Four property owners at Hitech Estate, Odonikin village, in the Eti-Osa Local Government Area, Lagos State, say they have been thrown into debts after officials of the state government demolished four newly-completed buildings in the area.
The affected structures comprised five joint duplexes, a four-bedroomed duplex, a five-bedroomed apartment and a three-storeyed building owned by a private school – Learning Lands.
Although the buildings were reportedly destroyed because the owners did not get necessary permits to embark on the constructions, the victims said the government failed to give them prior notices before the buildings were brought down.
PUNCH Metro learnt that the demolition was carried out last Friday by officials of the state Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development, who were accompanied by policemen from the Lagos State Task Force on Environmental and Special Offences (Enforcement) Unit.
Some of the landlords, who spoke with our correspondent on Wednesday, said they had petitioned the state Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development on the incident without getting any positive response.
One of them, Mrs. Augustina Daniel, said, “I got a call around 11am last Friday that bulldozers were destroying houses. I rushed to the scene with my husband. Our building, comprising five joint duplexes, worth N200m, was brought to the ground in our presence. We met with the officials, but none of them talked to us.
“We went to the Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development on Monday with our survey plans and we were told to submit them and leave. They also told us that the buildings were demolished because we did not have a building permit.
“We wrote a letter to the commissioner on Tuesday and it was not acknowledged. If a house is to be demolished, a notice should be given; we didn’t get that. The information we have is that the demolition was done because there are people in that area who have interest in those pieces of land.”
Mr. Omomega Ashofor, whose residence was also demolished, said he had spent about N70m to put up the structure and asked that he should be compensated for the damage.
He said, “Mine was a fully detached four-bedroomed duplex. I was planning to paint the building so that in two months’ time, my family and I could move in. I have spent about N70m on it so far. It was a neighbour that alerted me to the demolition. With the supervision of armed policemen, the structure was brought down within an hour.
“They are supposed to serve us notices if there is any contravention and give us time to respond. But none of that was done. There has never been a time that a stop-work order was given to us. I want compensation for the damage. This is a property involved, not just money, but emotional input.”
Austine Kazeem, who said he planned to move into his five-bedroomed flat this month, said, “I am based abroad. If any notice had been issued to me, I would have gone to the ministry to sort it out.”
Efforts to speak with the Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Steve Ayorinde, proved abortive as calls put across to his line did not connect. He had also yet to respond to a text message sent to his phone since Wednesday.
However, the spokesman for the Lagos State Task Force on Environment and Special Offences (Enforcement) Unit, Mr. Adebayo Taofiq, said officials of the agency only gave security backing for officials of the ministry.
He said notices must have been served on the aggrieved persons at different stages of the constructions without compliance before the buildings were brought down.
“Task force only gave security back up to the government agency responsible for the demolition. The fundamental question is why didn’t they obtain a building plan approval before construction? Such development is illegal and no responsible government will tolerate illegality.
“Government doesn’t just wake up and carry out demolition. First, the building would be marked with red ‘X’. After the ‘X’, a stop-work order will be served. If the owner of such property refuses to show up with relevant papers, which include a building plan approval, government will serve another notice which is a demolition notice.
“Lagos State has a master plan and once such is violated, the illegal structure will be removed,” he said.