By Olasunkanmi Akoni & Bose Adelaja
LIKE an army on invasion, bulldozers were once again on the roll in Lagos State as the state government began to demonstrate its resolve to ensure zero tolerance for all structures and properties built under high tension cables across the state. This was said to be against the backdrop of the flagrant and alarming disobedience of building regulations in the state.
While the demolition of structures has drawn tears and lamentation, the Chairman of its demolition Task Force, Olayinka Egbeyemi, justified the action as deriving, from the truism that buildings on the Right of Way, RoW, of high tension electricity cables are dangerous, illegal and therefore should be a serious source of concern to any responsive and responsible government.
“Ordinarily, any right thinking citizen should know that constructing residential buildings and conducting business under high tension power lines constitute a danger to lives and properties and could have fatal consequences.
“Moreover, a careful perusal of 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
“It is, however, the responsibility of the state government, through its relevant Ministries and Agencies to enforce all applicable law relating to constructing and locating such buildings by removing all encumbrances, developments and activities encroaching on the right of way of public utilities and services.
“It is however instructive to note that the required set back of not less than six metres for 11KV wire lines, while nine metres is the recommended distance for 33KV wire lines. Furthermore, the recommended setback for 132KV wire lines is 15 meters, while a 22.5-metre setback is recommended for 330KV power line.
“The die is now cast as government has embarked on removal of such structures at a cost to be borne by Owners, Developers or Occupiers of such buildings,” Egbeyemi told Vanguard Features.
Demolition of Oba Wahab Ayinde Balogun Modern Market
Government had made good its threat in this regard when it recently mobilised a task force to demolish over 350 illegal structures built on the RoW, of high tension cables at Oba Wahab Ayinde Balogun Modern Market, Isheri-Olofin, in Egbe-Idimu Local Council Development Area, LCDA, of old Alimosho Local Government. The demolished structures included lock up shops, K-Clamps, kiosks, among others.
The exercise was jointly carried out by the Task Force, the Lagos State Building Control Agency and Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development.
After the action, state government reiterated its warning to all occupants on the RoW of other high tension cables in the state to vacate immediately, as an enforcement team has been mobilised to carryout demolition of any structure found under high tension cables.
20-year-old market in Lekki also bulldozed
It was the same story when the demolition squad visited and demolished over 360 illegal structures built on the Right of Way, RoW, of high tension cables at Igbara Market, Jakande, along Lekki-Epe Express Road.
The demolished structures at Lekki included 235 illegal shops and 125 containers. The demolition was said to have been carried out after the expiration of a seven-day notice served on shops owners and all traders.
Egbeyemi , however, called on market leaders (Iya Oloja and Baba Oloja) to take it upon themselves to enforce government directives on staying away from RoW of high tension cables across the state.
The state government stressed that the demolition exercise should not be seen as being punitive but as an effort by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode to save lives and properties of members of the public.
“No responsible and responsive government would tolerate any trading activities under such dangerous condition.” Egbeyemi stated.
Traders lament, plead for relocation of Market
However, the Chairman of the Spare Parts Traders Association of the market, Mr. Ugo Onuoha, said they have been operating at the market for more than 20 years.
He explained that the market was constructed by Igbara Communities which comprises of three different families namely; Lawal family, Balogun family and Badanu family.
Onuoha claimed that the family collects between N3000 to N5,000 from those selling inside a container shop, while others who trade inside brick shops pay N10,000 to N20,000 monthly.
He and his Vice-chairman, Mr. Lazarous Obinna, however, pleaded with the government to construct low medium market for traders around the area as those constructed by private developers is beyond their reach.
A representative of Lawal family who spoke on behalf of his family, Mr. Lateef Lawal disclosed that since the government served the notice on the market, the Igbara Communities have started looking for a possible relocation of traders to a new land around the area.
Lawal commended the state government for serving notices ahead before the demolition exercise
He said the notice had enabled all traders to move their wares and properties from individual container and shop before the demolition.
Following the demolition of Oba Wahab Ayinde Balogun Modern Market, victims have been wailing and lamenting their losses. When VF visited the site of the place, scavengers, miscreants, popularly called, “Area Boy” and affected shop owners, who were not around during the demolition, took advantage of the absence of the task force to salvage whatever they could from the demolished shops.
