It was a day of agony, pain and frustration for residents of Odo-Iragunshin, a suburb of Epe area of Lagos state, when the officials of Lagos State Government paid an unannounced visit to the place and demolished not less than 200 houses.
The demolition exercise which rendered over 150 people including men, pregnant women and school children homeless was carried out by the officials of the Lagos State Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development, precisely on March 5, 2013.
CODEWIT gathered that an aged woman met her untimely death while Mrs. Adeniyi Ishola, lost her six-month-old pregnancy as a result of the exercise. Worst still, many families are yet to recover from the shock.
Till date, the family of Ishola is yet to come to terms with the fact that their wife’s six months pregnancy is terminated in the process.
Adeniyi, was said to have lost her pregnancy on the spot while watching helplessly as their house was being crushed to rubble by the State Government’s bulldozers.
Further investigations by OUR CORRESPONDENT also revealed that the yet to be identified old woman died three days after her house was demolished.
In the same vein, more than 50 school children have been thrown out of school as a result of the demolition exercise that took place in the area. The demolition exercise at Epe, Odo-Iragunshin was carried out despite the ‘Stay Action’ pronouncement by the State House of Assembly pending investigation into the matter before it.
Adebowale Omoseike who was living in the village since 2008 lamented that the incident had since left those affected helpless, adding that he only escaped insanity through the intervention of God.
According to him, “I was told that one of the affected landlords gave up the ghost three days after the incident while a woman lost her six-month pregnancy on the spot. All of us have been thrown into some kind of confusion and psychological trauma, not to mention the -several children and students who are also contending with the situation.
“It was a devastating situation to hear that the same houses our children ate in before they left for schools had been pulled down by the State government bulldozers. They couldn’t give us affordable accommodation, yet they are demolishing the houses we built through pains and sweat.
“In fact, the incident had caused loss of affection and many families have been thrown into state of disarray. I couldn’t see my family until two days after the incident. Since this ugly scenario, I have been sleeping inside the car without bathing or brushing my teeth”.
Explaining the controversy surrounding the land, he said, “I bought my land from an indigenous land owner (omo onile) with back-up documents and lawyer’s agreement at that time.
And while I was about building my house, I did all the necessary processes including land survey which was taken to Epe Local Planning Authority for charting. The officer-in-charge charted it and I was told that the land was free from government acquisition.
“Then, I continued the processes of getting building approval and on that basis, I paid N52,000. And I was given approval by Lagos State Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development. “I submitted my building approval which was recommended and it was approved. An officer from Lagos State Government, Alausa (Enforcement Unit) came twice to ascertain my compliance on the approved building plan. The unit was led by one Mr. Lawal who I learnt had been transferred to Agege division now. And the same process was taken by others who had their documents too.
“But, the tune of the music changed last year when officials of Ministry of Physical Planning came to the village, threatening that the land had been acquired by government. But, instead of listening to us, they told us to go to Alausa to register our complaints and also make necessary inquiries which we did.
“I went to the office of the Survey-Auditor General whom I believed had the final authority on land issue in Lagos State. He advised all of us to apply for land information which would make us know the status of the land and we did.
“On August 8, 2012, I paid the statutory amount required. My survey was recorded at the Surveyor-General’s office. The information I gathered revealed that the land was free from government’s acquisition and it is meant for residential purposes.
“We wrote to the Ministry of Justice, State House of Assembly, and Governor of Lagos State who minuted on it and forwarded same to the Attorney-General of the State. Then, I wrote the approved plan number on my building. On January 31,2013, one, Bode Agoro, Director of Land regularisation visited the village again but this time around, he claimed the Odo-Iragunshin land belongs to government and that we should report to Alausa with all the necessary documents. Some representatives from the community including Alhaja Bature, Tunde Awonaike and I were there. Then, Mr. Bode Agoro advised us to obtain some other title documents including Certificate of Occupancy, C of O, Governor’s consent, adding that, we will be alerted whenever State government want to come to the place.
“But, after some weeks, he came with some foreigners measuring the land and was giving order to people to measure more lands that would be sufficient for an undisclosed project.
The truth is that, they just acquired this land in February this year but the Deputy Surveyor-General as at Monday, March 4, said, the land was free.
