BY MONSURU OLOWOOPEJO
Sitting on a mattress, under a mango tree on the land that used to accommodate their house, Sunday Solomon, a teenager, watched over what the family could salvage. Clutching the remote control to their television set, he gazed at the rubbles of their demolished house with the hope that the hand of the clock could be turned back.
Sunday and his only sibling were obviously yet to come to terms with the reality that their house, which was demolished on December 16 for allegedly trespassing on police 975 plots (65 hectares) of land in Atinporome, Mowo Phase 11, Olohunda Local Council Development Area, LCDA, no longer exist.
The sibling while waiting for their parents who had gone out to look for money that will help them to either relocate to their home town or rent an apartment in a nearby community, ensured that their scattered property under the tree was safe.
“My name is Solomon Sunday and my parents aren’t at home. This is our demolished house.
“And please Sir you are not welcome here. Please leave and come back when my parent returns,” Sunday told Vanguard.
The Police, in its two- day demolition exercise removed over 1, 000 structures erected on the 65 hectares of land, displacing over a thousand residents of the community.
As if they had premonition of what would befall them in future, many residents planted different trees in their compounds.
The trees, spared by the bulldozers, today provide shelter for many of the residents while others have turned their cars to temporary shelter..
The Sundays were not the only family using the trees in their old compound as their new shelter. Lying on his back, also on a mattress placed under a tree in his demolished home, 73- year- old George Egosoku, gazed at the mango tree probably brooding over what would have happened without it. After the demolition, George, a professional driver before age caught with him, now sit helplessly and closely with his son under the mango tree where they’ve being spending the night since last Monday.
He was short of words to describe what happened on that fateful day, which will forever remain in his memory, the day he lost his house, built at the twilight of his active driving career which spanned over 35 years.
Struggling to narrate his experience, George, who now engages in petty trading to sustain his family said; “I watched helplessly as the officers of the Nigeria Police, Area K command, pulled down my house and bulldozed my belongings.”
On Wednesday, after the police had completed the demolition, George said he borrowed a hammer, plough and other implements to remove some of the broken woods and irons from the rubbles with the hope to sell them to raise money for feeding and to rent a new apartment.
“But the price they are willing to pay for these items is far too low compared to the cost price. For instance, I bought this quality iron door for over N10, 000 few years ago. But to my surprise, the Aboki’s (scavengers) decided to pay N1, 000 for it,” George said.
Speaking with gloomy eyes he lamented; “My problem now is how to raise substantial amount of money to relocate to my home town.
“This is my house. This is where I have been living for the past 15 years.
“My years of hard labour were demolished that Monday and since then, I have been sleeping under this mango tree despite the harsh harmattan. Also, mosquitoes don’t allow us have good sleep. I am not appealing to your emotion. But I believe you can see things yourself. At my age, I am dirty, no shelter but a mango tree.
“I am not blaming anyone for my plight but the government especially the Nigerian Police and the Lagos State Government whom we pay our land use charge to. The government cannot provide housing to the downtrodden rather they demolish what the citizens had built.”
The plight of this septuagenarian, Egosoku, and the teenager, Solomon are two out of the several pathetic stories of the displaced residents of Atinporome, Mowo Phase 11 community.
Elder David Hundenu, 80- year- old residents of the community, lamented; “At my age, where do I start? I cannot run around the way I was doing 40 years ago. This is where I have called home. This is where I hope to finally rest but with this, I am confused.”
Hundenu, who had lived in the community for 19 years said; “Since 1994, when I bought my land from the late Baale Hoodonu, there had never been any issue concerning the ownership of the land. The tussle over the land started in 2008 after the demise of Hoodonu. While he was alive, he told me that the entire land belonged to his family.”
Another resident, Mr. Ahmed Alade who lost his home two years ago to the expansion of the Lagos- Badagry expressway phase one at Orile- Iganmu, struggled to compose himself.
And when the 73- year- old finally did, he said; “My house was demolished in Orile two years ago for the expansion of the Lagos- Badagry expressway to 10- lanes. I didn’t get any compensation for it. I ran here for shelter with my family. But the shelter has been demolished again. Where do they (government and police) want me to go?”
Chief Korede Mayegun, who lost a hotel, house and a parcel of land worth over N160 million to the demolition, said; “when I heard the news, I went into coma. In fact I have been shuttling between hospital and home since last Monday. But my happiness is that I am alive again. I was unable to remove anything from my hotel.
“I believe that my property will not go like that. Our case is still in court and the date for another hearing is January 15th, 2014. We are ready to challenge them in court.”