DEMOLITION IN AJEGUNLE
DEMOLITION IN AJEGUNLE
A Call For Adequate Compensation For The Affected Resident Of Fashola’s Anti-People Policy
By Olasunmbo Musari, DSM Ajegunle Branch
Since the inception of Babatunde Raji Fashola government in Lagos State the residents in the state, most especially people living in slums such as Ajegunle, Badia-Ijora, Makoko, Okokomaiko, Mushin etc., have been living in perpetual fear. The fear of the looming demolition of their houses which, according to the state government, would pave way for the construction of modern roads, beatification, modern market etc., as part of their overall plan to make Lagos a ‘mega city’.
Early this year the Lagos state government through the ministry of environment embarked on massive demolition of structures/buildings, mainly houses, churches, mosques, shops, schools, along the canal line of Ajegunle. With no fewer than 1,500 buildings demolished, 50,000 people rendered homeless, properties worth millions of naira destroyed and five persons recorded dead, the government has unleashed more pains and sorrows. However, at this same period, buildings in street such as Olumoko, Layinka, Sanusi and Oduduwa that were not located along the canal line were also marked for demolition to a measurement of 8 meters on both sides of the road.
It is pertinent to note the demolition of buildings along the canal line was carried out without alternative places being provided for the affected persons by the Lagos state government. When the demand for compensation was made, the Lagos state government stated that it would only compensate those whose buildings have Certificates of Occupancy, and as a result of that branded the residents as illegal occupants. The government made this statement having full knowledge that virtually all the residents do not have the certificate. But this is criminal for the Lagos state considering the fact that for decades the Local and State governments have been collecting different taxes (tenement rate, trade permit etc.,) from residents. Therefore, on the basis of revenue, the people are recognized as legal occupants but when it comes to being responsible to the people – both in term of compensation and provision of basic infrastructures – they are largely ignored.
The Ajeromi-Ifelodun Community Movement (AICOM) a community based movement that has been defending the people’s rights in the community and played major role in stopping Bola Tinubu from demolishing Ajegunle in 1999, has questioned the rational over the demolition without considering the peoples interest. AICOM has called for adequate compensation before any demolition since about 50,000 persons will be rendered homeless. It is on this basis that AICOM have rallied round the affected residents (landlord/tenants) to initiate a struggle to oppose this brazen anti-people policy.
After about four meetings between AICOM members and the landlords/tenants of the affected buildings, it was obvious that the people were opposed to it. There have been some state sponsored campaigns that it is better for the affected residents to willingly demolish the buildings themselves or will have to suffer huge fines if government bulldozers come to demolish them. The struggle suffered some setback because some of the affected residents had illusions in Governor Fashola as a listening governor. They felt that if the governor is appealed to, the demolition would be partial and nobody will be made to pay huge fine for disobeying the order.
Before the bulldozers arrived very few Action Congress (AC) supporters whose buildings are also affected had started demolishing their own structure and were telling others to do so or they risk their lives. This propaganda of “destroying your house yourself before the bulldozers come” was spread by this Action Congress members some of whom are elders and leaders of the Community Development Association (CDA) another political structure of the ruling political party. It is speculated that some of the top members of AC in the community got compensation. Although, the state government succeeded in demolishing the houses but due to the campaign spearheaded by AICOM the 8 meters was reduced to 5 meters hereby reducing the affected numbers of buildings.
It is most shocking that in a civil dispensation and for a government that calls itself as progressive could not seek peoples’ views and opinions before embarking on this type of project. Housing is one of major indices for development. As a matter of policy, a people oriented government provides housing along other basic needs and infrastructure. As a result of the demolition across the country, Nigeria is ranked top on the list of nations that have rendered over 2.5 million people homeless in the last 4 years. Ironically, this is taking place when the country is making more money from crude oil sales. The few buildings that have been built by the Lagos state government in the last 8 years have been either sold for not less than N10million or awarded to politicians in the state House of Assembly, commissioners etc., while the working people are forced to live in shanties and makeshifts.
All this only shows hat neo-liberal capitalist government has gotten to its pick of development and therefore, has no capacity to move humanity forward. It will instead bring it frustration and pain. It is only a socialist planned economy where welfare of the people will determine policies and programmes can bring permanent decent living condition for all.
However, Ajeromi-Ifelodun Community Movement (AICOM) is demanding adequate compensation for all those affected by the demolition. We are equally calling for massive investment on housing to be immediately embarked upon by the Lagos State Government in order to make housing affordable for the people and fundamentally resolve the present housing crisis in the state.