The Lagos State Ministry of the Environment, in its drive for urban renewal and permanent solution to perennial flooding, conducted mass demolition of properties built on a drainage setback in the Lekki Phase II and Ikota areas of the state, GODFREY GEORGE writes on the exercise and implications for residents.....PROCEED.FULL.READING>>>
Mr Sola Akadi watched in pain on Wednesday as his N55m semi-detached duplex was reduced to rubble by the task force of the Lagos State Ministry of the Environment.
His was one of the buildings being demolished by the government for building on a drainage channel in the Ikota area of the State.
In a few minutes, his investment that had barely lasted two years was gone in a twinkle in his eyes.
As the blade of the bulldozer touched the roof of his building that morning, Akadi held his chest and shook his head in disbelief.
“I could not believe it was happening,” he told our correspondent in an interview. “It was not even up to two years that I bought the property and now it has been brought to the ground. No one in my shoes will be happy losing over N55m and other charges I’ve paid on the property. It’s still like a dream.”
He said when he heard about the planned demolition from a neighbour a few days earlier, he didn’t know how to relay the sad news to his family who had been savouring the moment.
Asked what motivated him to buy the property, he said towards the end of 2021, he felt the need to buy a property in Lagos and that he didn’t hesitate when he got a good offer from the developers of Venux Homes (Phase 1), Ikota GRA and the nod of his lawyer, whom he involved from the outset.
He noted further, “The builders made it clear that everything was up to date, and I believed them because there were other people before us. That was my undoing. Even when I went to the Ministry of the Environment and Physical Planning, they did not imply that there was a problem.
“At the time, the building was not completed. I went there once to check and there were no signs that the building was marked for demolition. The Lagos State Government would not say they were not aware.
“I paid for the property and moved in, until I heard from a neighbor two days to the planned demolition that my house and others in the area would be pulled down.”
He said he later realised the state government had given its final notice of demolition, and that they had to move all the valuables they could till the bulldozers arrived at the site. He said when he cited the Commissioner for Environment, Mr Tokunbo Wahab, and approached him to plead for leniency, Wahab made it clear that no house on the drainage channel or the slabs or setbacks would be spared.
He noted, “That was when I learnt that government officials had come in 2020 to warn the developers and some occupants to stop work and vacate the property but they refused.
“It was during the demolition that I heard about a lot of things. I heard some government officials came and had an understanding with the residents to carry out some corrective measures but they failed to do it.
“Look at the way they have rendered people homeless. I don’t think any builder would erect such buildings without an approval from the ministry. I think what happened was a kind of encroachment but not all the buildings encroached on the channel.”
While calling on the builders to speak on whether or not they got approval from the ministry, Akadi said the commissioner told them that residents should be the ones to compensate the government.
Urban renewal claiming properties
In an attempt to restore sanity to the state and find a solution to flooding in some areas, the state government on Wednesday began the demolition of structures and shanties on setbacks of drainage channels at the Lekki Phase II-Ikota drainage channel.
Typically, most structures on the axis are worth millions of naira, with state-of-the-art finishing and fixtures. Thus, one could conclude that buildings so far demolished were worth billions of naira.
For example, at Venux Homes Phase 1, Ikota GRA, blocks of terrace houses worth over N80m each were demolished. Our correspondent learnt no fewer than 20 buildings in the entire stretch were brought down. This implies that at the Venux Homes alone, buildings worth N1.6bn were demolished.
Also, at the Megamound end of the Lekki Phase II, several buildings in one of the signature areas were demolished.
At the Mobil end, some buildings near completion were also brought down. Sunday PUNCH learnt that the semi-detached buildings cost over N50m per unit. During the demolition, all the buildings on the water channel and several others behind a popular restaurant in the area were brought down.
Our correspondent gathered that many people had made full payment and were waiting for the completion so they could move in, until the demolition began.
Also, at the Ikota Villa Estate, several semi-detached buildings within the price range of N55m to N80m were demolished.
Meanwhile, Wahab has given residents at Cluster 1, Lekki County Estate, Ikota GRA and Megamound Estate within Lekki Phase II, Ikota drainage channel a final warning to vacate their premises to enable the task force to do their job. He made this known on his official X account on Friday.
