, ice block-making and other businesses.
   
The damaged property was said to be worth several millions of Naira, but the owners said an estate valuer would be engaged to evaluate the actual cost of damages. A lot of equipment was also damaged, leaving the victims completely devastated.
 

 
What bothers them most is where to lay their heads and put their families, as the Yuletide is fast approaching. They are, therefore, calling on Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and the state Attorney General, Mr. Moyosore Onigbanjo, to come to their aid, as well as investigate the demolition exercise.
   
They said they only received a notice that was less than 24 hours before the alleged land-grabbers carried out the demolition.
 
Speaking on the exercise, one of the affected occupants, Mr. Gbola Onibiyi, an accountant, said he lived in one of the flats in the demolished structures.
 
He said: “My three-bedroom flat is at the back. It has a waiting space, a store and I used part of the building as office. Some unknown government officials came around here at about 3 pm on November 29, 2021, to place a notice on the gate. 
 
“They told us to move our things, and that we were given 24 hours. So, I slept in the office. Around 7 am on November 30, which was less than 24 hours, they came with thugs carrying cutlasses. Many armed policemen also came with them. They spent hours destroying and demolishing the buildings.”
 
Narrating his ordeal, another victim, a cane weaver, Mathew Ibigba, corroborated Oniyibi’s narration. 
 
“They came very early in the morning, hitting and banging the gate and ordering us to move out,” he recalled. “It was a little past 6 am, when the land grabbers came along with many police officers. They asked us to move out immediately. The police officers were also asking us for bribes before we were allowed to take some vital belongings.
   
“Most of the crane baskets ordered by organisations and individuals to use for hampers were destroyed. They also demanded huge amounts of money, while the ferocious-looking hoodlums beat up many of our people. They extorted money from us.”
 
Another victim, David Ndiana said he was tortured. “They beat me and collected money from me,” he said.
   
Mrs. Moji Onibiyi, the wife of the accountant, said she had a place in the building where she did catering service. “I could only take little of my belongings before the house was brought down.”
   
Meanwhile, the property owner, Engineer Gbenga Asonibare, said all the vital documents in his office were destroyed.
   
He said the demolition was unlawfully carried out without a court order, as there was a pending civil suit in court on the same property.
 
In a petition titled: ‘Unlawful/Illegal Demolition of Property of Efoba Construction and Engineering Services Ltd. at Wasinmi, Asonibare wrote the governor, Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice, Chief Judge and Head of Lagos State Task Force, saying Lagos State government functionaries were enlisted on November 30 to carry out unauthorised demolition of his property.
   
He alleged in the petition that one Lt. Commander Adebambo (rtd) engaged the service of the police and state officials to carry out the demolition. He appealed to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu to intervene to halt further damages while demanding compensation. 
   
The petition read: “It is indeed very sad and disturbing that an arm of the Ministry that is supposed to be the guiding angel of transparency, equity, fairness and justice is being used to perpetrate illegality and unlawful action. The Task Force on land grabbers that the downtrodden are looking up to for their salvation from the high, mighty and weaponised group or individual has become a tool in the hands of one Lt. Commander Odubola F. Adebambo (rtd). The functionaries of the Task Force decided to close their eyes to various information at their disposal to the fact that there are two pending cases of ownership on the land, where Efoba’s Office has just been demolished vis: 
1. Suit No: ID/5327LMW/17 between Commander Fasasi Odubola Adebambo (rtd) Vs. Engr. Gbenga Asonibare & Ors.  

2. Suit No: ID/549/2010 between Chief Adeneye and Commander F.O Adebambo…”
 
Meanwhile, the Attorney General has ordered a comprehensive investigation into the matter, with a directive that the demolition should stop.