By Gilbert Ekezie, Lagos
Residents and business owners in Coconut, by Waterside, in Ajeromi Ifelodun Local Government Area of Lagos were taken by surprise by a state task force that stormed the area recently, demolishing structures and destroying properties worth millions of naira.
Speaking on the happening, the chairman of the community, Mr Michael Egbayelo, explained that the task force arrived the scene about 11:30 am in a Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI) truck with more than 30 mobile policemen who were on the mission to provide the task force security cover.
Egbayelo said that the task force arrived at the scene with demolition equipment and bulldozed entire structures in the area, reportedly on the orders of the Lagos State Government.
‘At about 11:30 am to 12 noon this morning, we saw some people; who said they are from Lagos State, they came with Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI) van and caterpillar with which they demolish structures. When they came, they said all of us should go outside, I came out and asked why we were asked to go outside, and I said I can’t go out, unless they tell me what was going on, as chairman of the community. But, they refused to discuss it with me. They said, they had their order from the governor, and that the only person who can stop them from demolishing the structures, was the Governor of Lagos State. Since, I don’t have the phone number of the governor, I did not know who to call for intervention,’ he said.
He stated that the task force did not only come to demolish the place, they came to intimidate people around the area. ‘First, they intimidated everybody with about 30 to 40 mobile policemen, and the person who led the operation did not give me his name. He only said he is a director; that we should come to Alausa, Room 16. When we got there, they said they were not aware of the operation.
On whether there was any notice before the demolition, he said: ‘There was no prior warning, no notice, no vacation order before they came here today. That is even what I was asking them if you want to pull down a structure, at least there is going to be a notice, but here, there was no notice. How can you pull down the structures just like that without minding the effect? They said the order was from the governor.’
Egbayelo informed that the task force destroyed the entire structures in the area, but spared the property belonging to the Lagos State Government. ‘You can see the whole mess, our guest house is broken down, all the shops here are gone. What they told me is that they would destroy everything here, except the Lagos State Jetty, which we gave Lagos State Government land to build. Why would they destroy our own place and leave the structure?’
On further efforts made to settle the matter, he said he has tried contacting the authorities, all to no avail. ‘We have tried to call the Director of Physical Planning, but the office said he is on leave; that he is in the US, so we have not been able to get to him. We called someone at the office of Physical Planning, but he said he doesn’t know anything about it, no notice; there is nothing to warrant them to destroy anything here,’ he said.
Another stakeholder, Mr Oluwole Egbayelo, gave further clarification on the matter, pointing out that his father is the custodian of the property that was demolished: ‘When I came around, at about 12 to 1 o’clock, I saw their vehicle blowing siren round the place, and before I could approach them, they have started to demolish the whole property. They said they were from the governor, which we would want to know. We have documents of the payment we made to Physical Planning, we also have the receipt. So, we want to know our offence that made the Physical Planning to giver order for the demolition of our property. We pay our taxes, and we are citizens of Nigeria, they can’t just molest us that way.’
He also argued that ordinarily, owners of the affected properties should have been served a notice to pick one or two things out of their houses ‘At least if there was two or three hours notice, we would have picked some of our things. But they just arrived, entered and started demolishing things just like that.’
All efforts made to reach the office of Physical Planning, Lagos State to comment on the incident, was unsuccessful as the officials were said to be unavailable.