Wielders and iron cutters brought their working tools to the site to remove some corrugated iron sheets used as pillars from the structures. Roofing sheets, window panes and iron doors were also carted away.
One of the iron cutters who simply identified himself as Yusuf, said: “This corrugated iron sheet is very expensive it can still be re-sold at a very good price that is why we removing them. So that all these assets would not be wasted.”
Unconfirmed report had it that one of the unidentified victims, who went into coma as a result of shock, later died in one of the hospitals, while others were still hospitalised at Igando General Hospital.
It was gathered that the developer had immediately absconded to avoid being lynching by the irate traders who had paid huge sum of money obtained through cooperatives and financial institutions.
Accusations, counter-accusations and denials
One of the affected shop owners, Mrs. Mistura Afiz, accused the property developer of duping them of huge amount of money because he knew the structures were built on RoW.
The Assistant General Secretary of Oba Balogun Market, Alfa Yisa Mudashiru, stated that they had been selling and living inside the market for over 35 years.
He stated further that they developed the markets in conjunction with officials of Egbe-Idimu Local Council Development Area. Alfa Mudashiru affirmed thus: “We were served adequate notices and both the ‘Baba Oloja’ Mr. Salami Alao and ‘Iya Oloja’ Alhaja Irat Adebayo had earlier lobbied government officials to see if they could get a stay of execution.
The leader of the Hausa Community at the market, Alahaji Aliyu Galadima, said the market was divided along the three ethnic groups, namely: Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo.
He stated that immediately notices were served, he and his other ethnic group leaders quickly informed residents and traders of the market about the intention of the government. He, however, commended Governor Ambode for his zero tolerance on safety standard measures across the state.
Investigations revealed that both, Mr. Samson Wahab Balogun, a.k.a Oba and Idris Wahab Balogun, alias Oluomo, claimed the owner of the land gave it to a developer ‘Jasiours Enterprises’ because they are related to Oba Wahab Ayinde Balogun of Isheri.
A trader Mrs. Taiwo Akade confirmed that both ‘Oba’ and ‘Oluomo’ collected several millions from both the developer and traders of the market.
She disclosed that each shops were outrightly sold between N1.5m and N3million to both residents and traders by the two sons of the monarch depending on a particular size, the alternative being renting and paying N5,000 monthly.
Some of those affected have also accused the owner and founder of Al Moruf Petroleum Company (names withheld) as having masterminded or instigated the demolition. However, in a statement the Al Moruf boss expressed shock at the allegation, saying he knew nothing about the demolition.
“I am surprised that some elements have been going about to malign my name, accusing me of being responsible for the demolition and saying that I invited the state demolition team.
“This is far from the truth because I do not know anything about it. I have no interest whatsoever in the demolition. I do not own any shop nor any of my relations around the area. It is the handiwork of my detractors who wants to pitch me against the community,” he submitted.
Lagos warns other illegal occupants on RoW
Meantime, the Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Anifowoshe Abiola, said the demolition continues, adding that it was part of government’s resolve to rid the state of illegal structures.
According to him: “This is just another effort to maintain a sustainable, organised, livable and friendly environment. The state government intends to establish zero tolerance for all structures and properties built under high tension cables across the state.”
Abiola added that “having residential buildings or conducting business under High Tension Power Lines constitute a danger to lives and properties that could have fatal consequences. The State Government, through its relevant Ministries and Agencies will henceforth, enforce applicable law strictly by removing all development and activities encroaching on the RoW of utilities and services.”
He, however, called on those who have structures within the RoW of public utilities to start removing them now or face the full consequences of the law.
He said the exercise is on-going as “illegal developments within the Right of Way of High Tension Lines in other parts of the state will be removed.”
According to the Acting General Manager, Lagos State Building Control Agency, Oladotun Lasoju: “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.
Traders plan protest
Meantime, some of the displaced traders are planning to stage a protest march to Alausa, Ikeja to register their grievance before members of the state House of Assembly for intervention.
A trader who confirm the planned protest, Mrs Adedayo Hakeem, said: “We are helpless. All our lives savings have gone down the drain in one swoop after the developer and the traditional ruler collected huge sum of money as rent from us.
“Some of us took loan to acquire the shops, and look at what has become of us today. We believe this is a government of the masses. We deserved to be compensated or relocated. We are begging.”