Group Condemns Lagos State Rampant Demolitions

The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA, has expressed grave concerns over the recent wave of demolitions in Lagos State, particularly in the Ibeju-Lekki and Epe areas, where 80% of buildings have been deemed unapproved by the state government.

The civil rights advocacy group considers the revelation by Oluyinka Olumide, the Lagos State Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, alarming.

The group in a statement by it’s National Coordinator Emmanuel Onwubiko on Wednesday said, “It has sparked fear and anxiety among homeowners, who now face the devastating prospect of losing their properties and being forced back into the rental market.”

“The ongoing demolition spree, ostensibly due to a lack of building approvals or constructions on government-acquired land, has been described by many as both tragic and unnecessary.”

“According to the commissioner, a significant number of these unapproved structures are situated on agricultural land sold by families unaware of the land’s zoning restrictions. This highlights a profound failure in the planning and regulatory framework that should prevent such situations from arising.”

HURIWA contended that the demolitions represent a gross miscarriage of justice and a blatant disregard for the rights and livelihoods of the affected individuals. The association argued that the Lagos State Government, under Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, should have taken proactive measures to prevent the construction of these unapproved buildings rather than resorting to demolitions, emphasizing that such drastic actions not only destroy homes but also disrupt lives, livelihoods, and the broader economy.

“The situation in Lagos has reached a critical point, where landlords have become an endangered species, falling victim to systemic corruption within the land registry and the inefficiencies of the state’s planning authorities. The recent statements by the Lagos State Physical Planning Permit Authority, LASPPPA, officials further underscore this issue, as they admit to being compromised by property developers. This corruption at the infancy level of development raises serious questions about the integrity of the regulatory process and the accountability of those in charge.”

“The state’s approach to resolving these issues has been marked by inconsistency and a lack of compassion. While the government has initiated a 90-day amnesty period for property owners to obtain planning permits without penalty fees, this measure appears to be too little, too late.”

“The damage caused by the demolitions is already profound, affecting thousands of residents and leaving many homeless. The government’s failure to enforce regulations from the onset has led to a scenario where reactive measures are causing more harm than good,” Onwubiko expressed.”

Therefore, HURIWA called on the Lagos State Government to halt the demolition activities immediately and to engage in meaningful dialogue with affected homeowners, urging that there must be a transparent investigation into the role of compromised officials in the approval process and stringent measures put in place to prevent such corruption in the future. Furthermore, HURIWA tasked the government to explore alternative solutions that do not involve the destruction of homes, such as regularizing existing buildings where feasible.

The association also urged the federal government to refrain from participating in these demolition activities, which exacerbate the already severe housing deficit in Nigeria. “The actions of both the Lagos State Government and the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) have been likened to locusts consuming the properties of citizens during a time of acute housing shortages. This approach is not only despicable but also counterproductive, as it undermines public trust and exacerbates the housing crisis,” HURIWA stated.