…Victims architects of own misfortune – FHA
It came suddenly. Though warnings were said to have been served but the inclement economic weather and other factors may have prevented the victims from finding an alternative accommodation until they woke up to the reality of their world crashing like a pack of cards.
The bulldozers roared and everything became dark. That was the experience of many residents of Abule-Ado, Oriade Local Council Development Area (LCDA), Lagos State, a few days ago.
The demolition has shattered dreams and killed joy of many residents who may be planning to end the harrowing year on a good note.
A visit to the King’s Royal Estate, 91 Road, Festac Phase 2, one of the estates in Soba community in Abule-Ado, Lagos, captures a popular phrase, “The rich also cry.”
That has been the reaction of both residents and landlords of King’s Royal Estate, since the demolition of their properties by the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) last week.
On Friday, November 17, 2023, Akintola Olagbemiro, the zonal managing director of FHA, South-West zone, told the press that residents of houses marked for demolition at the Festac Phase 2 area of Lagos State had violated rules.
According to Olagbemiro, the occupants of the houses continued to erect structures in the area despite a stop order from the FHA.
“A lot of illegality has gone up in that place, and I mean an illegal development. And we are looking at how best we can solve this and ensure people live in a serene environment. We want to ensure that we do our part by making people live in quality houses for them to live in.
However, the FHA said issues of illegal estate developers and land speculators have been illegally selling lands to people, which has also resulted in a series of litigation for the federal housing agency.
According to the FHA, notices had been served since August informing residents of the planned demolition of illegal structures. However, residents claim the notices were sudden and inadequate.
But, the notices on many of the demolished buildings indicated that pro-notices were given long before the caterpillars were brought in to pull the structures down. Some of the notices date back to November 2022 (FHA/AR/34 23.11.2022), while some of the most recent notices date back to 25 August and 22 September, 2023 respectively.
Some were only asked to “Remove upper floor” that somehow correlated with the FHA’s claim of wanting to reclaim some of the properties and restore order to the estate.
“They just came unaware and started demolitions; it was a terrible experience for me. Because I just lost my wife during childbirth last month. Now I’ve nowhere to move down to,” Onaolapo Olalekan Oduola, one of the affected residents and publisher, Mockinbird Online Daily Newspapers, told BusinessDay.
Oduola like many of the residents in King’s Royal Estate are currently in a depressed mode seeking for both financial and emotional support in response to the sudden demolition notices from the FHA.
“I just came back from Adeniji central police station now; I was scammed by a fake caretaker of N1.3m. I’m totally depressed,” Oduola said, indicating that the caretaker has been arrested; however, his belongings are still outside as at the time of filing this report.
Another resident who pleaded anonymity told BusinessDay that they bought the land from the Ado Family at the cost of N8.5 million. According to him, about 70 trips of sand was used to fill the land and insinuated that all the buildings being demolished belong to Igbos.
According to him, many of the residents invested in the property because of its proximity to the trade fair market, which is just a five minutes’ drive from the estate.
Another resident narrated his ordeal and claimed that his house worth over N400 million was demolished; while he had only spent 18 months (one and half year) in the property before the bull-dozer pulled it down.
“We already have the permission of our management. So, I’ll also source for security. When we have that security backing, we’ll start to enforce. The structures on the road, the pipeline settings and the ones that were built after that stakeholder meeting where we all said everybody should wait,” Francesca Michael-James, zonal deputy general manager, urban and regional planning, stated before the demolition was carried out.
Michael-James’ earlier statement corroborated with the actions taken so far by the FHA on the structures so far demolished in the estate. While few buildings were completely brought down, about 75 percent of the marked and demolished buildings are parameter fence and gate houses in some cases.
Earlier in May 2022, the spokesman of the FHA, Kenneth Chigelu, raised an alarm over illegal land deals in Festac town.
“Our attention has been drawn to the activities of unscrupulous persons claiming to be agents of the FHA for the sale of land in Festac Town. Members of the public are warned not to do business with these imposters. The said advertisement is a scam”.
According to Chigelu, the FHA did not appoint anybody or organisation as its agent. He also urged members of the public to deal directly with FHA’s managing director or zonal managers when making land transactions.
“Those putting up such advertisements are mere impostors. Members of the public are warned not to do business with these impostors. The said advertisement is a scam,” he stated.
According to him, areas being advertised by fraudsters in Festac Town are not even for sale. “We don’t relate with the public through agents in any way. Anyone who deals with the impostors does so at their own risks”.
Following the FHA delegation’s visit on Friday 17 November, 2023, some videos shared on social media indicate that the demolition of illegal structures commenced over the weekend.
One video captured distraught residents out on the streets with their properties. Furniture, electronics, bathroom and toilet fixtures, and mattresses, among other items, were spotted out on the street.
Distortion of Festac master plan
According to Michael-James, the demolition became necessary because the activities of land grabbers have disrupted the initial plan for Festac Town.
“In the master plan, we have the major artilleries, collector and minor roads, for example, the standard of the Right of Way is about 50 feet, which was observed by occupants of the 1st to fifth avenues, but at several other places in the town, what we have is distortion of the master plan. Sand filling or road levelling is no longer in place.
Lawal Umar-Salihu, a member of the FHA delegation, explained that from the total land allocation of 2000 x 24.64 hectares earmarked for the Festac Town development, the government has assigned only 30 percent, while about 70 percent had been encroached upon illegally.
In November 2021, the FHA sparked public outrage after it demolished houses in Festac. According to the FHA, affected residents were given more than 60 days’ notice, but refused to quit.
“We didn’t even go there after the end of the 21 days because we also wanted to be sure that we were doing the right thing. We wanted to make sure that we had done all the markings, and they were informed, up to the extent that some that were even at the foundation level still went ahead and continued, which is not right.
“We saw so many things, no approval, no original papers, nothing. Nobody could give us a single, simple approval either from Lagos State government or from Federal,” Olagbemiro stated.