The demolition exercise, Sunday PUNCH learnt, began at Mobil Road and Gedegede community in the highbrow Lekki Phase II following the expiration of several contravention notices served on the property owners.
Speaking with journalists at the scene of the demolition, the commissioner said the outright demolition underscored the seriousness of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s administration about law and order restoration.
Wahab, who spoke through the Director, Drainage Enforcement and Compliance, Mahmood Adegbite, said the state started serving contravention notices on the property owners in 2020 when all the structures were at their foundation level.
According to him, the residents ignored the notices and all measures suggested by the state government to prevent flooding in the area. Rather than heed the warning, he said some residents went ahead to fill the setback of the channel in preparation for constructing more structures.
He stated, “We cannot write the story of Lagos without the unfortunate incident of flash flood. We are all aware that flooding is caused by natural forces as well as anthropogenic factors, one of which is building on flood plains and right of way of drainages.”
Adegbite pointed out that one of the buildings demolished was at the foundation level in 2020 when the owner was informed that the building was being constructed within the drainage’s right of way.
He said the approved setback was 15 metres but that being a high density area, it was reduced to 10 metres. He however lamented that property owners in the area not only built on the right of way but encroached into the channel by as much as three metres.
The drainage channels, according to him, are about four kilometers, adding that once the demolition was completed, the government would ensure dredging to widen the canal.
Adegbite further advised aspiring and property owners to seek information before embarking on any building project.
He added, “Few people cannot be allowed to cause hardship for the majority. We also received petitions about these unwholesome activities that bother on impunity and we had to act decisively.
“This should serve as a warning to others who have done similar things in other locations; they should know that their actions would have consequences.”
‘I just moved in’
A woman, who simply gave her name as Agboola, said she moved in two months ago after her husband relocated abroad and bought the semi-detached duplex for her around the Ikota GRA.
While pleading for understanding during the demolition, she said she had no idea the building was on a drainage channel.
She noted, “The developers said nothing about this. We also did not find any anomaly from our checks. I just moved in after furnishing and remodeling the house. Where am I expected to sleep?”
When asked if notice was given, she told our correspondent, “I did not get any official evacuation notice. I woke up one morning and saw some marks on my wall and I called the builders who told me to ignore it, that it must have been a mistake. I spent over N80m on this property. I can’t just lose it.”
Her cries fell on deaf ears as the building was pulled down after she was given some time to remove her belongings.
Another resident, Mr Chidi Lucky, told our correspondent on the telephone, “This is disheartening. I have not even come to terms with it. It’s as if I’m dreaming. Where do I start from? I spent my last kobo to acquire this property in 2020. I thought the issues being raised now had been settled.”
While some gave vent to their frustration, some appeared too downcast to talk. Also, some had to be persuaded to leave the demolition site to avoid being injured by the falling blocks and iron bars.
In-between the emotions that permeated the site, a man, suspected to be a resident, stripped himself while appealing for understanding from the task force. “This is my life being taken away,” he said as he burst into tears.
Sadly, his tears could not persuade the task force as his fence, gate, air conditioner were all pulled down before the blade of the bulldozer pierced the main building reducing it to rubble in a few minutes.
Some residents however claimed they were being victimised because they were not indigenes of the state. Most of them declined speaking to our correspondent, but one of them who preferred to be identified as Chief Chinazarum, said he had lost three properties to the demolition, adding in a mix of Igbo and English, “Three of them cost me over N200m. One is a bungalow and the other two are duplexes. Where do I start from?
“They are doing this to us because we are not indigenes. This is victimisation. We will fight,” he said, while refusing to answer when our correspondent asked if he was aware that his three buildings were on the drainage path that leads to the Ikota River.
‘No special treatment’
Meanwhile, the Lagos State Government said it would not be selective in applying the law in the demolition of illegal structures.
Wahab, who said this on Saturday during the demolition, assured residents of fairness to all.
Wahab, who was besieged by residents of the fully built structures marked for demolition, said stopping the demolition exercise midway would amount to double standards, since some had been demolished already.
He said the state was committed to reclaiming its drainage setback and restoring its master plan.
