Lekki shanty occupants defiant as demolition ultimatum ends
Ahead of the bulldozer’s arrival, it gave a 14-day ultimatum to occupants, and owners of such structures and shanties to pull them down. More days of grace were to follow when the ultimatum, which was to end on September 11, was extended for a couple of days, to allow such owners enjoy the Sallah holiday.Even though a handful of shanties dot different parts of the state, the one between Lekki First Roundabout, and Marwa Bus Stop inbound Ajah, stands out like a sore thumb, and has been marked for destruction. Along that route are also fenced plots of land, which squatters have partitioned what they call homes from, using varying shades of plywood and roofing sheets.
These illegal occupants inhabit a vast stretch of land, with their haphazardly constructed apartments, which a good number of them are wrapped around with cellophane papers to keep prying eyes and rains at bay.Quartered in these shanties, are Nigerians of diverse ethnic groups, and it is pretty easy to spot, which ethnic group occupies, which flank. Expectedly, flanks where indigenous northern music is predominantly played are occupied by commercial motorcyclists of Hausa/Fulani extraction.
The sound of Fuji or Egun music wafting from a section of the shantytown is a confirmation of the fact that Yoruba, Egun people as well as some foreigners from Benin Republic are domiciled there. These ones are predominantly artisans, who work in construction sites around Lekki and Ajah, but can’t commute the long distances between their homes and work sites. They are the ones that decided to make the place a permanent home.
Residents of these shanties appear unperturbed by government’s plan to bring down their illegal structures, about one week after the extended ultimatum had expired. In fact, rather than pull down the structures in compliance with the state government’s directive, new structures are being constructed. Interestingly, the shanty operates as a small community of its own with improvised pubs for liquor sales, television viewing centres, mini-restaurants and “fast food joints,” hairdressing and barbing salons and game centres. Snooker and video games are the most patronised games there.
In a way, it does appear like living in the shantytown is an expensive affair as bathing and attending to nature’s call are at a cost for those who do not want to go far. For those that have time, and are not hard pressed, wandering towards the riverbank to seek relief is the only other option. Of course, the amount of newly deposited human excrement that compete for space at the beach front confirms this.
One of the residents informed The Guardian that some of them paid for the plots that they erected their structures on, while others just hire already constructed apartments there and move in. In both cases, the rate paid depends on the negotiating ability of the would-be tenant, and who introduced him/her to the landlord. New comers to the area, he stressed, averagely pay N2, 000.
Bassey, who claims to work close to Ajah, said he had to move in there after the daily transport fare from Onipanu, where he lived with his uncle, ate deep into his monthly salary, leaving him with nothing. He said he was informed of cheap accommodation at the shanty by his colleague, and he has so far lived there for five months, and is unaware of government’s plan to bring down the place, or the expired ultimatum.
Bassey further informed that some of those who have their families there, started by renting just a room, where they stayed after work. After sometime, they decided to move down their wives and children there.Even though he admits that there were a few prostitutes doing business there, he was vehement in thrashing the claims that criminals were using the place as a hideout.
The ignorance feigned by Bassey notwithstanding, Bello said the committee had embarked on a sensitisation campaign to give owners of such illegal structures enough notices to willingly pull them down by themselves before the government is forced to do that, and prosecute them.He informed that every modality has been put in place to ensure that the original master plan of Ikoyi, Lekki, and Victoria Island, as envisioned by the founding fathers is maintained.
He stated further that the committee is poised to discharge the responsibilities vested in it which includes: “Immediately commencing the implementation of the approved action plan, and execution of the cleanup exercise; develop strategies for preventing re-occurrences as well as other recommendations as necessary to sustain environmental renewal of these areas; and embark on a public sensitisation exercise for the sustenance of a cleaner community in the axis.”The SSG added that the current administration remains committed to doing everything possible to bring environmental sanity back to every part of the State.
While re-echoing Ambode’s views when he inaugurated the committee, Bello quoted him as saying: “Cases of abandoned properties have become very rampant with miscreants and criminal elements taking over these properties as their base to cause havoc.“The neat roadsides of the past now parade pockets of kiosks, illegal parking lots, unapproved mechanic workshops, roadside beer parlours and commercial centres. In addition, originally residential areas now have industrial and commercial concerns located there, distorting the balance of the environment.
“These bad environmental practices, thriving in these prime areas, can no longer be tolerated and will be brought to an end immediately. These areas must regain their lost glory, as this administration demands a return of environmental normalcy,” he stated.
Bello emphasised that the quest to have a safe, clean and prosperous Lagos is not negotiable as the present administration is committed to ensuring a cessation of the continuation of the environmental infractions being witnessed in Ikoyi, Lekki, Victoria Island.He used the opportunity to advise owners of some of the illegal structures who may still be sitting on the fence or expressing the hope that the state government would have a rethink on the cleanup to make use of the window offered to them now, or face the full force of the law.