Controversy is trailing the demolition of five buildings and the marking of about 295 others for demolition to pave way for the construction of an international market in the Sango area of the Sango-Ijoko Local Council Development Area of Ogun State.
While the landlords, residents and business owners, whose buildings were demolished, accused the Chairman of the LCDA, Fatai Lawal, of being behind their ordeal, the chairman said the state government was responsible for the demolition.
Our correspondent reported that officials of the state Ministry of Urban and Physical Planning, accompanied by armed security agents, demolished five buildings in Sango on Friday out of about 300 marked for demolition to pave way for the construction of the market.
A landlord, Moshood Yekini, who lamented that his complex, which contained 60 shops, was pulled down, said the state government took the law into its own hands, adding that the matter had been taken to court before the buildings were demolished.
Yekini said, “I have 60 shops in my complex and everything was destroyed. We have been dragging this matter with the government when Lawal and armed naval men pasted posters on our buildings that they wanted to use the land to construct a market last year. But on April 4, 2019, Lawal brought armed naval men to give us a seven-day quit notice and our lawyer filed a motion in court.
“The matter was heard on May 13, 2019, and because their representatives did not attend the hearing, the matter was adjourned till May 28, 2019. Suddenly, officials of the Ministry of Urban and Physical Planning, in company with about 30 armed security agents, brought caterpillars to demolish our buildings.”
During a visit to the area, PUNCH Metro learnt that three communities would be affected by the planned demolition, a development that had thrown landlords and residents of the area into a state of panic.
The Chairman of one of the affected Community Development Asociations, Ramoni Sorungbe, while blaming Lawal for the demolition, said a lot of landlords had Certificates of Occupancy on their land, adding that most of the marked houses had approved building plans.
Sorungbe stated, “We are blaming our chairman for this demolition, because he is the one championing the construction of the market here. Our land is not under government acquisition, but he usually brings security agents to paste notices on our buildings. A lot of people have Cs-of-O on their land and approved building plans.
“When they came for the demolition, the second in command to the police area commander in Sango challenged the officials to provide documents to back the exercise. They were just saying the order was from the state government. We are calling on relevant authorities to come to our aid, while we are waiting for the verdict of the court on the case.”
A businesswoman, Shukurat Ahmed, said the officials granted the occupants of the buildings limited time to evacuate their goods, adding that she lost goods worth N3m to the demolition.
Ahmed stated, “We were not given enough time; a lot of traders dumped their goods on the street and hoodlums took advantage of the situation to loot them. I lost goods worth N3m and I don’t know where to start from.
“It was the money I borrowed from the cooperative society that I used for my business. The security agents intimidated and prevented people from recording the demolition; in fact, they seized about 50 mobile phones and took them away.”
When contacted, Lawal denied any involvement in the demolition, explaining that it was carried out by the state government.
“I don’t know anything about it. This is a state project; I am just the chairman of the LCDA. The case is in court and you can visit the ministries of Urban and Physical Planning and Housing or the governor’s office to find out what is happening,” he stated.
The Special Adviser to the Governor on Urban and Physical Planning, Steven Adewolu, however, said Lawal was in the forefront of the project, adding that buildings with title documents and approved building plans were excluded from the demolition.
Adewolu stated, “It was not an illegal demolition; all of them (landlords) were served notices before the demolition and those who had title documents and approved building plans were excluded from the demolition.
“The land belongs to the state government, the chairman of the LCDA and the Ministry of Housing held a meeting with the residents of Sango-Ota to have a market there in the interest of the public. The chairman of the LCDA is the one anchoring the project; he had been to our office on that issue and we have been trying to follow due process on the matter.”