The Lagos State government recently said that properties that are partially developed and the ones that are not developed would be taken over, citing security reasons for their decision.
To match action with words, the state government, last week published a list of 89 properties along the Ikoyi/Victoria Island axis of the state due to be confiscated by force of relevant sections of the law.
The state government said its decision to take over the properties was due to the growing number of abandoned buildings and structures in the environment. Secretary to the Lagos State Government, Mr. Tunji Bello explained that the affected buildings were constituting security threat to lives and environmental hazard to the surrounding populace.
He lamented the increasing cases of breach of peace and growing unrest around affected buildings.
“Several cases of miscreants, squatters and criminal elements who seek refuge in these affected abandoned buildings in Ikoyi and Victoria Island have necessitated the call for action by the government to the landlords and or developers of these properties,’’ he added.
A resident of Ikoyi area of Lagos, Biodun Ajayi narrated that on several occasions, fights broke out between illegal occupants of these buildings and it often results in injuries.
He said, “Sometimes these fights break out in the midnight, and the loud noises around the affected buildings won’t let people sleep, the landlords have not been able to do anything about it as most of the buildings are empty during the day until late in the night.”
Faced with the question of how these miscreants gain access into these buildings, Daily Trust investigations revealed that some security men employed to guard these buildings charge them a token to pass the night per day. These prices, investigations revealed, range from N150- N300 per night which are usually paid through a third party to avoid any traces of the illegal transactions.
Raheem Owoseeni, also a resident recalled a particular night when he had to pass the night in the office.
“That night as I went to buy something to eat, I noticed that a lot of people were seated outside the premises of an abandoned building with different loads. Before I got back they had gotten access into the buildings and could be seen loitering the premises while some smoked hemp at the balcony of the building without any care in the world,’’ he said.
Another criminal dimension of the happenings within these abandoned buildings, are mind boggling as well as worrying. These activities range from hemp dealing, prostitution, gambling and a never ending atmosphere of thuggery.
These, as Leke Olaniran, a Lagos resident noted may have informed the decision of the state government to issue an ultimatum for reoccupation of these affected buildings in not more than 90 days.
Daily Trust contacted the Director Media and Strategies of Save Lagos Group, a civil society group, comrade Olaolu Oladipo who described the state government’s action as brash, aggressive and ill-timed.
“They are always very brash. It was even our reaction last week that prompted the state House of Assembly to put a halt on demolition of slums. We even wrote a letter of commendation to the state House of Assembly and we asked them to not just demolish slums along the riverine area and that it should be across the state so that government can do what is needful.
He said that, in as much as government has the right to enforce all necessary provisions relating to urban and town regional development, people must be taken into cognizance.
“We are not contesting that right. It is their duties to do it for the overall interest of everybody in the state. But what we found not too palatable is the approach which most time is usually very impromptu and the process of implementing them. In this case, we are saying that the time frame given to owners of such properties is rather too short. What we suggest, as a civil society group, is that we want Lagos State government to hold meetings with the people involved so as to find a common ground on how to solve the problem. We believe that it is when they hold the meeting with them and take into cognizance the problems being encountered by these property owners, to know how they can help them develop their properties because government exists essentially for the people and not the other way round,’’he said.
Comrade Oladipo said that the state government should have met with the affected property owners rather than imposing time-frame to forestall displacement of people and its attendant negative tendencies.
He said nine months notice would have been better and that coming hard on the owners and occupiers of these properties in this recession period is not the best, even as he said that not every body who lives in the said buildings are miscreants.
However, a Quantity Surveyor, Mohammed Olayiwola told Daily Trust that the action of state government was justifiable because abandoned properties add no value to any state.
He called for proper investigations by the state government on the identified properties as some of them might have been used to launder money in the past.
‘If actually you are paying interest on the money used to erect the property, I don’t think they would be abandoned in the first place or if the money is legitimately acquired,” he said.
Given reasons on why properties are usually abandoned he said: “One, maybe the owners are no more alive and their families are not aware that such property exists, so if nobody claims it, it becomes that of the government.”
Olayiwola advised the Lagos State government to, however, handle the issue professionally by engaging qualified professionals to do proper evaluation of such properties and ascertain the reasons why they were left uncompleted.
He also suggested that such properties if eventually taken over by the government should be converted for public such as schools, hospitals etc for the benefits of all as done in advanced countries.
The former Nigeria Institute quantity surveyors FCT chapter chairman further suggested that the state government could help the owners of the abandoned buildings complete them and rent them out with a view of recovering the money they have spent so far on them.
He urged prospective home owners to always consult professionals like Quantity Surveyors who will be able to give them accurate money to be spent in putting up their buildings.
“If you say this is my dream house and when you don’t have the money you cut your coat according to your size. So, that is part of the reasons why we have abandoned properties everywhere because they didn’t consult any quantity surveyor to be able to conceptualize structures that will be affordable for them to build,” he said