Contrary to widely held views that the demolition of buildings at Alaba International Market, a sprawling business community in Ojo Local Council of Lagos, was a witch-hunt and politically motivated, officials of Lagos State government have said the action was carried out in public interest.
They explained that the buildings were demolished as a measure to save and protect lives as well as enforce building regulations. The officials added that the action was not a tendency to acquire the land, stressing that the demolished houses were distressed, posing security risk in the community
Gbolahan Oki, General Manager, Lagos State Building Control Agency, (LABSCA), who made these explanations during an on-the-spot assessment of the demolition site, also explained that the demolition was simply to, among other things, prevent building collapse.
He explained that the distressed buildings were demolished because there was need for some of the traders to do regularization, adding that it was also meant to check issues of land grabbers selling one plot of land to several people as well as the need to correct haphazard development.
He noted that there was no ethnic colouration to the decisions of government, whose only motive was to prevent building collapse, to ensure safety of lives of the traders and other Nigerians.
Oki visited the demolition site alongside his counterpart in Lagos State Physical Planning Permit Authority (LASPPPA), Kehinde Osinaike, and the seven-man committee set up by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu in the aftermath of the demolition exercise and the ensuing public outrage.
They were led on the trip by Oluwole Sotire, Permanent Secretary of their parent ministry, the Lagos State Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development.
Oki noted that most of the demolished buildings were without permits, adding that necessary documentations needed by the state government were ignored.
“All we are after are the lives of traders and other Nigerians which are extremely important to the Lagos State government. I have seen people painting buildings that are dilapidated, that is not good; it is not painting that makes a building new. Our lives are more important,” he said.
He urged owners of distressed buildings marked for demolition to remove them within two weeks, to prevent disaster, or else government would move in to take action.
“My mandate is to remove anything that is dilapidated, that is harmful to the people that even own it,” he said, revealing that Sanwo-Olu set up the seven-man committee to look into the demolition without causing disaffection among the traders in the Alaba market.
According to him, LASBCA officials were usually prevented from enforcing laws by people who failed to get building plan approvals or those who did illegal conversion of their properties.
He assured protesters carrying placards that government had their interests covered with the appointment of additional 17-man sub-committee compromising their market leadership, for quicker resolution of issues.
Some of the affected traders carrying placards with various inscriptions at the market pleaded with Sanwo-Olu to fast track the assignment of the committee to restore their means of livelihood.
Earlier, the general manager and his team had had a meeting with leadership of the market traders at LASBCA head office at Ikeja GRA, before they all embarked on the trip to the market.
The market leaders who are members of the seven-man technical committee set up to look into the issues of demolition discussed the way forward as the LASBCA boss explained processes and procedures guiding laws on physical developments and what must be done to comply with regulation.