By Kingsley Adegboye

An erstwhile serene suburb, tucked between Arakan Barracks  in Apapa and former Malu Road in the outskirts of Ajegunle  in Lagos is the centre of a fresh controversy following the  recent demolition of this pre-colonial rail line community.

*Some of the residents sitting dejectedly in front of their demolished homes

Settlers say they inherited the location from  their progenitors who were originally cattle herdsmen and  dealers, hence the area was christened Agbo Malu, a Yoruba  phrase that could be translated more or less in English  language as an enclave for cows.

It was learnt that the residents, most of who have now  abandoned the past trade of their forebears, following  developments that have necessitated a shift in focus to  allow for proper environmental planning, are now engaged in  various trades while still holding on to their homes.

Vanguard Metro learnt that about 30,000 persons inhabited the now  decimated Cow Village. Residents who spoke to Vanguard Metro said when they woke up on June 18 prepared to face the day’s activities, they were  oblivious of any looming crisis.

Suddenly, however,  a group of people led by  Mobile policemen armed to  the teeth and with the complement of earth moving machines  descended on the community and before they could shout for help every  bit of structure along the corridor had been pulled down.

They pointed to some  charred household equipment which could not be salvaged  before the incident, stressing that they had been severely  dealt a severe blow following the demolition.  The Chairman of the Agbo Malu  Arewa Community Alhaji  Audu Adamu said the people were tenants  to the Nigerian Railway Corporation NRC and were indeed rent  paying tenants.

He tendered copies of allocation documents from the NRC which he claimed gave them title rights and legal backing to occupy the land. He informed that before the incident they had lived in peace with all their neighbours,  including Mobil Oil Nigeria Limited  whose depot  adjoins the settlement but only separated by a wall.

According  to him, there has been no face-off with any entity until about  10 years ago when he alleged Mobil Oil sought their ejection  from the location. The situation, he said led to an  arbitration from the then Federal Environmental Protection  Agency which was unable to get commitment from the  stakeholders to re-settle the residents in another location  in order to stave off any fears of incidents that could  arise from the mix of human activities following the very volatile  nature of oil operations.

Audu alleged that  the company was reluctant to foot  any bill to relocate them, but that  a gentleman’s agreement  was reached between the parties that each of the parties  should maintain the status quo, though with a concession that  Mobil should raise its perimeter fence so as to block off any interference from  its neighbours, including the residents .

He said Mobil  adhered to same and that it has been a peaceful co-existence  since then.  He alleged that contrary to insinuations that the Lagos  State Government was responsible for the demolition of its  quarters, there was evidence to believe that some of its corporate  neighbours were behind the incident.

Another, member of the executive of the Agbo Malu Arewa  Community, Alhaji Hussaini said as part of the systematic  erosion of its legitimacy and sense of communal co-existence spanning  over a decade was the change of the former Malu Road to Mobil Road.

That according to him, was the beginning of the long-drawn  psychological warfare  He said in order to avoid any situation that could spark off  avoidable fire outbreaks, all houses within the  domain were cast in cement bricks with most of them modestly  decorated. But all that, he said, have been lost in  the  demolition.

Unconfirmed reports have it that the loss in the  demolition saga is estimated at several millions of naira, even as two  persons were said to have died during the crisis  with several others injured. However, the Police in Ajeromi could not  confirm if there was any loss of life as no such case was reported.

But the displaced and presently aggrieved residents are now seeking legal redress through the Festus Keyamo Chambers which had already petitioned the Lagos State government on the matter, asking it to intervene immediately to avert an outbreak of violence.

According to the petition signed by David S. O. Adjharho and Napoleon Emeaso- Nwachukwu of the law firm : “Indications are that  some sympathisers to the plight of our clients are  massing for reprisal attack on the masterminds of this  unjust and oppressive conduct.

Elders among the rank and file of our clients have been making desperate efforts to calm  frayed nerves”.  The letter copies of which were sent to the  State Security service, SSS, the Nigerian Railway and Mobil  Oil Nigeria Plc had called on those concerned to investigate  conducts likely to cause total breakdown of law and order,  compromise state security, loss of lives and properties by  the alleged illegal eviction of the members of the Arewa Community  in Agbo Malu, Ajegunle, Apapa, by Mobil Oil Nigeria Plc.


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