It is barely a year after Lagosians gathered at Abule- Ado in Amuwo-Odofin Local Government Area of Lagos State following an explosion that rocked the community and snuffed out lives out of scores of people. Those who died included the principal of Jerusalem Girls College, Abule-Ado and some other victims. Now, Lagosians are gathering again to the scene over the demolition of houses in the area by the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) last Sunday. CHIJIOKE IREMEKA reports
• Our houses weren’t marked for demolition, say landlords
• FHA wants to create 8th, 9th Avenues in Abule-Ado –Residents
• We gave 60-day notice, they took us for granted –FHA
• Landlords need to negotiate with FHA, says Lawyer
“It is my house ooo! What is the problem? What is happening here? Please, leave my house oo; stop demolishing my house. I’m the owner,” screamed a confused Mr. Kelvin C., the owner of a two storey building on Bankers Road.
The building was torn down by FHA’s bulldozer of horror. Kelvin witnessed the shock of his life, which seemed to him like an action movie shown on foreign film channels last Sunday morning, when fully armed police personnel numbering over 40 in company of area boys stormed the Stone Water Estate, Abule-Ado, Festac Extension, demolishing his mansion and scores of others.
Despite his wailing and yelling, perhaps, to be heard and shown some mercy, the fully armed police personnel, who accompanied the FHA to the demolition site, barred him from coming an inch close to his house which had fallen under the blade of the dreadful bulldozer.
“Who sent these people to my house? How can a man do this to his fellow man? My house was not marked for demolition. It pains me the most because there was no notice for demolition issued for my house, nor was it written on the wall like others,” he wandered in deep thoughts.
“If my house was given a notice, I would have known and gone to meet with FHA to know what the problem is. Ordinary stop work that the Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA) put on the beam I was erecting for a water tank, I went to see them and settled the matter with them. So, why will somebody think of doing this to me?” he lamented. Reflecting on what transpired that Sunday morning, the young man who visited the site in an ash coloured Lexus jeep said, “I was in my house early Sunday morning when I received a call that FHA officials were at Stone Water Estate, Abule-Ado, where I am building.
In fact, I was told that they were demolishing my house. “I ran to this place and when I saw that they were demolishing my house for real, I started shouting it was my house. What is the problem but the police fully armed with area boys, over 40 in number, stopped me from getting close to them. I appealed with them to stop destroying my house but they didn’t.
“If they have given me a notice for demolition, I will understand, but they didn’t. I used over 100 trips of sand to fill the land before pilling the foundation. Many people I started building before have almost finished theirs but I am gradually building my own due the way the money was coming. “I didn’t stash money anywhere. It’s the few regular money I make that I use in building this house that they have done this to.
When I look at the house and what I have put in place, it looks like a film to me. I took my time to do this gradually because I want to live in the building. “Just on Saturday, I went to Festac to get some expensive drums of paint for the completion of my house. I have painted the outside and the inside.
One of those paints is sold for N34, 000 and all of them are trapped under the rubble. I don’t even know whether they are still good or not.” Sunday Telegraph learnt that Kelvin also brought in two power generating sets on Saturday to complete the welding work, but all of them are there. “It’ painful.”
According to him, FHA started demolishing his house around 7am on Sunday morning and nobody called him, even among his neighbours until a friend called him to inform him of the happening. “When these were happening, I called on those people claiming to be Estate executives, but nobody responded. They were all distancing themselves from me. My pain is that there was no notice of demolition on my building.
Why did they demolish my house to this level?” he lamented. Another landlord, Chidi Ugwu, through whose house the FHA’s bulldozer gained access to demolish the houses at the back of his house situated on School Road, said the FHA officials were angry because the landlords allegedly took them for granted.
Though his house was not touched by the demolishers, his security house and tank stand were chopped off by the bulldozer.
He said: “FHA’s annoyance was that they gave us an ultimatum but people didn’t go to see them. They said that we took them for granted. The FHA came and dropped a 21-day notice for demolition. Some of us went and discussed with them but others felt that there was no need for that.
“In fact, the estate agent we bought the land from was acting as if the FHA does not have the right to do anything there. From his action, we felt that FHA is the intruder here. He even went the length of writing FHA and threatening to sue them within 21 days if they keep coming to harass land and house owners on the basis that Stone Water Estate sits on its land.
“The action may have angered FHA and they came within the 21-day ultimatum and did what you can see now. They said they want to create 8th and 9th Avenues from the land, which they said belong to them, the FHA. FHA claims that we are sitting on their land but they have not done real mapping to know where the land falls.
“We will be waiting for the real surveying of the land. It’s then that we will know where we are and find a way to handle the situation. But for now, we are still watching what is happening.
As you can see, they leveled down my security house to gain access in order to demolish the one at the back.”
During Sunday Telegraph’s visits to the sites, it was discovered that over 20 beautiful mansions were affected during the exercise, which started at around 6am last Sunday morning but it was learnt that the officials arrived at the Estate around 5am in the morning for the act.
The buildings affected are situated in the Stone Water Estate and Ado Royal Garden Estate, Abule Ado owned by the popular Auto Spare Parts and Machineries Dealers Association (ASPANDA). While the FHA claimed that some of them are on the Right of Way (RoW), others were said to have been purchased from other sources other than FHA.
