By Kingsley Adegboye & Bose Adebayo
PROPERTY owners and traders within the Orile axis of the Lagos-Badagry Expressway watched helplessly in shock last weekend and on Monday as the much-publicised clearing of Right of Way in preparation for the expansion of the Expressway into a 10-lane super highway by the Lagos State Government commencedÂ with bull dozers knocking down structures.
The operation being supervised by a Task Force dominated by gun-toting soldiers commenced at the Orile end of the ever busy dual carriage way with massive structures such as Doyin Group of Companies and others believed to be on the Right of Way on both sides of the expressway being pulled down unchallenged.
The affected areas fall within the Apapa Local Government Area(Sari Iganmu Local Government Development Authority), Surulere LGA(Aguda/Coker LCDA) and Ajeromi/Ifelodun LGA(Ifelodun LCDA). As at Monday,Â the clearing exercise which is supposed to terminate after Badagry, had reached Eleganza Shopping Complex on Alaba Coker with bull dozers leveling the outer lock up shop buildings.
When Vanguard Metro visited the area on Monday, affected shop owners were seenÂ struggling to makeÂ last minute salvage of their wares by hurriedly packing them out of their shops. It was emotional moment as many of them have been doing business there for the past 40 years while others have been occupying the place for about 25 years until this development.
To occupants of Ifedapo tipper garage, the exercise took them unaware. â€œThey told us the demolition would only affect our fence but on getting here, we discovered that it has affected the entire garage. We never prepared for this, if they had told us it would affect the entire garage, we wouldnâ€™t have bothered to come to the garage today.
The garage has been in existence for over 40 years and the government has not taken any step to relocate us,â€ lamented 76 year-old Alhaji Ambali Iyanda.
A phone repairer at Alaba, Mufutau Olanrewaju said he lost some expensive phones to the exercise. â€œThere was tension when they came, so I was unable to salvage my things. The notice was like a rumour. Somebody just came on Friday to in form us and by the time we came here after the sanitation exercise, the whole offices were gone,â€ he said.
â€œIt came like a joke and by the time I came here in the morning, my television, set of chairs, and phone accessories were all gone,â€ said Gbenga Ajileye a call centre operator.
Some tenants of the expansive Eleganza building told Vanguard Metro they were told that the exercise would only affect their various extensions. â€œMy sister, you know the way this structure was built did not give room for ventilation.
That was why we decided to build an extension, the landlord came with his wife last Saturday to in form us the exercise would only affect the extension. With that we did not bother to pack our goods. I was in the church yesterday(Sunday) when my neighbours started calling me on phone to tell me a different story.
By the time I came here, it was too late because I was only able to rescue some of the goods. I was glad to see the number of people that came to assist me not knowing that many of them were hoodlums who succeeded in carting some of the goods away. We donâ€™t know where to start from. We have not been at rest since the notice was given,â€ one of them told Vanguard Metro.
An official of one of the contractors, Eko-Akete Engineering Construction Company who pleaded anonymity said there was total compliance on the part of the victims. â€œWe came prepared thinking they would not comply but they did and the exercise was successful. We started last Saturday and we have really gone far within two days,â€ he said.
Indeed, unlike previous demolition exercises in Lagos, it was relatively peaceful when the bulldozers stormed the affected areas in Orile bordering the road.Â Although some of the victims claimed there was a previous notice served them by the state government but they were shocked that the demolition was extended beyond the areas earlier specified.
Our correspondents also noticed that most parts of the shopping complex had been vacated, probably in compliance with the quit notice.
Early this month, property owners and the state government officials held a meeting on the expansion project where government promised to pay compensations to property owners who had titles on the properties while those without genuine documents would be treated as occupant of illegal structures which would not attract any form of compensations.
The government also told the stakeholders that the major contractor to handle the massive project involving hundreds of billions of naira had been mobilized and ready to move to site, appealing to them cooperate with the government to ensure the success of the expansion project.
At the presentation of chequesÂ to contractors to commence the clearing of the Right of Way at Alausa Secretariat last Thursday, the Special Adviser to Gov. Babatunde Fashola on Works and Infrastructure, Engr. Ganiyu Johnson also appealed to property owners to cooperate with the government to ensure successful completion of the project.