By Kingsley Adegboye
Twenty eight years after subscribing to plots of land between First Gate and Third Gate, FESTAC Town, Lagos, allottees numbering over 200 are yet to take possession. The plots were allocated by Federal Housing Authority FHA, in 1993.
Rather, illegal occupants ranging from mechanics to traders, auto dealers and plank sellers took over the expansive land and turned it to market and constructed makeshift structures as homes for almost three decades while FHA’s management and the original allottees couldn’t do anything.
The situation was further worsened by various litigations between the Festac Town Residents Association FTRA, and management of FHA over alleged infractions that negate the original master plan of the sprawling town.
Past attempts by FHA to dislodge the illegal occupants were rebuffed with violent attacks on government’s officials, hence the illegality continued until penultimate June 13, 2021, that officials of FHA in collaboration with the Task force from the Lagos State Government took the bull by the horns to implement the Consent Judgment it secured in 2005 and forcibly dislodged the squatters after several quit notices.
Of course, those affected by the FHA’s action took to the streets, protesting what they termed “unlawful” ejection , saying they were not given enough notice , adding that their stay was not without the knowledge of the Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area which officials they claimed were collecting daily charges for various reasons from them.
However, for the original allottees of the land spanning Festac’s First to Third gate, their expectation right now is for FHA to take proactive measures by clearing the land and survey it so that rightful owners can take possession of their land and develop.
“The summary of what we are saying today is that the original owners of this land cannot wait any longer. The unfortunate aspect of it is that some of our members are even late due to frustration, due to the inability to take over what rightly belonged to them.
“Their plots have been used over the years by illegal occupants. 90 per cent of these people we are talking about are not even residents of Festac Town. There must be an end to these illegalities, ” Chairman of First to Third Gate Allottees, Mr. Kole Olatunji, said at a stakeholders’ meeting.
Giving the narrative of what transpired in the past during the stakeholders’ meeting organised by the Federal Housing Authority , comprising the Festac Town Residents Association, Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area, allottees group, residents and Nigeria Police Force in Lagos on Wednesday June 16, 2021, Olatunji maintained that the land between First gate to Third gate of Festac Town on the expressway was allocated between 1991 and 1993 to the allottees, having confirmed at that time that the land in question was meant to be a future development area.
He said: “That was why majority of us acquired the land from FHA. But not long after the acquisition of the land, with the sincere hope of putting up structures that could serve as a major source of revenue to some of us, the transaction was bungled because of the court case instituted by the Festac Town Residents’ Association FTRA, in 1993, that is 28 years ago.
“And of course, as allottees ,we could not just fold our arms, we decided to take appropriate action by reaching out to the officials of FTRA under the leadership of Chief Jola Ogunnusi and the management of FHA.
“After a prolonged court litigation, we eventually resolved that there should be a Memorandum of Understanding between the allottees on one hand and FTRA and FHA on the other hand, which eventually led to the Consent Judgment we have been talking about. And that was granted by Hon. Justice Y.A. Adesanya in November, 2005, 16 years after.”
Olatunji added that the allottees saw the consent judgment as a ray of hope, believing that development was going to commence almost immediately, but it was not to be.
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“I have made several trips to Abuja to meet with management of FHA with the sincere hope of executing the term of that Consent Judgment, which was not to be until when the new Managing Director, Senator Gbenga Ashafa, was appointed. We met with him here and he gave the assurance that FHA management will look passionately into the case,” he said.
The allottees’ chairman expressed appreciation to God that after waiting for 30 years , they would finally be able to take over the land they paid for legitimately, saying he was a signatory to that judgement and that he signed on behalf of the “allottees in conjunction with our lawyer, Olawale Orewale. Esq of O.Adekoya & Co.
Olatunji said: “The summary of what we are experiencing here now is that delay of your legitimate earning may not necessarily be denial. I see people using my land in the last 30 years. All I could do is just to hold on the pains and pray to God that one day we will inherit our inheritance. That is just the beginning. In view of this, the chairman has requested for the urgent meeting of all allottees at their secretariat on Saturday July 17, 2021 by 11.00 am at Sola Badmus &Co. Waterfront Plaza, 1st Avenue, opposite Mr. Biggs Festac Town, Lagos.
FHA , other stakeholders
Determined to rid FESTAC Town of illegal developments and various encroachments, the Managing Director, Federal Housing Authority FHA, Senator Gbenga Ashafa, has vowed to restore the lost glory of Festac town.
Ashafa, who was represented by FHA’s South West Zonal Manager, Mr. Akintola Olagbemiro, said the Authority is committed to sustaining the ongoing efforts to return the lost glory of FESTAC Town.
Speaking at the stakeholders meeting in Lagos, Ashafa stated that the ongoing demolition of illegal structures in the estate was to give way for dredging of a canal and dislodging of illegal occupants.
He explained further that the measure was to ensure a proper survey in line with the FESTAC master plan, to give possession to the original allottees.
According to him, the demolition of illegal structures was not done to target religious organisations or any group as was being speculated in the media.
He said that just last Sunday, the authority started the implementation of the second phase of the consent judgement, which was for clearing the illegal structures within the buffer zones along the Second Avenue as well as the expressway.
Before now, he said that FHA had earlier implemented the first phase of the judgement, which was to dredge the canal along the buffer. This, he said would allow the clearance to pave the way for proper survey and development of parcels of land along the axis in accordance with the master plan.
“The measure is to keep the mandate of restoring the lost glory of FESTAC. Several quit notices were served on the illegal occupants before the actual demolition was carried out last Sunday.
“For those who think it is business as usual, we want to inform you that we will sustain this operation until the lost glory of FESTAC is restored; no amount of blackmail will stop us from achieving this goal,” Ashafa said.
He advised those on the Right of Way with valid approvals to bring their papers to FHA for appropriate action.
Many of the stakeholders that spoke said lack of sustainable action in the past had worsened the environmental and security challenges in the community.
In his comments, President of the FESTAC Residents Town Association, Shola Fakorede, said that if any group or stakeholder was aggrieved by the recent development, it should be the allotees, whose property had been encroached on for almost 30 years.
“Some people have made money from their land for several years and that is why I said if we have to sympathise with anybody, it has to be the allottees. Somebody is using your land for almost 30 years without giving you a dime, it is very very unfair,” he said
He urged the management of FHA to secure the property and also furnish the FTRA with the information of all the allotees so that they could reach out to the families of those who are late to ensure they take possession to avoid confusion.
He said that he sympathized with original allottees of the federal land occupied by the now-displaced illegal developers.
He said they had been fighting to get their land back for 30 years, with the case having been awarded in favour of the allottees in a consent judgement in 2005.
Fakorede called on the FHA to assist in identifying and redistributing land to families of deceased owners who were party to the court ruling.