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Lagos State Set for Another Round of Demolition

The Lagos State Government has issued a notice of demolition to residents and property owners in the following areas: Agungi, Ajiran, Conservation Road, Oral Estate II, Orchid Road, and Osapa, all along the Ikota River. Houses in estates within these areas have been marked for demolition, which would commence next week. The government claims the affected buildings are blocking waterways and that they were illegally constructed despite several of these estates having government-approved documents like Certificate of Occupancy, Governor’s consent, and Building approvals.

This is after the Federal Housing Authority commenced its own set of demolitions in the same Lagos state that led to a massive uproar due to the scale of destruction as well as other germane issues. The exercise rendered many homeless and impoverished several people overnight. It has, however, been put on hold by a “stay of execution” order from a federal high court following a class action by the victims.

The recent spate of demolitions is very scary considering the current state of the economy and would have far-reaching consequences. For instance, the cost of housing in some of the affected areas is between 50 million naira to 100 million naira and, in some cases, more. A thousand of such buildings going down will mean the destruction of at least 50 billion naira worth of property. This will pauperize thousands of homeowners, developers, and dependents, adding them to the existing 133 million multi-dimensionally poor Nigerians. The environmental consequence of such a large-scale demolition is also quite steep, with air, water, and land pollution, amongst other possible consequences.

The Nigerian economy has seen a decline in local consumption over the last few years due to a rise in the inflation rate. The housing sector in selected locations across the nation, like Lagos, was an exception to the decline in consumption, but these recent developments would most likely reverse that. This would hurt the economy, particularly if a previously booming real estate market joins the other aspects of the market experiencing the downturn.

Another interesting thing to note is the possible consequence of the government’s search for FDI. It would be easier to convince investors that a few property owners erred against the law, but when hundreds of buildings are involved, the government and its agencies are automatically implicated by negligence, corruption, or a combination of both. No investor, foreign or local, worth his/her salt would be willing to put their money in an economy run by such a government.

Considering all of these, it would be logical to expect the government to meet with all the stakeholders, explore alternatives like dredging alternative waterways, and make demolition a last resort. Sadly, this is not the case. The government has refused to accept responsibility for its part in the debacle. Instead, it has issued a notice to the affected areas and is insistent on demolition without regard to the consequences.

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