The Lagos State government has, in the last few months, embarked on what has been described as demolition binge, bringing down both residential and commercial buildings inside and outside the city centre.
Though for good reasons which, according to government officials, include structural instability, wrong location, abuse of building permit and regulation, and the need to save lives, the exercise comes with serious implications for the residents, businesses as well as the economy of the state.
The most recent ones which happened in the last couple of months were the 20 buildings which the state demolished in the highbrow Banana Island, Ikoyi; the 13 buildings that were brought down on Airport Road, and the 17 plazas that were demolished at Alaba International Market in Ojo.
Unlike the 13 buildings that were demolished on Airport Road which were all residential, of the 20 buildings demolished in Banana Island, three were from the commercial section of the island, while 17 were from the residential section.
The demolition of these buildings came as part of the government’s response to the collapse of a 7-storey building still under construction in that exclusive location in the state. The buildings were said to be wrongly located without government approval.
“This is a total recklessness of all the developers and we will make a strong point out of this place and all-around Banana Island and in other developments that we have,” said Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, adding, “in all of these places, it’s heartbreaking each time we have to go through these and it shows sometimes how irresponsible those developers and some of our citizens that just want to make quick money are.”
Built environment professionals have however criticised the state government for always resorting to what they described as “panic reaction to an accident ,” wondering why government always waits until buildings are completed before discovering that they are defective and not fit for habitation.
Though H.O.Badejo, a town planner, reasons with the state government that defective buildings should be demolished to prevent collapse and loss of lives, he wonders what the government’s monitoring officers are doing such that they cannot nip crisis in the bud.
“What have the Lagos State construction sites monitoring officers been doing while developers continue with their work on defective buildings that leads to demolition of collapse?” he queried.
An estate developer, who did not want to be named, noted that when the state government takes its action, it seems not to consider the wider implications not only for the residents, but also for businesses and the state economy.
“Government’s action must be weighed at all times. What the state government does most times, for me, is panic reaction. The state government needs to do an introspection to see that the problem is not much from developers as it is from its own officials who approve and monitor projects,” he said, asking, “how serious and honest are these officials with the job assigned to them?”
According to him, apart from family dislocation, those whose homes are demolished also lose sense of value even as they are exposed to a lot of risks and embarrassment associated with homelessness.
Though Gbolahan Oki, Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA) general manager, had explained that the demolition of the 17 distressed buildings in Alaba International were for public good, the anonymous developer noted that the impact of that action on businesses was unimaginable.
“Many, if not all, of those who had their shops in those plazas now have their lives reset and it can never be easy for them again. They have lost their source of income which affects their family lives and living. Even the government is also affected because they won’t be able to pay tax anymore,” he said.
“Building demolition, whether it is residential or commercial, affects residents as much as it affects business and state’s economy. What they have in common, in terms of losses, is revenue,” the developer added, advising the state government to be always proactive and not reactive.