For the three communities (MTN, Mowo and Atipromeh) affected by the demolition of 325 residential buildings, it is returning from frying-pan to fire. Here the case of Maroko which is now the Victoria Garden City (VGC) is playing out as the Police came with bulldozers and caterpillars Monday and Tuesday (16th and 17th December 2013 respectively) to inflict what has been described by residents as “the greatest disaster” of their lives. The police came with a court order instructing for the forceful ejection of the residents who occupy a massive land of about 200 acres belonging to te Nigerian Police Force. According to the Assistant Commissioner of Police in Lagos who led the team that demolished the structures, the residents have been asked to leave the area since they bought the land illegally. The land lawfully belongs to the police. The NPF had acquired the parcel of land through a woman who acted as its agent years ago. Documents made available to National Weekender reveal that the entire; parcel of land was bought in the name of the woman for a whopping N500m.
Residents had to take the case to court but lost when the legal team handling the case on their behalf pulled out. A survey team accompanied by a police officer to survey the area three weeks ago was beaten to a state of stupor by residents who damaged cameras and allegedly tore the uniform of the police officer. This angered the leadership of the force which sought order from the court to enter into its property. This led to the demolition exercise on Monday and Tuesday which has rendered thousand homeless.
As at the last visit of National Weekender to the scene of demolition displaced families are still stranded and sleeping in the open spaces in front of their demolished structures. One Mrs. Dotun Alade who says she is a widow queries, “what else is left for me and five children in this world? From landlords we have been made to be refugees overnight. The only thing remaining now is death for us. They should come and just shoot us to death because we have no place to go to.” Her five children were seen picking up household items from the debris crying.
Another man identified as Charles Adu whose demolished building was valued at N30m and almost single-handedly built the bridge leading to the area from the bus-stop along Mile 2-Badagry Expressway was speechless as sympathizers visited his family in the area. His wife and children were busy removing some valuables from the structure. According to his wife, “this is starting life all over again. Where do we begin from? Where do we go from here?” Her already swollen eyes were still clouted with tears even as her voice is hoaxed obviously as a result of crying.
For the Baale of MTN, it is a case of the rich also cry. A visit to his once busy palace which played hosts to the high and mighty was leveled. The only sign to show that a palace once stood there was the fallen pillar which had royal inscriptions. Though he was not available to talk to this reporter but some of his subjects seen lamented on what they called “man’s inhumanity to man.” One of them said, “whoever has the heart to render thousand s homeless yet he goes into his own home to sleep will have God to judge him. Even if government through the police wants to do a thing like this, they should at least compensate us and give us ample time to relocate. Coming at a festive period like Christmas when people are preparing to celebrate to inflict heart rendering injury like this is wicked. This sort of thing should not happen at a time like this.”
For one Mike Ankpa who just parked into his four-bedroom apartment on Saturday after completion a week earlier only for the building to come down flat on Monday, it is just another way to ask him to go and die. “What they have done is to ask me to commit suicide. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know where to go. I am confused and running mad. My family was to join me here this weekend because I had to move in to clean up the place and arrange things since it is a new building. I was still doing the cleaning when some people came shouting that the police are here with caterpillars. I thought it was a joke but low and behold I am now a refugee. Is it a crime to struggle legitimately, save hard earn money to put up a structure where you can live with your family in these tough times in Lagos?”
Like Ankpa a businessman who just completed a two-storey building which is meant to be a hotel of three-star standard with the plan to open the unnamed hotel this Sunday received the greatest shock of his life. He got a call while in Lagos Mainland putting finishing touches to arrangements to open the edifice that his hotel was among the first set of buildings to hit the ground. Residents suggest that the hotel would have opened up the area since it would be patronized by the high and mighty which would include top businessmen who deal on automobiles in Cotonou. It is really a case of the landlords becoming refugees for MTN, Mowo and Atipromeh residents.