‘This exercise has demolished our livelihood’

·Lagos traders laments demolition of shops

Traders who have their shops and structures under high tension cable in Lagos are facing hard times as the state government has since rolled out bulldozers pulling down such structures following expiration of a 7-day ultimatum, reports BOLA BADMUS and SEGUN QUDUS KASALI.

As Lagos State Building Control Agency, in collaboration with Lagos State Ministry of Physical Planning and Lagos State Task Force on Environmental Sanitation (Task Force) rolled out bulldozers to clear all the structures and shops under high- tension cables across the state, victims of the exercise are lamenting as they record losses running into millions of naira, even as they are now at a loss as to where to start from.

Only last Tuesday, the ministry made good its promise to demolish structures, including over 350 shops under high tension cable at Oba Wahab Ayinde Balogun Modern Market, Isheri – Olofin under Egbe-Idimu Local Council Development Area of Alimosho Local Government.

The dust was yet to settle on Monday when the same combined team headed for Lekki area of the state, precisely the Igbara Market with bulldozers.

Over 150 shops and structures were affected in new demolition exercise.

Baba Oja of the market, Alhaji Salau Lukman, disclosed to our correspondent that Igbara Market started in 1990 following the demolition of Maroko. According to him, this market was built by the Baale of Igbara. It all started back then when the Baale was giving the lands in bits to people and as a result others trooped in. We have at least 150 shops in Igbara Market.

“With reference to the demolition exercise, I would say it is a good step in the right direction because prior notice had been given by the state government before now and as a matter of importance, it is to prevent our lives from danger,” the Baba Oja said. He appealed to the government to help the affected by establishing affordable and low-cost shops where they could continue to ply their trade.

But one of the affected traders, an herb seller, Mrs Azeez, lamented that she had lost over a million naira to the demolition.

“If not for this market, I wouldn’t have gotten any means of livelihood because I don’t have an husband to supplement my effort in terms of feeding and the payment of my children’s school fees.

“But now that Ambode has taken away my only means of livelihood, where would he take me?  It is really unfair for the government to put us in this state of affair,” the  widow lamented.

For a building materials seller, who identified herself as Joke, it was a tale of woes as she said the demolition exercise was in bad taste.

“The exorbitant rents informed my coming to this market because I cannot be paying hundreds of thousands and all sort of rents for a shop, hence I came to this market due to its affordability. At least, I can afford to pay N10,000 monthly and I don’t seem to be affected financially.

“The demolition exercise is not a good one at all and I know that it was carried out by the state government. They feel contented with what they have at the expense of the poor masses,” Joke said.

For John Okeke, a motor spare parts dealer, he was lucky his shop was not affected in the exercise. Okeke, who was among those who first settled in the market in 1993, attested to the fact that adequate notices were served to affected people in the market to move out of the place.

“The Lagos State Task Force men came last two weeks to give a prior notice that those shops under the power line would be demolished as instructed by the governor. When they came, they pasted stickers on the shops meant to be demolished. My shop was not affected because I am not under the high tension cable. I was part of the first 8 traders that started this market back in 1993, but I believe that it was God’s intervention that made me scale through,” he said.

Another spare parts dealer who also escaped the wrath of government, Mr Jerry Onyese, however, said “the government, through the Ministry of Environment, came two weeks ago with a notice that all shops under the power line would be demolished.  They did not come even at the expiration of those 7 days of grace.

“To my surprise, they left the power line and started destroying shops that were not under the power line.  They ought to be notified if they too would be affected by the demolition.”

Funmilayo, a building material seller who still feels pained by the exercise as she listed her woes, including loss of her investment.

“I lost nothing less than N200,000 to this demolition exercise. We expected the government to give us at least two months for adequate preparation and be on the lookout for another shop, but such was not the case.

“People patronise me so I still find it difficult to move out of this market because that would mean losing my customers and I am very sure you know what it means when you lose your customers.

By last Tuesday, traders at the Oba Wahab Ayinde Balogun Modern Market, Isheri – Olofin were still lamenting their fate with some having paid as much as N3million each to a developer to buy a shop. Some of them were scavenging from rubbles.

A trader, Mr Alex, lamented that he lost three shop costing N1.5 million each. The money was sent to him by his brother who resides outside the country.

Speaking on the ongoing demolition exercise, Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Abiola Anifowoshe, expressed government’s determination to rid the state of Illegal structures, describing the exercise as another effort to maintain a sustainable, organised, liveable and friendly environment.

According to Anifowoshe, in a statement made available by the ministry’s public affairs officer, Mr. Sina Odunuga, it is an effort by the government to establish zero tolerance for all structures and properties built under high tension cables across the State.

The commissioner contended that “having residential buildings or conducting business under high tension power lines constitute a danger to lives and properties that could have fatal consequences.”

Also, the Acting General Manager, Lagos State Building Control Agency, Oladotun Lasoju, said, “the Lagos State urban and regional planning and development law 2010, not only prohibits building under the centre-line of over-head electricity wires, it also, in very clear terms, specified the distance to be observed between a Property and a public utility such as the PHCN high tension cables.”

“Having served the statutory contravention notices on the offending structures and when Owners of such structures failed to remove them within the statutory notice period, we are compelled to remove such structure at a cost to be borne by the owners.”