He stated further that owners of the demolished structures knew they had contravened the law, which necessitated the engagements with the ministry since 2020.
“At Ikota, the level of encroachment is unimaginable; people have built on the canal path but we resolved that this nuisance cannot be allowed to continue; it just had to stop. I visited Ikota once again and met the owners of the structures that had not been demolished,” he added.
He advised homeowners to seek and obtain drainage approval alongside other approvals before embarking on building projects.
“This enforcement will be a continuous exercise; people cannot blame the government for their actions; whatever negative thing you do to the environment will come to haunt you eventually,’’ he added.
Over nine developers said to be responsible for several estates in the Lekki Phase II and Ikota GRA areas did not respond to our correspondent’s calls.
Some feigned ignorance while some quickly hung up when they learnt the caller was from PUNCH. Some others did not answer their calls or respond to text messages sent to them.
Meanwhile, a man who gave his name as Fidelis Okpara and was said to be the lead developer of Venux Home that had been demolished, promised to get back to our correspondent on Wednesday but had yet to do so as of press time.
Another one who refused to give his name insulted our reporter and dropped the call before our correspondent was able to make his enquiries on whether or not approval was sought from the state government before construction and if they were aware that their buildings were on drainage channels.
A sinking city?
A climate and mobility case study conducted in January on Lagos by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs shows that the city may sink by 2050 if nothing is done.
The survey noted that much of the coastal city was less than 6m above the sea level, adding, “Lagos and the Niger Delta region are particularly low, with an easily flooded network of estuaries, rivers, creeks and streams.”
Lagos is the most populous city in Nigeria and the largest city in Africa, followed by Kinshasa, Congo.
In 2021, the population of Lagos was said to be 14.8 million, with 21.3 million people living in the greater metropolitan area.
The population of Lagos grew at 3.5 per cent in 2021, with similar growth rates predicted over the next 15 years, according to official figures from the UN.
The UN report noted that rising sea levels and ocean surges were understood to be the most pressing climate-related risks to the state but that rain-induced flooding and salt water intrusion occur more frequently, especially in communities adjacent to the coast and lagoons.
It added, “Although the number of rainy days has decreased, the overall intensity of rainfall has increased, adding pressure on drainage systems.”
According to the report, flooding was reported in Lagos from 1947 onwards and became common in the 1970s. It now occurs on an annual basis.
A survey by the Lagos State Government in 2016 found that 19 per cent reported that their house was flooded in the past year; of which, over a third had experienced flooding five or more times during the same period.
Reports say residents perceive flooding as the second most important hazard in the city, after crime.
A World Bank study in 2020 estimated that flood damage in Lagos State costs $3.992bn per year, representing 4.1 per cent of the gross domestic product of the state, and 10 per cent nationally.
Meanwhile, other surveys had suggested that the city might be at risk of sinking.
A 2019 report by Climate Central, a science organisation based in New Jersey, United States, said the dividends accruing to Nigeria from its 853-kilometer coastline might be reversed as a new report warns that rising seas could affect three times more people and submerge some of the world’s coastal cities by 2050.
The research, published in Nature Communications journal, shows that 300 million people currently live in areas that become flooded at least once a year, and that half of such places would be below the high tide line by mid-century.
Globally, sea levels rose in the last century and various projections suggest substantial increases this century due to climate change.
In Nigeria, much of the coast is said to be low-lying, leading to a situation where one to three metres rise in sea level, which might result from climate change, would have a catastrophic effect on human activities in the region.
Also, according to the 100 Resilient Cities report, Lagos is ‘susceptible to damage from rising sea levels and coastal erosion, which have already led to a decline in water quality, the destruction of drainage infrastructure, and an increase in incidences of water and vector-borne disease’.
NCF issues red alert
Meanwhile, the Director-General of the Nigeria Conservation Foundation, Joseph Onoja, has warned that if measures are not quickly put in place, the Atlantic Ocean will soon affect the Lekki-Epe Expressway.
Onoja gave the warning on Thursday at a meeting on ocean encroachment between Lekki Estates Residents and Stakeholders Association, Senator Wasiu Eshilokun, who represents Lagos Central Senatorial District; NCF, and the Eti-Osa East Local Council Development Authority.
