When Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-olu planned the demolition of some properties in the metropolis, he may not have thought that ill-timed execution could impugn the state policy.
Prior to the controversial bulldozer- action, Allnews.ng findings showed there has been an existing climate of mutual distrust between the state and Igbo businessmen resident in the commercial city. Consequently, the Igbo have pointedly accused the state of having a hidden political agenda to establish victimizing policies and, shrink their businesses in the state.
But the brand new sheriff in town and Lagos state commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Oluyinka Olumide with a mandate to sanitize the metropolitan business community has debunked the allegations, saying the ongoing demolition was not to witch-hunt the Igbo.
Yet, the Igbo are not placated. Barrister Aloy Ejimakor, lawyer to Nnamdi Kanu, separatist leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) has condemned the demolition and called on the southeast leaders to visit Sanwo-olu on the contentious state action.
He said the demolition was a selective victimization against markets and buildings populated and owned by the Igbo.
Also, Ejimakor, who asked the Igbo leaders to visit President Bola Tinubu over the demolition instructed, " You must not be beggarly but must issue an ultimatum against the Lagos State government to cease or desist from the demolition exercise".
The fiery lawyer on his X (formerly Twitter) handle asserted, "the Igbo leaders who should embark on the visit must include the National Assembly caucus, all the southeast governors, clergymen, traditional rulers and civil society leaders.
He wrote, “#LagosDemolitions: It’s time for the entire Igbo leadership to pay a visit to @jidesanwoolu & @officialABAT.
“This should include the NASS caucus, all the Governors, the Clergy, traditional & civic leaders. They shouldn’t beg. Instead, they should issue an ultimatum; a cease & desist.”
However, investigations uncovered that one of the victims of the demolition was former Super Eagles striker, Emmanuel Emenike, who reported that his house was brought to rubble despite procurement of legitimate approval from relevant state authorities.
Condemning the demolition, Ejimakor averred it was an act of cowardice and, that the Nigerian government has continued to turn the country into an open air prison for the Igbo.
The Ejimakor perspective, however, spawned a demand "that those who want Igbos out of Lagos or Nigeria should rather conduct a Biafra referendum to let Igbos go their separate way as a sovereign nation as Igbos have had enough".
Still unmoved, the state has vowed to sanitize the real estate sector, by weeding out fraudulent practices. It even ordered to probe allegations of victimisation programmed against the Igbo.
In collaboration, Special Adviser to Governor Sanwo-Olu on Housing, Barakat Odunuga-Bakare said, "We will launch a proper investigation on complaints by some operators over the demolition of their buildings in some parts of the state to ascertain the claims by some of the developers.”
Allnews.ng learnt the state has even provided some legal backing to the state Real Estate Regulatory Authority and Tenancy Law overseeing the pulling down exercise.
Odunuga-Bakare explained, “The Tenancy Law is in the process of protecting both the sellers and buyers of properties in the state.
"We are collaborating with the Ministry of Justice in addressing issues and challenges raised by some practitioners.”
She vowed that the agency would raise the bar of enforcement drive against sharp practices in the real estate sector, maintaining that 2024 would no longer be business as usual for perpetrators of fraudulent acts in the real estate sector and unregistered practitioners.
She, therefore, urged Nigerians in the Diaspora to always check the website of LASRERA for adequate information before sealing any transactions.
But the Labour Party, LP, Presidential candidate, Mr. Peter Obi holds a differing view on timing and prevailing hardship in the country.
In his words, "Even if there were some violations as the governments claimed, this time was not auspicious for such an exercise, knowing the hardship in the land and the consequences it would have on the poor who are struggling to make ends meet with their little resources.
“It’s with complete despondency and unhappiness that I have followed the ongoing demolitions of properties across the country, especially knowing the extra hardship such acts have been heaping on hapless citizens who are already battling with multi-dimensional poverty.
“What a responsive government should be doing under the current harsh economic conditions in the country is to come up with measures aimed at alleviating the people’s hardships and to carry out measures that will take more people out of poverty".
The demolished buildings, according to Olumide were constructed without approval and, were hurriedly erected during the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown. He further explained that nobody has come forward to say they were demolished under approval.
The physical planning commissioner asserted that illegal structures on the drainage system would be knocked down and, challenged anybody with a claim that his building was approved and demolished to come forward.
Amid streams of agitations for and against the pulling down exercise, some experts believe one particular fact stands out. According to some experts, the prima facie justification was to secure a legal transaction covering the buying and selling of land and house property in the Lagos metropolis. Again, the location of such a property for sale calls for circumspect. Whether or not its location has legal approval yet, devoid of any environmental risk.
But the victims hold a divergent view. They are pleading remote causes, saying the implementation of the provisions of the real estate regulatory authority and tenancy law, acting in good faith, should not have been prearranged to be executed retroactively.
Besides, the victims are citing an undercurrent up political prejudice against the Igbo.
They claimed that the pulling down exercise was a tool of state victimization and retaliation planned against the Igbo over their unflinching support and block vote for the labour party, LP, presidential candidate, Mr. Peter Obi against the ruling APC's presidential candidate now President Bola Ahmed Tinubu in the 2023 last general polls.
One Mr Joe Okpe, a legal expert told Allnews.ng that, "Unarguably, time serves various purposes. The time to initiate a policy and time to execute same policy are two things wide apart.
"While the objectives for the demolition policy can be acceptable, weighing the time of execution seem to have played into a social and political paranoid killer," he argued.