By Job Osazuwa
Some occupants of the demolished buildings and makeshift shacks by the railway line in Ikeja, Lagos State, are gnashing their teeth, accusing government of not giving them enough time to plan their relocation.
But sources have said that the state government gave the occupants notice since 2020 to vacate the buildings. It was also learnt that the legal occupants of the affected buildings were already captured and given their financial compensation.
When Daily Sun visited the area on April 8, a bulldozer was seen pulling down the structures, even as some of the occupants hurriedly packed out their belongings to avoid being crushed.
As gathered, the demolition became necessary to pave way for the 37km North-South rail project tagged the Lagos Rail Mass Transit (LRMT) popularly called the Red Line, cutting through Ebute-Meta, Yaba, Ikeja to Agbado in Ogun State. The knocking down of the buildings was to pave the way for railway facilities to be extended to the marked area.
In a bid to reduce the impact of the demolition of structures along the right of way of the Red Line, the Lagos State government, through the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA), engaged two consulting firms, Nolasimbo Consulting Engineers and Partners Limited and Global Impact Environmental Consulting Limited to identify project affected persons (PAP). And negotiations have been ongoing with the people involved.
Investigation also revealed that most of the occupants have since moved out of the marked buildings, having been notified that they were bound for demolition. But when the information got to the people, perhaps, some of them felt that it was a mere threat. And they moved on with their daily activities unperturbed. When they saw the bulldozers early in the morning of April 8, they began to run helter-sketter salvaging their property.
Moreover, most of the retired Nigerian Railway Corporation workers in the buildings were said to have vacated their apartments before now. A shop owner close to Ikeja Along, Emeka Gabriel Okocha, told the reporter: “We have been told the government was coming to demolish the buildings and level the area. This thing has been on for the last one year. At a point, they (government officials) collected our data that we would be compensated in one way or the other.
“I started making other plans since the beginning of the year in case government fulfils what it said. But when we noticed that they were not forthcoming, many people began to relax and carry on with their activities.
“To be fair to government, we were notified. But people will always complain that the government is wicked. I think that it is the poverty level in the country that is making people angry over every government decision.
“Another truth is that there have been many illegal occupants in the area. These people have lived in the makeshifts for over 30 years. They never thought that the government could come any day to evict them. I understand their frustration because things are not easy in the country.”
A resident who was displaced by the demolition, who identified herself simply as Omotunde, said that she and her two children had lived in a makeshift shed attached to one of the affected buildings for the past nine years.
“See my property outside (pointing to her mattress and other belongings scattered in the open). I have nowhere to go. I was paying the owners of my space every month. They didn’t tell me that there was going to be demolition. I paid till February while they assured me that there was no cause for alarm.
“This is where l live and carry out my petty business near the railway every evening. I don’t know where to start from because I don’t have money to rent a house,” she said.
One of the supervisors of the project, who spoke on condition of anonymity with Daily Sun, said what was happening was as a result of a well-thought-out agreement between the occupants and government.
“Nobody can actually complain in this case, except the occupant just wants to be mischievous. Everything was well-thought-out. If you observe well, you won’t see any of the rightful owners of the buildings being displaced. Everybody was carried along on how to be compensated. There have been meetings upon meetings to this effect. The buildings are going for the sake of using the space for facilities that will be enjoyed by the public. So, nobody is losing and nobody is winning in this case.”
As learnt, the kind of rail system being built is the type that won’t allow pedestrians cross the rail tracks anymore. There would be 10 bridges across it, of which five bridges will be constructed by the Lagos State government, while the remaining five will be constructed by the Federal Government. The bridges in Oyingbo, Yaba, Mushin, at Kayode and Ogunmokun streets, and Ikeja, will be constructed by the Lagos State government.
It as a result of this that the construction will affect structures and buildings along its right of way.
Apart from property owners getting compensation, it was gathered that the Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, ordered everybody affected, including tenants, to be compensated, in a bid to help the tenants relocate easily to enable quick completion of the project.
Testifying to the compensation claim by the government, one of the tenants in the affected buildings told the reporter that he got a message a few days ago that his payment was almost completed.
“But I have not been told how much I would be paid. I heard that some persons collected up to N1.9 million. They are processing it turn by turn because the people affected are many.
“Many people don’t trust government because of past experiences. But this is for real,” he said.
Another displaced occupant in a makeshift shed, Mummy Kafilat, who has three children living with her, said that she was aware of the pending demolition, but didn’t have anywhere to go. She also complained that the time was too short for them to raise money to secure another apartment.
She said that she was not also part of those that were billed for compensation. She had lived peacefully in her apartment for 14 years.