Residents of Community Four, 6th Avenue at Fesstac Town in Lagos now live in apprehension. They say they are being molested by some persons, claiming to have legally taken possession of the area.
The people, in large numbers, comprising landlords and tenants, recently poured out to the streets, as they staged a peaceful protest to tell the authorities of their plight. They called on the Federal Government to quickly intervene in the crisis and help restore sanity and peace to the area.
The residents said they were being threatened, intimidated and physically assaulted by the persons, who allegedly invaded the area, saying a court had pronounced them the lawful owners.
As early as 8.30am on Thursday, the angry residents had gathered at the 6th Avenue gate, chanting solidarity songs. From there, they marched to the zonal office of the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) to register their grievances. They said it was unfortunate that the authority folded its arms and allowed some influential persons to claim possession of the vast area of land hitherto given to the residents. They said the FHA should spell out the exact area in contention, call the people, claiming the land to order and remove all signboards, indicating that the area now belongs to the families in question. The disputed area, it was gathered, covered about 500 hectares. But the residents claim that the land grabbers are claiming over 1,000 hectares.
Chairman of the affected area, Ndubuisi Nwankwo, told Daily Sun during the demonstration that the residents were law-abiding citizens and wouldn’t do anything that would breach the law of the land and the peace of Festac. He warned, however, that the people’s meekness was no foolishness.
“It is with compelling pressure that we embark on this peaceful demonstration today. Allocation of plots were made to us between 1989 and 1991, and we have fulfilled all our financial obligations to FHA, that is, premium, development, survey, plan approval, building supervision fees and ground rents. These fees were supposed to cover the provision of infrastructure, such as road networks, drainages, electricity and potable water. Suffice it to say that despite the collection of these various fees from us by the FHA, no basic amenity has been provided except epileptic power supply.
“As if the negligence was not enough punishment for the residents, the Kuje Amuwo Chieftaincy family took the FHA to court in 2010 over land ownership and due to reasons not clear to us, FHA lost the case on February 29, 2016, resulting in various brazen activities of the family members, who have invaded our estate, threatening fire and brimstone,” he said.
Nwankwo said the residents needed explanation from the FHA over the matter and wanted urgent steps taken to protect their lives and property.
He added: “Meanwhile, the omoniles have erected billboards everywhere in our estate, claiming to have taken possession of the 6th and 7th Avenues of Festival Town and we do not know their next line of action. Considering the enormous national security challenges being faced by the Federal Government at the moment, it is not advisable for FHA to sit on the fence and allow a breakdown of law and order in our community. We want to know whether we were shortchanged or if we should no longer trust the Federal Government for transactions.
“It is to our greatest surprise that the land we have been living in for the past 25 years is now said to be owned by some omoniles. We are more shocked that the Federal Government through FHA could sell landed property to Nigerian citizens and then turn around to allow the same land be claimed by some persons. This beats our imagination. We want the government to direct the FHA to do the needful in order for peace to prevail.”
President of Festac Town Residents Association, Mr. Shola Fakorede, told the reporter that the residents would not relent in their efforts to get justice on the matter. He called on concerned authorities, including FHA, Abuja office, to wade into the issue.
“We respect the law of the land, and that is why we have taken to this manner of protest. I called the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) of Festac Police Station to give us his men so that the protest would not be hijacked by hoodlums. We have made our points clear and will want the government to act quickly. You will not say because we are law-abiding and then push us to the wall. The country is already witnessing tension all over; we don’t want to add to it,” he stated.
Responding to the protesters, a senior staff of FHA, who did not want his name in print, thanked the aggrieved residents for comporting themselves in a civilised manner. He told them the FHA had already filed a notice of appeal, as a follow-up to the judgment. He said the management in Abuja was well-informed about the development.
“The situation there is surmountable as far as we are concerned. We don’t joke with any of you at 6th Avenue. We sympathise with you; it was a slight mix-up. I am mandated to speak with you because the zonal manager is not around. We are pleading that you should still have confidence in us because our relationship with you is forever. You problem there is also our problem,” the FHA official said.
He urged the residents to report cases of molestation to the police, just as he insisted that the FHA had not freed the area to anybody for any purpose. He advised them to follow due process in fighting for their rights.