Meanwhile, chairman Itunomo Odo Iragunshin LCDA , Akinsanya Abraham, who is the first occupant of the Odo-Iragunshin village and has been living there for 20 years, said, there had not been any trouble on the land until recently when the State government inflicted untold hardship on the residents.
He said: “Despite the “Stay Action” pronounced on the land, the officers of Ministry of Physical Planning ignored it. And on the floor of the House of Assembly, the commissioner said, “he was not aware of the notice of demolition exercise, neither was his Ministry responsible for the demolition”.
This insinuates that the action would have been carried out by the ministry of lands, adding that there are many agencies that are saddled with the responsibility of demolition. “Ministries of lands, physical planning and transport also demolish too”, he said.
“The meeting was therefore adjourned to March 13, 2013, only for the Ministry of Physical Planning to come and demolish our houses on March 5, 2013”, he frowned.
On what the incident has caused, he said, “several people are still lying in the hospital as a result of the incident. Our children have been sick, while our students had stopped going to school”.
A civil servant, Mr. Okeowo Adewale said, “All my family members including my aged father and siblings have been rendered homeless”.
On the allegation of possession of fake documents as claimed by the Ministry of Physical Planning, he said, “Ï want to believe that those who issued the documents for us are senior officials in Alausa, the Survey-General signed the Certificate of Occupancy, C of O, the Governor signed the “Governor consent” and therefore if they said those documents were fake, it means that this government is fake.
“We are all informed on land matters and we have charted the land before buying it”.
Asked the numbers of houses that were demolished, he said, “At least 200 houses have been demolished and they said, they are still coming back to demolish more and more than 150 people have been rendered homeless”, he said.
In terms of compensation, he said nothing has been mentioned so far, alleging that traditional rulers in the area have been bribed as they refused to intervene in the matter.
Another resident, Mr Christian Ovie who is currently battling accomodation problem with his family of eight said, “the action was not right. Nigeria is a peaceful country but when abnormalities begin to set in, then, they are calling for war like what happened in Liberia. This is only a barbaric attitude that can cause civil war”.
A 38-year old Adeniyi Ishola whose wife lost six months pregnancy said, “Since the incident, my wife has been bleeding continuously. And we have been battling with her health as well. My wife was sleeping when the news reached her. And immediately, she started bleeding and until now, she is still bleeding”, he lamented.
A labourer, Mr Wasiu Teslim Daudu lamented, the effect of the demolition exercise will forever linger, as the incident has already damaged his entire life. “The incident came unexpected, I don’t know where to start from. I’m a labourer and all my sweats had gone into the building. This is the beginning and the end of my life. I have nothing left”, he cried.
One, Awonaike Babatunde who narrated a scenario said, “While I was talking with my wife on phone, a pickup car parked by my side and before I knew what was going on, four armed men had rounded me up. They started hitting me with sticks. I was helpless, I didn’t know what my offence was. It was by God’s grace that I narrowly escaped. While, they were chasing me, a voice said, “shoot him, shoot him, shout him and later someone said let’s leave him but I was still running. Since, then, I have been battling with my health”.
During a visit to the palace of Aladegunsebi of Odoragunsin, Oba Olagoke Ogunsanya, we gathered that Oba Ogunsanya might have inherited Odo-iragunshin village from his father, but he was unable to prevail on the issue.
According to him, “that community falls under my jurisdiction and it is close to my palace. The land in question is one of the properties I inherited from my father.
“But, I don’t know when police invaded the village and pulled down people’ houses with bulldozers. The truth is that I am not happy with this action. All the people are now homeless. Since the incident, they have been hiding in huts, shanties, while others have been squatting with friends.”
On the steps he had taken since the incident, he said, “I have not been able to intervene. But, I heard that the people have gone to Alausa to express their grievances. On the day of the demolition, no officials of government intimated me.
“Government has no documents to prove that it had acquired Odo-iragunshin land and there is nothing like compensation for the affected people.”
Another traditional ruler, Alara of Ilara, Oba Akeem Okunola Adesanya, who spoke with Saturday Vanguard, said, the house of his senior wife was also affected. He lamented that, those whose houses were demolished were the impoverished Nigerians who collected loan from banks to build their houses.
Contributor: Ebun Sessou