Lagos Sues Homeowner Complaining about Neighbour’s Alleged Dangerous Construction Methods

Bennett Oghifo

A homeowner, Mr. Lai Oshisanya of 28, Modupe Johnson Crescent, Surulere,  Lagos State, is unhappy that a highrise building being constructed by his neighbour, Mr. Olagbayi Ishola Joseph of 26, Modupe Johnson Crescent, Surulere, allegedly poses danger to his building and to the general environment.

A major issue is the fence between the buildings, which the Lagos State Building  Control Agency (LASBCA) said is distressed and that it should be demolished and rebuilt. According to LASBCA, there was a meeting between the neighbours and that while Mr. Oshisanya’s neighbour agreed that the fence should be rebuilt, Oshisanya refused, insisting that professionals should be involved to ensure everything was done correctly. “It’s basically about the modalities, opinions from experts that have indicated how it should be rebuilt. That’s why we have written that they call independent experts to consider, look and proffer best solutions to rebuild or reconstruct a new fence.”

Oshisanya stated this and other points in a letter to the Attorney General of Lagos State and Commissioner for Justice, and also to the Lagos State Building Control Agency, Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency, and the Commissioner, Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development.

At the end of it all, the Attorney General of Lagos State sued both neighbours in the “Special Offences Court for the trial of offences triable under the Special Offences Court Law.”

According to the Summons, “Complaint has been made this day by the Honourable Attorney General of Lagos State that the above named Defendants did disobey the lawful order of the Lagos State Building Control Agency to allow and remove the distressed fence standing between the Ist and 2nd Defendants’ structures at 26 and 28, Modupe Johnson Crescent, Suruiere, Lagos State in the interest of public safety and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 123 of the Criminal law of Lagos State, 2015.

“You are therefore summoned to appear before the Special Offences Court mentioned above sitting at Task Force, Bolade, Oshodi, Lagos State.“

Dissatisfied with this development, Mr. Oshisanya not only went to the Special Appeals Committee, he also asked that the matter should be transferred to the High Court.

However, the matter has since been adjourned pending the reaction of the Chief Judge upon his application for the transfer of the suit. There is no meeting yet with the Appeal Committee, he said.

Mr. Lai Oshisanya stated his position on the issue on August 10, 2023, in a letter to the Attorney General of Lagos State and Commissioner for Justice, where he put in copy, the Lagos State Building Control Agency, Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency, and the Commissioner, Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development, stating thus: “Permit us to draw your attention to the central issues concerning our complaints that have been neglected as follows, which might require inter-ministerial advice for legal understanding of the relevant laws and regulations largely paraphrased with sidenotes, paragraphs and section numberings in this letter as follows: Encroachment, and Damage to our properties (during construction); Obstruction of ancient lights; Potential flooding hazard; Apprehension on effect of repeated excavation and relocation of septic tanks and soakaway pits and hazardous potential: Impact assessment of construction on the topography on the entire street’s scheme.

“False statement of our agreement and conceding to the injurious design, in order to side-track all issues and to assist the developer construct a fence for the beautification of his compound albeit, without our consent;

“Threat to us, the aggrieved victims of the errant construction, and defence of the errant developer by the colluding staff of the Lagos State Building Control Agency.”

Mr. Oshisanya stated that, “As our complaint pertains to Regulation 7 Party Wall and Buildings Surrounding Construction Sites, in point of requirement that the developer would: (c) carry out the construction in a way that the integrity of the adjoining structure is not affected; it has become imperative that for any remedial action to be viable in accordance with the Regulations to: (d) engage competent professionals to carry out structural survey of properties within the project site and ensure actual pictures are taken for record purposes. (4) appraisal of the buildings around the site prior to and after the construction with the signing off of a registered engineer. (6) Where a dispute arises or is deemed to have arisen between a developer and the adjoining owner/developer in respect of any matter connected with any party wall work – (i) both parties shall concur to the appointment of one (1) Land Surveyor; or (ii) each party shall appoint a Land Surveyor and the two (2) Surveyors so appointed shall select a third Land Surveyor to settle the dispute.

“From our recent assessment of the problem created, the natural ground level has been altered pending further filing and paving to entrance/access level.

“The initial filing from the natural ground level measured with a laser measuring meter vis & vis our own premises and they reflect the following: The development tentatively on ground level has been raised to measure from the top level of the fence: 2.11meters; Our premises with paving is from the top of the fence has the margin of: 2.48 meters; Thus, the development is at a difference of 37cm or 370 millimetres above our premises.

“It is of note that there is still going to be a pavement to the entrances that would further raise the premises against our property and put us to hazard of soil movement, effluent discharge, flooding, etc.

“Our observation is that for now pending the paving to entrance level, the sewage and septic tanks are already on a level close to our window ledge. Thus, breach of the Regulation relating to wastewater treatment system or cesspool sited and constructed that -it is prejudicial to health; will contaminate watercourse, underground water and overflow and odours from its ventilation are above and close to our premises.

“It is pertinent to note that right from the inception, we had no notice of the developer intending to demolish the existing structure or prior to the demolition of an obtained Demolition Permit from Lagos State Physical Planning Permit Authority or of a copy of the Permit being displayed on the Demolition site.

“Essentially, our apprehension at the statement in the minutes (not disputed) we sent that our lawyers attended, is that it was stated by an official, that the developer is free to do whatever within his land, against the Regulation that care be taken so that: ground movement caused by (i) swelling, shrinkage or freezing of the subsoil; or (ii) landslip or subsidence (other than subsidence arising from shrinkage} in as much as the risk can be reasonably foreseen, will not affect the stability of any part of the building and surrounding structures.

“This has been a core of our complaint which was never given expert study and response. Our complaints include contravention of the mandatory air space (in the light of the relevant Regulation 7, concerning Setbacks and Air Spaces), and Regulations concerning a wall common to our buildings, shall be designed and constructed such that it adequately resists the spread of fire between those buildings. Overall, the regulation stipulates that: A building shall not be constructed in a way to have adverse effect on adjoining or neighbouring buildings/structures. We would firmly request that the dispute be sent to the appropriately constituted body of Licenced surveyors to deal with it for an expert and due process resolution.”

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