‘Over N1m has gone down the drain’
Communities count their losses after demolition of their houses by Ogun govt
THE sight of hundreds of magnificent buildings that stood fixedly as at last week, but had suddenly turned to rubbles, provokes a tearful emotion from whoever witnesses the scene.
Victims, who consist majorly of the aged, middle-aged and toddlers, stood in smaller groups bemoaning their fates, which to them was still like a nightmare.
As they conversed in low tones, they wore long faces with the appearance of persons who had been deprived of enough sleep and were in mourning mood.
They were carried away in their discussions and oblivious of what was going on around them. With the roaring of the bulldozer, they all hurriedly dispersed to witness the commencement of another demolition for the day.
This pictures the plight of residents of Araromi-Pakoto, Ilepa and Onihale in Ifo Local Council of Ogun State, whose houses were demolished last week by the Ogun State government, based on the allegation of living on government-acquired land.
The once lively communities have become desolate, as their beautiful edifices had been levelled. Remnants of planks, wooden and iron door frames, iron doors, broken blocks and household utensils littered the entire area.
On entering from Pakoto bus stop through Pakoto town, Abata extension to Ilepa, it was tales of woe, as over 2,000 houses had been demolished.
While some have relocated to neighbouring communities and some squatting with friends and relatives, others are still sleeping on the rubbles, since they don’t have anywhere else to go.
The Guardian learnt that the residents acquired their plots of land, believed to be Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) property, unknowingly.
It was gathered that the large expanse of land in contention had been acquired by the hospital since 1979 under the military government of Olusegun Obasanjo.
Some of the residents claimed they were not aware that the land belonged to the hospital before they bought it. From investigation, the victims most of who relocated from Lagos, had been living there for many years without any threats or embarrassment from government until a few years back.
A handful of them even had more than two houses that were demolished at the same time. About two years ago, a notice was issued and demolition of few houses was executed but it was abruptly stopped until few months ago when rumour flew around of a looming invasion of the community.
A seven-day notice was pasted on the affected houses, and on the expiration of the deadline, demolition begun on Wednesday, September 2, 2015 from Ilepa end, rendering many homeless.
This sparked-off a serious protest that caused pandemonium on the Lagos-Abeokuta expressway, the following day. But despite this, the demolition process continued till Saturday, as more houses around Abata extension, towards Pakoto were levelled.
As at Sunday morning, owners of several houses that were still standing were so anxious about their fate, though rumour was rife that the destruction of houses had stopped.
It was a difficult task to get the view of the distraught victims, who were too aggrieved to speak on their predicament. But after what looked like a foray in the wilderness, some later spoke.
Mr. Kehinde Adebisi, whose house was still under construction, said he bought his land four years ago, but it was just two years ago that it got to his knowledge that the land belongs to LUTH.
He said he heard about the demolition exercise in the news and, when he came around, he was informed that seven days ultimatum was given to houses marked in the area in which his was among, despite the fact that they’ve been assured of plans to resolve the issue. “I know that issues that concern government are always difficult to resolve.
Though I have not completed the house, but I have spent over N1 million, which has gone down the drain. A building close to my house, which the owner had spent over N5 million was also not spared.”
He appealed to the government to have mercy on those whose buildings have not been touched and also to compensate those rendered homeless to start life afresh.
Another victim who doesn’t want his name mentioned said his twin-duplex, which he estimated to cost N11 million was destroyed. His furniture, electronics and household utensils were placed close to the demolished house, where he and family still sleep for now.
Why has government waited till now to carry out this job? Why not before the general elections? Notice should have been placed here by the LUTH before we bought the land to ensure that nobody falls into the tricks of land vendors,” he lamented.
It was a very difficult task to hear government’s side of the whole saga as the Police and military personnel drafted to the scene were not willing to talk.
But the Secretary to Ogun State Government, Taiwo Adeoluwa was quoted when he was addressing the affected people that the land was acquired for LUTH in 1980, adding that government would do everything possible not to intimidate people.