In an attempt to restore sanity to the state and find a solution to flooding in some areas, the state government on October 18, 2023, began the demolition of structures and shanties on setbacks of drainage channels at the Lekki Phase II-Ikota drainage channel. One of the victims of the demolition, Mr. Sola Akadi, watched in pain on Wednesday as his N55 million semi-detached duplex was reduced to rubble by the task force of the Lagos State Ministry of the Environment. His was one of the buildings being demolished by the government for building on a drainage channel in the Ikota area of the State. In just a few minutes, his investment, which had barely lasted two years, was gone.
As the blade of the bulldozer touched the roof of his building that morning, Akadi held his chest and shook his head in disbelief, as did many of the other homeowners in the area. He told news correspondents that he could not believe that it was happening. He said that when he heard about the planned demolition from a neighbour a few days earlier, he didn’t know how to relay the sad news to his family who had been dreading the moment. Asked what motivated him to buy the property, he said that he got a good offer from the developers of Venux Homes (Phase 1), Ikota GRA and that his lawyer, whom he had involved from the outset, gave his assent. He noted that the builders had made it clear that everything was up to date and he had believed them.
Warning had been issued to homeowners since 2020.
“Even when I went to the Ministry of the Environment and Physical Planning, they did not imply that there was a problem,” he said. At the time, the building had not been completed. He said that he went there once to check and there were no signs that the building was marked for demolition. He noted that the Lagos State Government would not say they were not aware. He said that he later realized the state government had given its final notice of demolition, and that they had to move all the valuables they could till the bulldozers arrived at the site. He said that when he saw the Commissioner for Environment, Mr. Tokunbo Wahab, and approached him to plead for leniency, Wahab made it clear that no house on the drainage channel or the slabs or setbacks would be spared.
“That was when I learnt that government officials had come in 2020 to warn the developers and some occupants to stop work and vacate the property but they refused,” he said. The demolition exercise began at Mobil Road and Gedegede community in the highbrow Lekki Phase II following the expiration of several contravention notices served on the property owners. Speaking with journalists at the scene of the demolition, the commissioner said that the outright demolition underscored the seriousness of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s administration about law and order restoration.
Residents ignored government warnings and went ahead with construction.
Wahab, who spoke through the Director, Drainage Enforcement and Compliance, Mahmood Adegbite, said the state started serving contravention notices on the property owners in 2020 when all the structures were at their foundation level. According to him, the residents ignored the notices and all measures suggested by the state government to prevent flooding in the area. Rather than heed the warning, he said that some residents went ahead to fill the setback of the channel in preparation for constructing more structures.
He stated, “We cannot write the story of Lagos without the unfortunate incident of flash flood. We are all aware that flooding is caused by natural forces as well as anthropogenic factors, one of which is building on flood plains and right of way of drainages.” Adegbite pointed out that one of the buildings demolished was at the foundation level in 2020 when the owner was informed that the building was being constructed within the drainages right of way. He said that the approved setback was 15 meters but that being a high density area, it was reduced to 10 meters. He however lamented that property owners in the area not only built on the right of way but encroached into the channel by as much as 3 meters.
NCF issues red alert on lack of measures against the Atlantic Ocean.
Meanwhile, the Director-General of the Nigeria Conservation Foundation, Joseph Onoja, has warned that if measures are not quickly put in place, the Atlantic Ocean will soon affect the Lekki-Epe Expressway. Onoja gave the warning on October 19, 2023, at a meeting on ocean encroachment between Lekki Estates Residents and Stakeholders Association, Senator Wasiu Eshilokun, who represents Lagos Central Senatorial District; NCF, and the Eti-Osa East Local Council Development Authority. The meeting was to find solutions to the ocean surge rapidly destroying communities in the Eti-Osa/Lekki corridor. Onoja pointed out that over 130 meters of land had been encroached upon by the Atlantic Ocean in four years, and in 2024, a projection of another 50 meters would be gone if no immediate intervention was made.