The agony of landlords and residents of houses and business premises recently demolished in different parts of the country makes for a distressing spectacle. Structures worth billions of naira are being reduced to rubble as some state governments set about belatedly enforcing building regulations. Such exercises should however be undertaken in strict accordance with the law, devoid of political vendetta, and accompanied by strong sanctions against the public officials that aided infractions and illegality.
In Lagos, the government and the Federal Housing Authority have embarked on demolitions in parts of the city. The reasons given range from building on land earmarked for different purposes, or building on drainage channels, and houses built without the necessary development permits.
In Festac Town, the FHA earmarked 644 houses for demolition and 744 others to be partly demolished. Similar scenarios played out in Amuwo-Odofin, Oyingbo, Ebute-Meta, Lekki, Ajah and other areas. In some instances, state government officials are accused of land-grabbing and conniving with omo oniles (touts) to deprive owners of their property.
Demolitions are also ongoing in Kaduna, Imo, and Anambra states. About 140 houses in Graceland community in the Zaria Local Government Area of Kaduna State were recently demolished. Officials of the Kaduna State Urban Planning and Development Agency allege that the owners encroached on land belonging to the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology, Zaria.
The homeowners however insist that they legally acquired their plots and obtained necessary documents from the government.
Similarly, the Oyo State Government announced in September that it would soon commence the demolition of illegal structures built on its land in Akanran, Ona-Ara LGA, warning encroachers to vacate the land “with immediate effect.” It said the land was earmarked for a games village.
Residents of the new settlement at Salanta Layout in Kano metropolis are also under immense pressure. The state government has marked some buildings there for demolition, ostensibly to “restore” the Kano master plan and recover land belonging to the Kano State Polytechnic, but sold by the immediate past state administration.
In May, the Enugu State Government announced plans to demolish 200 houses in the Centenary Estate in Enugu, explaining that it had given the landlords notice since July 2021 to vacate.
In March, the Anambra State Government resumed the demolition of structures in parts of Awka, the state capital. Over 100 structures were affected.
The Federal Capital Territory Administration regularly takes down buildings in both highbrow areas and the suburbs, also ostensibly to restore the Abuja master plan. The current FCT Minister, Nyesom Wike, has vowed to continue that tradition.
In most instances, the property owners apparently violated extant laws and regulations guiding urban planning, building protection, and orderly development of cities. Some developers carried on as if there was no government.
However, colossal sums of money are spent building the structures and their demolition amounts to serious economic waste.
Buildings on water and drainage channels cause incalculable damage as such structures block wastewater and water channels, and cause massive flooding, sometimes with loss of lives and property. No responsible government should allow this.
However, the government and its officials at various levels are enablers of the illegal developments. In the approval process, corruption is prevalent. The governments should be responsible and stop illegal buildings from the outset. They should not stop at demolition; the officials that facilitated illegality, and failed to act when the structures were being built must be punished.
Land acquisition and regulations guiding the implementation of the Land Use Act should be made less cumbersome. The criminal activities of land grabbers and speculators should be ruthlessly stamped out.