Over 100 buildings were on Monday pulled down and countless persons displaced as the Ogun State government flagged off its road expansion project along the Sango-Ijoko/Alagbole/Yakoyo road.
The demolition, which began around 9am, affected structures on both sides of the Ojodu/Alagbole road at Yakoyo and the Sango/Ijoko road all the way down to Ogba-Ayo.
Shops, residential buildings and shanties were lost to the demolition which was carried out to clear structures within 22.7 metres from the road.
At Ogba-Ayo along Ijoko road, a shopping complex housing over 70 shops, two petrol stations and scores of residential buildings were destroyed. As of 4pm, Sango residents, whose buildings had also been marked for demolition, were seen hurriedly moving their valuables in preparation for the demolition that would continue on Tuesday (today).
Some landlords and few of the residents at Yakoyo, who spoke with correspondent lamented the demolition of their buildings without adequate notice to prepare them for the exercise, alleging that the state government did not compensate them or map out a resettlement plan for the people affected by the demolition.
The owner of a two-storey building at Yakoyo, Nuhu Aruwa, said he built his house with the money he had saved from 35 years service as an officer of the Nigeria Customs Service.
“I have been living here for the past 26 years. I am a retiree and I manage a paint manufacturing company here. Early last year, the Bureau of Land and Survey came and marked our houses, saying it wanted to expand the road and that people should file their claims for compensation.
“We told them to let us know how they intend to compensate us. At least, my present house is worth N50m. “Later in September this year, the ministry officials said we should await letters of acquisition and after we agreed on the value of our houses, we could move out.
“They said they would pay us first before we would move out.”
Aruwa, who hails from Kogi State, said he was awaiting the letter when he was told that his house would be demolished on Monday morning.
He said, “No kobo has been paid, no alternative has been provided and they now say I should move out. Move to where? Are we goats? We have children schooling here. Do we terminate their academic programmes? I have served this nation for more than 35 years. I am now retired, and they want to take all I have built in my whole life away from me.”
Another landlord, Moshood Yusuf, said he built his house in 1986 and caters for his15 member family with the money he makes from rents.
He said the state governor disappointed residents when he visited the area a day to the demolition, without interacting with the landlords to know how they felt. “The permanent secretary and governor came here yesterday (Sunday). Amosun merely walked with his entourage from Alagbole to Yakoyo Bus-stop without talking to anybody. And all he said was that work would start today and left.”
It was learnt that many of the landlords were confused because their buildings had been marked three different times.
A source said the state government had said initially, that it would only clear structures within 5.2 metres distance from the road. This was later increased to 13 metres and then 22.7 metres.
Many residents were caught unawares by the demolition and appealed for time to evacuate their property. Others protested the demolition and were seen making frantic calls to officials of the state government.
At about 9.30am, an unidentified officer from the Bureau of Lands addressed a group of landlords where he advised the house owners to “take the pictures of your property and take to the Bureau of Lands for documentation. The issue of forms and letters do not concern the governor. Once he comes and gives orders that work should begin, we must begin to work. If there is any report that nothing has been done, they could send in policemen and I don’t want that here. Just get evidence that you are the owner of the house.”
The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure, Kayode Ademolake, told our correspondent that the residents were merely opposed to change in the state. “They were served two years ago and even in the last three months, we still reminded them. But you know that even if you give some people 1,000 years, they will still continue to be there. When development is about to take place, there will be resistance, so we are not surprised.
“No responsible government will however continue to watch a road that has been degraded for over 30 years without doing something about it.
“Some of these people don’t even have proper documentation for their houses, and yet the government is ready to compensate them for their losses,” he said.
It would be recalled that the over 50 kilometre long road, which has remained in a complete state of disrepair for several years was one of the cardinal pledge made by Governor Amosun during his electioneering campaign