Residents accuse LASG of unlawful demolition, demand justice

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Afeez Hanafi

Property owners on Fayemi Close, Okomala, Ilasamaja, Lagos State, have expressed discontent over the demolition of their buildings by the Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development.

They alleged that the demolition was unlawfully carried out with the backup of task force officials attached to the ministry.

The affected structures were three separate two-bedroomed flats, a fenced parcel of land and a church.

The owners claimed that a senior official at the ministry, identified as Okunniyi, orchestrated the demolition.

A victim, Mrs. Rebecca Obamonire, said she wrote to the ministry in April 2017 and attached documents of her property when she heard that some buildings in the area would be demolished.

She said, “But I did not get any reply to the letter. I bought the land in 1997 from Isiba family and I have all my documents. One is an uncompleted building, while tenants had been living in the other one for 12 years. On August 23, some people came and said they were from the Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development.

“I showed them all my documents. They said I should go to Alausa. They didn’t allow my tenants to pack their belongings before they demolished the buildings.

“We learnt it was a church built on the road that those officials were sent to demolish. Surprisingly, task force officials came on Wednesday, October 25, and supervised artisans employed by a company, Mojec International, to construct fences on the buildings that were pulled down.

“They beat up a landlord who challenged them. We want Governor Akniwunmi Ambode to come to our aid. The matter is before Lagos High Court in Ikeja and the court gave an injunction in 2016 that status quo should be maintained.”

Another victim, Faidat Olasunkanmi, said she obtained loans to acquire the property and had spent about N20m on it.

She stated that the ministry approved the construction of the fence, adding that no notice was served on her before the demolition

She said, “I was served in April 2017 by the ministry that I constructed a fence without approval. My engineer approached them and they asked us to perfect our documents. I perfected my documents with almost N1.5m at Alausa. I am about to get the CofO when this issue came up.

“My engineer met with Okunniyi and he said the owner of the company is powerful and already has CofO of our land. Why did they tell us to perfect our documents in the first instance? I bought the land N4m and have spent over N15m on it. I want justice.”

Another affected landlord, Pastor John Onyekwere, said he had relocated to his hometown in Umuaia, Abia State.

He said, “On August 23, around 10am, the government officials came with a bulldozer and a Black Maria with the inscription, ‘Task Force’ and demolished our buildings. Before then, Mojec had approached me and said they wanted to make use of my land. They offered me N4m, which I rejected. I told them the case was in court. I said if the court decided in their favour, I would leave the land.

“Later, I got a notice from the company that I should remove anything valuable and that they were coming for demolition. But they did not come directly. They went through the Lagos State Government and I was served a demolition notice on March 14. The notice indicated that I built without an approved building plan.

“I borrowed money and did the building plan. By July 2017, my building plan was approved and I was given a building plan number. I showed the building plan to the officials that came for the demolition. They rejected it and said it was an order from above.

“Mojec lawyer called me again and pleaded with me. Mojec gave me N2m and asked for my land documents, which I released. What is the essence of papers when I was stranded, sleeping in the cold? For almost a month, my family was scattered. There is nothing I can do other than to collect the money.”

The task force Chairman, SP Sulyman Egbeyemi, said his men supervised the erection of the fence because the Divisonal Police Officer of the Ilasa division informed him that a judgement had been given on the case.

He said, “A DPO in that area sent a woman to us that the case on the land had been won and that she wanted to erect a fence on the land, but feared hoodlums might attack the workers. I asked them to write, which they did and we deployed our men.

“Somebody called and said the case was still in court. I immediately told my men to leave the area. We investigated and found out that the case was truly in court. A lawyer came and I told him we won’t deploy our men there again because they lied to us.”

Egbeyemi said he was not aware of the demolition.

A counsel for Mojec International, Clement Onwuenwunor, said, “Those demolished buildings were hurriedly put up after the court injunction, which was given at the instance of my application. The injunction is not binding on the ministry. The ministry had served them contravention notices that they were encroaching on a canal in the area.

 “If they are not satisfied with the demolition, they can sue the ministry. It is not true that the company influenced the ministry. It is contempt of court for them to apply for building permits or plans and file same in the court after the injunction had been given.”

 An official of the ministry, who spoke on condition of anonymity, directed our correspondent to the Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Mr. Wasiu Anifowoshe.

 “I can’t respond to an issue I am not aware of. I have to do my investigation and find out what happened. But I can assure you we don’t do illegal demolition. Anybody whose property is demolished will not be happy. But when you investigate, it may be their papers are not complete or the land does not belong to them. Okunniyi cannot demolish on his own. He must have got a directive from the state government and due process must be followed,” the official said.

When contacted on Saturday, the commissioner said he was at an event and asked our correspondent to call back in two hours’ time.

 However, subsequent calls put across to his line rang out and he had yet to reply to a text message sent to him on the matter.

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