It was learnt that some houses were marked for demolition and given a 21-day evacuation notice but there is evidence that some of the demolished buildings were not marked and that their owners were not served letters to that effect.
Kelvin had told Sunday Telegraph abnitio that his house was not marked, which was also confirmed by our Correspondent as there was no sign of such marking on the part of the building still standing or on the compound’s perimeter fencing.
Corroborating him, a member of Maranatha Prayer Ministry, Jude Nkanebe, said he was called at about 8:30am that the ministry has been demolished, adding that the ministry was not marked for demolition, and therefore was not informed or served with any paper or document regarding evacuation or demolition.
When Sunday Telegraph got there for the second time on Wednesday afternoon, labourers were seen clearing the rubble from the demolished buildings, especially those that were being occupied by tenants.
They were seen scouting for jobs, smiling to the banks while the landlords were mourning such acts and loss of their wealth and property.
There was wailings following Sunday’s demolition of houses worth several billions of Naira there. Some homeowners woke up to see their houses being demolished. The exercise, residents said, came a day after an article announced that the FHA would soon begin mass demolition of buildings without approval in FESTAC Town.
While some of them said houses which owners struggled to erect with their hard earned money were destroyed within a twinkle of an eye, others said the insensitivity of the government in a time like this when many Nigerians are managing to survive was unimaginable.
Also, the unskilled labourers working at the site of demolition said that FHA wanted the landlords to settle them but the majority of them decided not visit the FHA office for settlement, which angered them. Rafiu Adebayo, a bricklayer said:
“The FHA officials are looking for money for Christmas and end of the year celebrations and thought this the best time to attack the landlords. But they over did this.
What they should have done was to pull down the fence and with that, money will come out. “I heard some of them saying that it was a mistake that they didn’t want to really demolish the houses but to threaten them to know that they were serious.
The people who damaged their houses too much are because they have some issues in the Estate and two security persons have died already because of this problem. So, there has been a problem on the ground and also with Christmas party money.”
The other in Rafiu’s company, Agiliga Bieni said the prophecy of Late Biafran warlord, Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu, has started manifesting in the life of ASPANDA traders, saying that Ojukwu cried the day he came to ASPANDA to commission the market plaza built by the Igbo traders. “He asked them to go home and build such edifices and not in foreign land, warning them against things like this.
The Igbo have not started seeing anything yet. Now, they will erect those buildings for FHA to still come and demolish it in future after a huge settlement would have happened,” he said scornfully. Since this demolition, there have been a lot of comments which Sunday Telegraph cannot meddle into now for security and safety reasons.
However, FHA has come out to justify their action, saying that the landlords were served with notice of demolition and that the number of affected buildings would have been more if there were no people occupying other buildings. The FHA Zonal Manager, Samuel Akintola Olagbemiro, claimed that those affected were given over 60-day notice, saying the first notice was for 21 days, but they refused to quit.
According to him, many of them were informed, when they were at the foundation level, they still went ahead and continued without any right to the land or approval and papers.
Olagbemiro said most of them claimed they bought the land from one estate developer, who also claimed that he bought the land from traditional rulers in this day and age. To him, they knew the principle of buying land.
“Some of them came here and we told them they don’t have any land and that they should stop whatever they were doing, salvage whatever they can, but instead they continued building.”
He stressed that many houses were demolished, while some were left because people were still living inside them, saying, “We didn’t even go there after the end of the 21 days because we also wanted to be sure that we were doing the right thing. “We wanted to make sure that we have done all the markings and they were informed up to the extent that some that were even at foundation level still went ahead and continued, which is not right.
“We saw so many things, no approval, no original papers, nothing, nobody could give us a single, simple approval either from Lagos State Government or from Federal.” Speaking further on why buildings were demolished, FHA’s Head of Town Planning, South-West Zone, Mrs. Francisca Michael-James, during a delegation visit to Festac Town, said all efforts to stop developers from encroaching and building without approval in FESTAC had failed as the developers ignored orders to ‘stop work.’
She said that the demolition notice served on illegal occupants in the town elapsed 21 days ago, saying that parts of Festac Town sit on delicate soil but assured that engineering solutions were applied to estates built by the Federal Government.
She said: “Our professionals did not supervise the constructions. We don’t even know the integrity of structures that they are building on-site in this era of building collapse.”
The FHA director revealed that it had had the title document for the total land of 2,246 hectares in the FESTAC master plan, warning that illegal developers were building on Federal Government land. However, the Principal Partner of Lawrence Ndukwe and Co., Barr Emeka Ndukwe, an Onitsha-based senior lawyer, advised the landlords in Abule-Ado to set up the negotiation ball rolling on the issues of demolition which he feared that more would come.
His fears were hinged on the statement of the FHA’s Head of Town Planning, South-West Zone, Mrs. Francisca Michael-James that demolition would begin from 7th Avenue, through 9th Avenue and would later be extended up till 11th Avenue.
He argued that since there is demolition in Abule-Ado for 8th and 9th Avenues, there must also be demolition to get the 10th and 11th Avenues mentioned by FHA. Though he added that the success of what she said is dependent on the FHA map and where it stops.
“But in all cases, I implore the landlords not to take any action of the government for granted, especially when they do not have the full details of what they are fighting for.”