The News Agency of Nigeria reported that the meeting was to find solutions to the ocean surge rapidly destroying communities in the Eti-Osa/Lekki corridor.
Onoja pointed out that over 130 meters of land had been encroached upon by the Atlantic Ocean in four years, and in 2024, a projection of another 50 meters would be gone if no immediate intervention was made.
Eshilokun expressed concerns about the development and gave an assurance that LERSA and other stakeholders impacted by the ocean surge that the matter would be a top priority when the Senate resumed plenary in September.
He also asked the NCF and the LERSA Infrastructure Committee to come up with solutions for review and possible implementation.
The President, Lekki Estates Residents and Stakeholders Association, Alhaji Sulyman Bello, said no one would be happy seeing their property demolished but that the association would not stand for illegality.
He stated, “LERSA will never stand for illegal demolition of property but we are also aware that this environment is suffering from a lot of flooding and a lot of other environmental challenges on account of abuse of water channels, canals and contravention of water guidelines.
“We also know there are people who would have genuine cases of having got approval from the government and such should be entitled to compensation. However, those who built on canals and waterways have no case. The Lagos State government has to do what it has to do. We all have been begging the government not to turn its eyes away from the Lekki area because of the many challenges that we are facing.
“We cannot say that because some people who contravene these laws should be allowed to go simply because they are our members. The law should take its course. We only beg the government to temper justice with mercy.”
He advised resident and prospective ones to use the check-in platforms in the state to be sure their property had all the approvals before buying any property in the area or in any part of the state.
Bello added, “The Lagos State Lands Bureau is, perhaps, the most advanced land registry in Nigeria and its Physical Planning Authority is also one of the foremost entities in the state.
“These are people who would give you the status of any building in Lagos State, whether those under construction or fully completed. My advice to current home owners and prospective owners is that before they put their money on any property, they should go back to the government and do due diligence. Those who have recently bought theirs should quickly go and check and regularise their documentation.
“Lagos, from our experience, is well-organised. The fact that something has not been enforced yesterday does not mean it would not be enforced today. Everyone should do the right thing and ensure that at every point they are on the right side of the law.”
Obey regulations – Town planner
A town planner and former Special Adviser to the Lagos State Government on Project Implementation and Monitoring, Mr Sulaimon Yusuf, said the issue of demolition was two-faced.
He said it had become common knowledge the devastating effect of flood in the environment, adding that people should bear in mind the changes resulting from climate change were real and could sweep away the whole of Lagos Island.
Yusuf added, “Lagos Island might cease to exist if there was a slight increase in the water levels. Government needs to be proactive, working very hard to make sure that it does not happen. Flood and rising water levels are a big threat to us. We all have to be serious around this issue of flooding so we don’t get to the level of disaster, which would be devastating to millions of Lagosians.
“Anybody that goes against regulations should not be allowed to get away with it. Most Nigerians believe that they can do anything and get away with it. That is the preconceived idea, that there is always a shortcut to doing the right thing. That is why people continue to do things the way they like, even when they know it is wrong.
“They feel they know the people in government and can talk to some officials to give them a soft landing. A lot of people feel there is nothing money cannot do. People must learn to do the right thing, irrespective of whoever is watching, and not wait for the government’s enforcement.”
He said government was for the good of all and would not jeopardise the safety of millions of people for the special interest of a few persons. Government has to protect other people from disaster.”
Yusuf who was the General Manager, Lagos State Urban Renewal Authority, advised builders to obey the rules and regulations set by the government in their own interest.
According to him, those who sold land to the people whose houses were being demolished in Ikota for blocking the water channel were selfish. He didn’t spare those who bought the land as he said they could have done their due diligence on the property.
He added, “When the developers start construction, I am aware that the government always goes there to stop them by issuing notices and giving signs on the walls, but many developers are used to compromising standards, so they don’t obey the rules and they continuing building.
“Some of them tear the notice and bribe some persons and continue building till the house is completed and they move in, thinking it would be the end. But, it can never be the end.”
He urged people who want to buy property to involve the services of registered and certified town planners to carry out checks from the Ministry of Physical Planning and get written results on what is in the master plan with regard to the property…..CONTINUE.FULL.READING>>>
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