BusinessDay
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Lagos explosion: Property owners’ fate uncertain on building permit, approval issues

What becomes of the owners of the over 100 houses that were burnt by the gas explosion that rocked Abule-Ado, a Lagos suburb, recently remains uncertain as regulatory and approval issues may, when the chips are down, deny them ownership of what used to be their property.

BusinessDay findings reveal that the fate of these property ‘owners’ hangs in the air because many of those burnt houses do not have building permits and plan approvals.

The explosion which, by the last count, had caused over 20 deaths, injury to hundreds of others, and burning of over 100 houses, rendering thousands homeless, has raised concerns over lax regulations as several of the affected houses, it was learnt, were built in contravention of the state government’s physical and urban planning regulations.

Sources within the state government and the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) informed that after the dust raised by the explosion might have settled, many of the affected property would be denied redevelopment approval.

A source in FHA who did not want to be named told BusinessDay that many of those houses were built on the gas pipeline because there were no regulations or building approvals, recalling that the housing authority had been in a legal battle with those ‘land grabbers’ for some years now.

“Recall that the housing authority has been in a long-drawn legal battle with these people who have been building and living illegally on government land. The main subject of contention is the area referred to as Festac Extension. The affected area in Abule Ado is part of this subject matter,” the source said.

According to the sources, the explosion might have provided the opportunity for the government at the federal and state levels to step in and sanitise uncontrolled development around gas pipeline.

Another source within Lagos State government circles disclosed that the investigative committee set up by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and chaired by his deputy, Obafemi Hamzat, might go beyond the remote and immediate cause(s) of the explosion to examine whether or not the massive developments within that neighbourhood conformed to Lagos state’s laws and regulations.

The implication is that owners of those burnt houses that don’t have building permit and plan approvals risk losing their land to the government with a wider implication of remaining homeless for a long time.

The source told BusinessDay that the state government had before now had a fierce battle with developers around Abule Ado and Festac Extension. “This could be a payback time,” he said.

Our source recalled that in 2017, the Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA) in partnership with FHA had cause to stop some illegal developments in Abule Ado and Festac Extension, where haphazard developments had become a norm.

But analysts have some knocks for the physical planning and building control agencies of government at both state and federal levels. They contend that if these agencies were serious with enforcing extant laws on building regulations, these houses would not have been built in the first place.

There are several reasons for which government regulates housing developments. One is to check irregular buildings that could lead to slum development. Another is to ensure the safety of life and property.

“But today, modern governments see regulation as a source of revenue which is why they look the other way when people embark of uncontrolled developments in so far as they have paid money on-demand,” Yemi Madamidola, an estate manager, said.

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