Kayode Fasua in this report looks at the plight of landlords whose homes were destroyed by the Ogun State government
Septuagenarian Samuel Adeolu had only returned from where he had gone to purchase some bags of wheat for use in his bakery. But as he alighted from his car, he suddenly stopped short. “What is this? What is this?”, he screamed, as he beheld the ruin of what used to be his beloved bakery. That was four years ago
Today, a sanguine Adeolu is yet to recover from a stroke disease he contacted, consequent upon the irreparable loss; whereas, the massive road project for which his source of income went under remains stymied, as the state government seems hampered by paucity of funds, going by the snail pace of the road projects.
Elsewhere in the Yakoyo, Alagbole, Akute, Lambe, Ijoko and Sango border communities of Ogun State, stories abound of how many former landlords have inconsolably lapsed into sickness and died, as they awaited compensations in vain from the Ogun State government.
While some landlords could not bear the shock of this reversal in fortune, some who could endure the pains, according to findings, are no more than social dregs, as they are often found around the localities, looking straight ahead in deep contemplation; some soliloquising.
Speaking on the ordeal of house owners, a leader of Yakoyo-Odozi-Ojodu landlords Association in Ifo South Local Council Development Area, Prince Jimoh Oshinubu, valued properties brought down by the government’s bulldozers in the area at over half a billion naira, lamenting that “not a dime has been received so far, after so many entreaties to the Ogun State governor and other government officials.”
Oshinubi said apart from those who lost their buildings some four years ago at the inception of the road construction projects, not a few of the landlords and other residents were rendered homeless early last year, when government, without notice, also descended on more structures.
Lamenting the plight of the landlords, Oshinubi, who was also affected, said, “The state government failed to fulfil its promise of compensating persons whose properties were demolished between 2014 and 2015 when the ambitious project that runs through Ojodu, Odozi, Akute, Giwa, Okearo and Sango began.
“Nobody is against development; nobody is saying the road should not be constructed. But we are human beings for God’s sake; the state government is treating us like animals in the way they are going about the demolition exercise.
“In the first place, nobody has been compensated since they started the road project in 2014. As for the set of people whose houses were recently demolished, there was no prior notice. The government just came with bulldozers and set the whole community into pandemonium.
“It is an established fact that a lot of people have died, some had the stroke disease and while thousands have been impoverished, owing to the way they had been treated by the state government.
“We want our government to treat us with respects. We had a consulting firm that evaluated the costs of properties being demolished by the government, but for over four years, there was no indication that its recommendation was considered, much less acted upon.
“All we could see last year were bulldozers demolishing our buildings with residents running for dear life, as if we were not in a civilised society. Our economy has been affected; our livelihood destroyed; mothers and children have been rendered homeless and most of the children are now without schools to attend. The children will ask, ‘Why?’”
But justifying why it embarked on the demolition of buildings along the stretch, the Ogun state government said it was inevitable if development was to come the way of an increasing population of its citizenry. It, however noted way back in 2012 at the beginning of phased demolition of buildings in the state, it had anticipated paying about N10 billion as compensation to affected property owners, eventually.
The Ogun State Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, Mr. Olamilekan Adegbite, also recently explained that the state government had paid over N4 billion as compensation to people whose buildings were demolished, to pave the way for its various road construction works.
Adegbite, said that out of about N8 billion budgeted for compensation, homeowners in the Sango and Ojodu areas of the state would get the lion share of between N4 billion and N5 billion, since many modern buildings were demolished in the areas, to allow for right of way.
Besides, he disclosed that the government had decided to fix all the failed portions of the Lagos-Sango-Ota-Abeokuta Road, awarded by the Federal Government to Julius Berger Construction Company, in batches.
According to Adegbite, the Lagos-Abeokuta Road had become embarrassing to the state government.
He said of his activities: “The ministry has been mandated to fix permanently, the tollgate axis of the road at Sango-Ota in the Ado-Odo Local Government Area of the state. The road will be designed to accommodate drainage such that it will not be problematic anymore.
“The state government had overtime continued to carry out palliative measures on that road and it has cost us so much money. So, the governor has directed that we should evolve a permanent solution that we can afford.
“Right now, we have got a mandate to fix the tollgate permanently. That is the only area we can attack for now, because it is really embarrassing as we transit from Lagos to Ogun State.”
But most landlords who spoke with our correspondent in the Ojodo, Akute, Sango areas where the state government is currently constructing multi-billion naira bridges, sneered at the claim of compensation by the commissioner, saying the statements were merely meant for publicity stunts.
One of them, Mr, Foluso Adeola, who lost his storey building along the Yakoyo area of Ojodu about two years ago, wondered why he was not considered for compensation, despite that the landlords’ association in the locality made so many representations to the state government, especially the state’s Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice.
Meanwhile, the landlords in Odozi-Yakoyo-Ojodu areas had earlier this year filed a suit before an Ogun State High Court in Abeokuta, demanding prompt compensation for the demolition of their buildings and over the pains and other untold hardship they suffered in the process.
But the state government had called for settlement between it and the landlords, which forced the court to adjourn sine die in the matter, to enable the parties reach a truce.
But one of the landlords, who sought anonymity, revealed that negotiations between them and the state government had collapsed, “as government is still foot-dragging on the issue of compensation.”
Said the landlord, “Governor Ibikunle Amosun is leaving office very soon, and we landlords perceive that they want to trick us into fruitless sessions of meetings till May 29 next year, when they would all have escaped, leave the incoming government to inherit our problem.”
“So as things are now, we have heading back to court, to fight for our compensation before it is too late.”