Informal workers under the umbrella of Nigeria Automobile Technicians Association (NATA) has called for immediate intervention of the Lagos State Governor, Babajude Sanwo-Olu over the continous unlawful eviction and oppression allegedly perpetrated by the officials of the state Ministry of Transport and some private individuals.
Chairman of the Association, Jocob Fayeun, at a media briefing at the weekend lamented how over the years, members of the Association which runs into thousands and cut across mechanics (Automobile Engineers), Panels Beaters, Welders, Iron Benders, Metallurgist, Painters (Auto Sprayers), Battery Chargers, Metal, Wood Allumium, Steel and Auto Body Builders and Vulcanizers have been rendered jobless.
Specifically, the union leader said in the past 20 years over 40 mechanic villages, markets and other informal production have been taken over by private interests with active connivance of Lagos state government officials.
But the latest assault on the automobile workers which he said the union has written for the Governor’s intervention and no response was the violent eviction, willful destruction and confiscation of property mainly motor vehicles at different stages of repair, illegal arrests and detention of mechanics at Odo Aladura Mechanic Village along the Powerline Corridor/Canal set-back at N0. 1, Jimade Close, Odo-Aladura, off Ladipo Road, Mushin, Lagos State, covering an area of 5193.886 square meters.
“The Nigerian Automobile Technicians Association (NATA), an affiliate of the Federation of Informal Workers’ Organizations of Nigeria (FIWON) is once again crying out against the unlawful, whimsical and oppressive eviction of mechanics from their work place by money bags colluding with officials of the Ministry of Transport, employing the services of the police and armed thugs,” he said.
According to him the site forcefully taken over on the 7th of July 2020 by men of the Lagos State Ministry of Transport and the Nigerian Police Force led by one Mr. Lawal at around 3a.m in the night was one of the forty mechanic villages created in 1980 by the government of Alhaji Lateef Jakande.
He recalled that the mechanic villages were created along power lines and canal set – backs as a way of organizing auto repair workers in sustainable work clusters while decongesting the city of the scattered presence of auto workers, adding that the powerlines were chosen because no permanent structures are allowed under high tension electricity grids for safety reasons.
He said, “This action conforms with current international standards especially Sustainable Development Goals 11 and 10.2 which emphasizes the necessity for inclusivity in city management as well as the International Labour Organization (ILO) Recommendation 204 all of which provide for, among other things, regulated access of informal workers to public spaces in the course of their service to members of the public.
“Unfortunately, several of these mechanic villages have been taken over by private interests with the connivance of certain public officials of the Lagos State government. As we speak, The Babs Animashaun Mechanic Village from where mechanics were evicted in 2017 under similar circumstances as this one has been permanently occupied by armed thugs, while various permanent structures including a petro station have been constructed, right under high tension electricity grids posing grave risks to members of the public!”
Fayeun stated that the land/Mechanic Village in contention was permanently allocated to some of the members through the Ministry of Transportation on the 16th December, 1993, upon fulfillment of all the Lagos State Government’s conditions and requirements, with letters to back it up.
He however expressed that the plight of the workers began in 2017, when the Lagos State Development and Property Corporation (LSDPC) wrote that the property has been allocated to its client, Shola Idowu Estate Developer & Company, and demanded that the workers should vacate within seven days.
He said when the workers resisted through their lawyer, they were offered on behalf of LSDPC, the sum of N10, 000, 000.00 (ten Million Naira Only) in December 2019 as compensation to enable them vacate the premises within Fourteen (14) days upon receipt of the said sum, the offer which was rejected.
Equally, he said they were offered an alternative space, but they were pelted with stones when they got there, while their members were subjected to all manners of harassment and inhuman treatment, arrest and detention for days by the men and officers of the Nigerian Police at Zone 2 Headquaters, Onikan, Lagos, all because they refused to vacate the property.
“In addition, they were arraigned on trumped up charges at the Igbosere Magistrate Court, Lagos and were made to spend about two (2) weeks at the Ikoyi Prison before they were granted court bail,” he lamented.
The chairman said the members’ vehicles and tools of trade were destroyed and carted away to an unknown destination resulting in the members incurring huge debt running to several hundreds of millions of naira even as the owners of the vehicles are now after them.
He said the Governor would have to salvage the situation and correct the injustice which already has made some of the workers suffered different health crises, adding that the All Progressive Congress (APC), who they have been supporting over the the years have been unfair to them.
He added that investigation revealed that it was one of the party members that wanted to take over the property belonging to the workers for his personal use.
The General Secretary of FIWON, Kayode Komolafe lamented the flagrant oppression and trampling on the rights of the Informal workers in Lagos by demolition of their workshops by the officials of the state government.
“When such happened it is worst than closing down a factory because such workers in a factory can still find another jobs, but here it is taken away their means of survival. This has led to premature death of many of such people,” he said.