The disputed property before demolition by the Lagos State Ministry of Environment
• Land illegally acquired, lacks documents, says LG official A Property owner, Mr. Stephen Ugochukwu, has sent a save-our-soul message to the Lagos State Government over alleged forceful eviction and demolition of his property situated at 68, Ojoku Street, Ajegunle, Olodi Apapa.
The property, a piece of land measuring about 232.260 square metres, was acquired in 1989 by Ugochukwu from the Oluwa chieftaincy family, and a total of six rooms and some shops were built on it.
According to a petition addressed to the state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, by Ugochukwu’s counsel, Robert Nwoke, no other building was destroyed except that of Ugochukwu, with the Ajeromi-Ifelodun council chairman’s claim that he wanted to clear the canal and construct a road from Coconut to Ojoku.
Ugochukwu insisted that he didn’t breach any environmental law through construction of the building and did not block any canal as the requisite setbacks were observed.
He appealed to the governor to intervene on the matter, saying, “This is a call to save our state from injustice that cries to high heavens for retribution. Our law calls on you to do it and save Ugochukwu from the excesses of power.”
Ugochukwu is also demanding N100 million as a compensation for the extreme anguish he had been put through and the restoration of his land.
Speaking with The Guardian, he explained that trouble started over the property on January 15, 2021, when he received a call at his London home where he was undergoing a medical procedure.
Ugochukwu said: “A caller informed me that he wants my land at No. 68, Ojoku Street, Ajegunle Olodi Apapa, and offered to pay compensation if I accept his offer. I told him that I don’t intend to sell the land, as that represents all my efforts in my younger years and the only legacy I’m leaving for my children.”
He stated that prior to the call, on January 2, 2021, a notice was posted on the property from the Lagos State Ministry of Environment by one Adekoya Adedeji, an engineer, while a document was circulated to the tenants on February 2, 2021, compelling them to appeal to the local government chairman for financial assistance to enable them move out of the property.
Upon sighting the letter, Ugochukwu said he approached Adedeji, who was the head of enforcement at the ministry through his counsel. Adedeji, he said, told them orally that a decision whether or not to demolish the property had not been made yet.
However, it was gathered that on February 3, 2021, the council allegedly laid siege on the property around 11.00am. The property, he stated, was completely demolished with a bulldozer without prior notification.
After the demolition, chairman of Ajeromi lfelodun LGA, Mr. Fatai Ayoola, was said to have allegedly ordered the clearance of the rubbles preparatory to construct a building on it.
But reacting to the allegation, Ayoola said all the allegations were false, stressing that the property was illegally acquired.He stated that the property, located beside a canal, was not acquired for personal use but for ‘public good.’ “There was a stakeholders’ meeting and that the claimant to the land was personally asked to tender documents of ownership for compensation,” he explained.
According to him, it was discovered that the tendered documents were forged.Ayoola said: “The man has 2003 receipt from the Oluwa’s family and the person that issued the receipt died 20 years ago. If the property was demolished for overriding public interest, you need to file for compensation and not writing fictitious petitions.”
He said the state’s Ministry of Environment demolished the property because they had to evacuate refuse from the canal.
“There are some few metres you need to leave before building on the right of ways of the canal as there is no space for vehicle to park and evacuate the refuse. What we are also doing is to secure schools’ environment because of insecurity in Nigeria now. So, we need to fence our school premises.”