A popular commercial avenue in the city. But some landlords, traders, car dealers, transporters and hoteliers who have been displaced have different stories of anguish and pains to tell.
As the 10-lane Lagos State light rail project enters its second phase last week, more landlords, traders, transporters, and car dealers, among others, along the Lagos-Badagry Expressway have been displaced. Indeed, many of them have yet to recover from the shock of having their houses and places of business demolished by the agents of the Lagos State Government.
The worst hit areas are the popular Mazamaza, Agboju and Oluti axis of the expressway. As the project proceeds gradually towards Okokomaiko, where another terminus will berth, more houses are bound to give way.
Some of the landlords said they expected the demolition because they had received notice from the state government; however, they expected compensation and relocation, if possible, before the bulldozers were rolled in.
All the documents pertaining to their property have been submitted to the state government over a year ago for compensation, but the response they got was the demolition that happened last week.
Some of them lost more than one building to the exercise. One of such victims is Mr. Afeez Balogun, who lost about six houses in the stretch the demolition covered. Narrating his ordeal on Wednesday, Balogun said the buildings were located between numbers 171 and 179, Lagos-Badagry Expressway. He had co-owned the buildings with his elder brother.
Though he attended about three stakeholders’ meetings this year with the Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, Mr. Babafemi Hamzat, where those who had submitted valid documents on their property were assured of compensation, nothing has so far materialsed from the meetings.
He said, “We received a notice over a year now. So, we expected the demolition; but we didn’t think it should be the first step. I believe compensation should come first, and government should have considered the issue of our relocation.”
Some of his tenants who are now displaced are luxury bus operators at Mazamaza, which was a terminus for South-East and South-South bound travellers.
Another affected landlord is Mr. Wasiu Yusuf, whose two houses located on 219 and 220, Lagos-Badagry Expressway, were demolished. The structures, both bungalows, which he inherited from his late father, had about 32 rooms altogether.
He said, it was only through government benevolence that he could claim any compensation for the property, since all he had as proof of ownership was the receipt issued to his father by those who sold the land to him.
He said, “My father never had any Certificate of Occupancy or Governor’s Consent or what have you. The only thing I could lay my hands on is the receipt given to him by the omo onile. So, I don’t know whether I could be considered for compensation.”
Yusuf was however, grateful to the demolition squad for giving him time to exhume the corpses of his father and grandfather, who were buried in front of one of the houses. He has since reburied them in Lagos Island.
Another casualty of the demolition exercise was one of the biggest hotels around Mazamaza, Promiseland, which lost almost three-quarters of its size to the exercise. Renovation work has, however, commenced on the remaining structure.
One of the managers who spoke to SUNDAY PUNCH on condition of anonymity, said though they were given notice, compensation should have preceded the demolition exercise.
He said, “Business has been paralysed for now, but you can see that we are putting into shape what remains, and with time, we hope the customers will start to return. Many of the luxury bus drivers and other customers used to lodge here before the demolition.”
He also said the hotel management had submitted relevant documents of the property to the state government.
Another landlady who also pleaded anonymity said she had two houses among those demolished in the recent exercise — a two-storey building and a bungalow. She, too, is sad that she is yet to be compensated.
While the bungalow was completely demolished, a quarter of the two-storey building was still left standing, with the windows hanging precariously in the air.
As she rues the loss of her property, she said, “Yes, we were given notice, but in advanced countries, when such exercise is to take place, government would relocate the people and then pay compensation before demolition takes place. But it is the other way round here.”
The distraught woman said some of her tenants were displaced because nobody knew the exact date the exercise would commence.
The common predicament of many of the landlords is the lack of Certificate of Occupancy and other relevant documents, apart from the receipts issued to them by the land owners.
The Financial Secretary, Auto Dealers Association, Mazamaza, Mr. Rowland Omasoro, laments the lull in business as a result of the exercise.
He said the association, which had about 36 members, would have to contend with the problem until perhaps the project takes shape around the Mazamaza axis.
He said since the demolition exercise had taken a large chunk of the space hitherto available to them, many dealers had to move away some of their vehicles to their houses and other locations.
He said, “It is not funny at all; to say business has dropped will be an understatement. Some people don’t even know we are still here.”
For the luxury bus owners, only the buses of The Young Shall Grow were still seen at Mazamaza. Others like Izuchukwu Transport, Dan Dollars Transport Service, and Evergreen, among others, have relocated to other parts of the neighbourhood. However, some Hummer buses and cars on inter-state routes have taken over the demolition site and were scouting for passengers.
While the pains of the construction of the 10-lane road which will accommodate the light rail along the Lagos-Badagry Expressway are being felt by the landlords, traders, transporters and others, the Lagos State Government has promised to compensate all those who had submitted their valid documents.
The Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Aderemi Ibirogba, confirmed that some of the landlords were yet to be compensated, while he also acknowledged that many of them had submitted relevant documents concerning their property. He added that the landlords would not be left in the lurch for too long before getting their compensation.
He said, “For those who had submitted their valid documents, our valuation officers are already working on them. This administration is a responsive and responsible one. We are not going to leave these landlords in perpetual suffering. It is true that many of them have submitted documents of their houses to the government.
“We have valuation officers who are already working on the documents and, very soon, we are going to invite them to a meeting, where we will both agree on the compensation process. They should be patient with the government, because these processes take time.”
Ibirogba, however, refused to disclose the number of landlords that have so far been compensated since the project began almost two years ago.
The commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, Mr. Babafemi Hamzat, in an electronic message said the valid documents received so far had been passed to the Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development and the Office of Lands. He said, “We have done it before, I do not see why this will be an exception. So long as they have their necessary papers; they will be paid.”
On the first phase, he said 91 properties were affected in the whole exercise, with 49 persons already paid, while plans were afoot to pay all the remaining people.
He added, “The amount expended is in excess of N1.5bn.”
The Lagos State Government is constructing a light rail system under a public private partnership. The project will be developed by the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority on behalf of the Lagos State Government.
The China Civil Engineering Construction Company has been appointed as the contractor for the construction of the first line (Blue). The contract includes the basic design and construction of the rail infrastructure. The CCECC is constructing the Blue Line in two phases. The first phase includes the National Theatre to Mile 2 section, while the second phase includes the Mile 2 to Okokomaiko section.