As the Lagos State Government made true it’s threats to take over Obalende land in Eti-Osa Local Government area of the state from the settlers and others residents living in the area under the guise of remodeling the ancient community, agents of the state government on Tuesday last week commenced the demolition of about 13 multi – storey buildings in the community.
However, settlers and other residents of the area have called for a halt to the demolition of their houses by agents of the state and ask the Lagos State government to obey the valid court judgement of 1998 on the contending issue.
The Obalende residents, who claimed that the lands were given to their fore father’s, even before the 1914 amalgamation of Nigeria, by the then Colonial master, lamented the demolition of their structures, despite a subsisting court judgment, which barred the Lagos State government, from encroaching the land.
The Lagos State Government had since last week Tuesday, commenced demolition of houses in the area.
Some of the houses demolished were sited at numbers 20 and 51 Moshalashi street 51, 69, 77, and a church at 83, all in Eleshin Street, a five storey buildings on Dodan barracks road and many others.
The residents, who spoke on the demolition through the duo of Mr. Nurudeen Olaitan Olokowo and Pastor Jacob, thie Community’s chairman of the Landlords Association and an elder, respectively, appeal to the State government to respect the court judgment and give them necessary approvals to rebuild their houses by themselves.
Giving a historical perspective of the pace called Obalende today, , the Chairman of Obalende Landlords Association, Olokowo said; “before the 1914 Nigeria’s amalgamation of Nigeria, the colonial government was the one that resettled returnee soldiers from the Burma war at this place that is called obalende, the whole land was about 250 standard plots , the colonial masters’ drivers, their cooks and house helps were settled here.
” When they wanted to build King’s College and the Supreme Court, those living on the lands where the structures were to be built then, were relocated to this place called ‘Obalende’, meaning : (where the king has forced us to live) since then people have been living in Obalende. The then Federal Government, legalised the land to the people living there by giving them lease, some of 100 years, some of 60 years, as it’s varies.
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“Around 1997 or thereabouts, most of the lease granted to the residents expired, and they applied to the Lagos State government for renewal, but the government was playing hide and seek. Consequently, the residents who are mostly settlers sued the Lagos State, Ministry of Physical Planning and some agencies of the state at the end, the court in a judgement delivered in 1998 ordered the Lagos State Government to renew the lease of all people living in Obalende.
“The then State Governor, Brigadier Buba Marwa, gave an order for the renewal of the lease, but insisted that all cases in the court over the issue should be withdrawn which we did, but since 1998, the Lagos State neither appeal the Judgment and the lease was also not renewed and it been back and front game.
“In August this year, agents of the state government came to Obalende and pasted notices on all the houses stating that they gave them 48 hours to come to Alausa with all documents on each building, failure of wish all the houses will be demolished.
“We thought it was a joke, four days after, they (Lagos State Building Control Agency; Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development) came as usual with armed mobile policemen and pasted another Seven days notice, that if landlords failed to come with all documents as directed, they will come and demolish the houses. It’s either the owners of the houses demolish it by themselves or they demolish it and the owners pay for the demolition, they stated.
“So, we called on our lawyer, who went to meet them without documents and after going there they made a publication inviting all of us. On getting to Ikeja, we saw the banners reflecting all that they wanted to do in Obalende, they told us that Obalende is a slum, we all rejected the statement and told them that Obalende is not a slum and they apologize.
“They now told us that they wants to remodel Obalende and that they are not sending us away neither grabbing our land, but they want to build sky scrapper, after which they will allocate to them according to each person’s status, those that entitled to 2-bedrooms flat, those that entitled to 4-bedroom duplex, will be given accordingly.
They told us that there is nothing we can do, they will do what they intend doing. ”The General Manager of LASBCA, Gbolahan Oki, said our first meeting will be on October 1, when they will come to Obalende, as all the houses been constructed in Obalende are without approval. Saying that the ones being constructed now shall be made first as an example. Truly, on Tuesday, on October 20, they came with five caterpillars and they started demolishing all houses that are mostly completed. And they’re three storey buildings.
Our Appeal “We are now appealing that the Lagos State should respect the court judgments and give us the necessary approvals, because, at our meeting, we asked them to tell us how they wants us to build the houses since they are the one to supervise it, all of us in Obalende are capable of building our houses, be three or four storey buildings if that is what they want, we will build it, that is where we stop, so far, about 12 to 13 houses have been demolished.
However, if they refused to listen to our plea, we believe that we are in a country that is governed by the law, our lawyers are also making move to take the necessary legal steps.
The judgment of 1998, which they did not want to obey, this time around, the court will compel them to obey and respect the Judgment”.
Pastor Jacob, an elder in the community who narrated several steps taken by the inhabitants of the community in getting their Lease renewed by the successive government in the state said: “When they came, they were talking about small streets, they did not tell us then what is in their mind about this community.
“They were talking about getting us a better building, and that at the end of the day, we will be given a small portions, but we said no to that. Because we knew that this is a Crown land, it was given to our fore-fathers by the federal government. We have been at the Ministry of Lands in TBS several times, we have sent representatives to Abuja, unfortunately, we couldn’t reach to Governor Babatunde Fashola then.
When we got to Lands at TBS, because we have been paying our Land Use Charge to the Lagos state government, they said we should not pay anything to the state government because it is a Federal land, they came here, their lawyers with ours discussed on the renewal of the leases.
That is what we are expecting from the Federal Government, especially, when we attained the age of 100 years, which was celebrated here by our late fathers, sir Obilana, sir Ajayi and many others, but it was not forth coming.
“Just of sudden, recently, we have the parastatal called LASBCA, sending signals and notices to all houses in Obalende, and going through all those notices, it was very funny, since I have been staying in Obalende, my grand mother didn’t erect any storey buildings, and it is what we had we are still using, but they are saying they are coming to rebuild the place.”
When we went to Alausa, they told us emphatically that they will come, but they will tarry it a while. They told us that they will be coming on October 1, they’ll touch some houses because they don’t have approval.
“Secondly, they called another meeting, though, I was not there, but they said the DG Gbolahan Oki said they will be coming to touch some houses, because they don’t have approval, especially, the developers building them. And unfortunately, the developers are not cooperating with the associations in Obalende so that we can get to the root of the matters.
“This week Monday, all of a sudden, they brought caterpillars, bulldozers armed policemen and started demolishing houses, they demolished not less than eight building that day. This is a big loss.
“All we want is to appeal to them, since we have been having issues with them, they did not let us know what they want, that is our problem.
We are just hearing rumour, which I don’t believe it can happen. Let us know what they want. They should allow us to develop our lands by ourselves. It is because we are not given necessary documents to use in developing it. We can develop our lands by ourselves.
“We’re appealing to the Lagos State Government, we are law abiding citizens, we don’t want to have any entangle with the state Government, we are peace loving people, even, when there was a crises between Yoruba and Hausa at Idiaraba, we’re all here living peacefully. We are one here, we wants to appeal again, they should give us peace of mind”.