- Operatives of Lagos Task Force on Land grabbers have been accused of intimidation and harassment
- The allegation was raised by victims of the demolished structures situated at the cane village under the Ojota link Bridge, Maryland
- Recall that the victims were recently rendered jobless and homeless following the demolition of their structures
Allegations have been raised against officials of the Lagos Task Force on Land grabbers over their conducts to wards victims of the demolished structures situated at the cane village under the Ojota link Bridge, Maryland, Lagos state.
The victims accused the Lagos state officials of outright intimidation, injustice and incessant harassment.
According to the victims comprising craftsmen and residents, the November 30, 2021 demolition by agents of the Lagos State government accompanied by armed police officers has rendered them jobless and homeless.
The victims also alleged that the demolition was embarked upon without any recourse to due process and the rule of law.
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Speaking on the demolition, one of the victims, Adeniyi Adeyemi lamented that all he had laboured for have been destroyed in seconds.
Adeniyi revealed that he has been rendered jobless and homeless and at a point, had to pass the night under the bridge.
“Things were rosy for me until November 30, 2021 when officials of the Lagos State Task Force invaded the cane village and destroyed over means of livelihood.
Since the property where our workshops and businesses were located was demolished, over 50 of us have been sleeping under the bridge. We have not only lost everything laboured for, we have also lost our sleep, means of livelihood and our peace of mind.
The furniture makers amongst us lost machineries and tools amounting to millions of naira while those who had their apartment in the said building lost household equipment and other valuables.
The most surprising part of this is that these tools were stolen not by hoodlums alone but by the police. We were witnessed to how these properties were being looted and carted away by the police. We saw them carrying them away but we dare not stop them.
Despite this, we now live in fear and intimidation by the Task Force. They are stationed at the site of the demolition harassing us. We are appealing to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu to save us from officials of the Lagos State Task Force who have held us in the jugular.
Many of us who are victims of the demolition are prone to developing high blood pressure due to the stress, sudden loss of livelihood and the fact that we had to sleep under the Bridge every night” Adeniyi narrated.
Another victim, Mr Timothy Adeleke claimed he lost all he had worked for, including his completed jobs that were ready for delivery in the demolition.
He alleged no prior notice was served to them before the demolition team swung into action.
He appealed to the Lagos State government to thoroughly investigate what he termed as illegal demolition exercise, adding, “Since the structure was demolished, I have lost everything. My office is located within the same structure that housed Efosa Construction Company.
Everything happened within the twinkle of an eye. The Lagos State Task Force came suddenly without any prior notice and level the structure.
One of the officials came to me requesting for a nail which I provided for him. I never thought I would be affected until I witnessed how my office was levelled with a tractor and my tools and machineries perished.
They destroyed all the jobs I have completed to be delivered to my clients. Even if there is going to be any demolition, there should be a notice to that effect. My workers were injured and tools destroyed.
We were not given any prior notice. I tried to ask one of the officers and he told me that they were sent by the Chairman of the Task Force, CSP Jejeloye and Special Task Force on Land grabbers.
After they had left, I decided to rebuild the structure and continue in my trade. I bought some materials to rebuild the structure but again, for the second time, the structure was destroyed and all the materials were looted.
Some of us had the illegal demolition exercise videoed on our phones but the police seized the phone from them and deleted the content.
Things have not been the same since the demolition. I have lost everything including my source of income and clients. I want the government to investigate this illegal invasion and destruction of our property.
How could an agency of the state government invade private property despite pending court case and demolish it? This needs to be thoroughly investigated.”
When Nigerian Tribune visited the site of the demolition, it gathered that two office and residential apartments, a warehouse, detached structures for cane chair weavers, block making factory and equipment were destroyed leaving victims completely devastated.
One of the affected victims, Mr Gbola Onibiyi said officials of the Special Task Force on Land grabbers and Lagos Task Force visited the structure on November 29, 2021 and pasted an eviction notice on the gate.
They returned the following day, November 30, 2021 for the demolition.
He stated, “They told us to move our properties out of the premises within 24hrs of the pasted notice. So, I had to sleep in the office. Around 7am on November 30, they came around with bulldozer, armed police men and thugs carrying cutlasses and the structure were demolished.
I lost everything. My three-bedroom apartment, a store and my office space were all gone”
The Chief Executive Officer, CEO of Efoba Construction and Engineering Services Limited, and owner of the demolished property, Engineer Gbenga Asonibare said vital documents were lost to the demolition.
According to him, the demolition was carried out in defiance to a pending law suit.
In a petition titled, ‘Unlawful/Illegal Demolition of Property of Efoba Construction and Engineering Services Ltd', addressed to the Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Attorney General and the State Commissioner of Justice, Chief Justice of Lagos State and Chairman, Lagos State Task Force, Asonibare claimed agents of the State were enlisted to demolish his property.
Lamenting insensitivity of the Lagos State government to the plights of victims, Asonibare said, “I would have expected a better reaction from the Lagos State government having written them to explain our plights and that of the downtrodden occupying the demolished structure.
I accommodated those artisans making cane chairs and some other furniture were accommodated free of charge by me so that they could be earning a living but the Lagos State Task Force came and destroyed the structure and sent them back to the street.
We have not heard anything from the government except further intimidation through the Task Force on Land grabbers and the police.
I was unjustly arrested and taken to the Task Force office at Oshodi. Even the officer that was instructed to arrest me didn’t know why I was arrested.
I was put in the cell for three days before I was told that there was a petition written against me by retired Lieutenant Commander Adebambo. He alleged that I was carrying gun and cutlasses, so they took me to court.
I have always been in possession of the property but ironically, just yesterday (Sunday, March 6), I was harassed and barred from entering the premises by officials of the Lagos Task Force.
Since 2017, Adebambo has been trying to evict us from the property, and we reported the issue to the Task Force on Land grabbers. They investigated the matter and affirmed our ownership of the said property.
And it is this same person that goes about claiming ownership of the property.
The issue basically is about ownership of the place. From the documents in our possession, definitely we are the rightful owner of the property.
The Task Force on land grabbers carried out an investigation in 2017 and 2018 and the office of the Inspector General of Police came out with a detailed investigation and at the end of the day, they found out that we are the original owner of the property.
The Inspector General of Police instructed the Commissioner of Police to assist us which they did. They gave us protection against miscreants for about two weeks. We have been peaceful since then but I was surprised when the Lagos State Task Force came to demolish the property.
I am appealing to the Lagos State Government to intervene and ensure justice is served. My life is under threat. Although I am not easily scared, I can see obvious intimidation and threat using the Task Force and the police.
They go after my workers and harassing them. They stole my property and that of other victims. This has become a personal project for CSP Jejeloye as he was seen supervising the illegal activities at the demolished property.”
Meanwhile, Chairman of the Lagos State Task Force, CSP Shola Jejeloye during one of his unofficial visit to the demolition site said occupants of the structure were duly notified.
He said, “I am here in an unofficial capacity therefore I won’t be able to respond to your questions. But I can confirm to you that all occupants and traders within the premises were duly served eviction notice just like those that weave cane chairs under the Bridge who have been instructed to vacate the spot since three months ago.”
Similarly, the coordinator, Lagos State Special Task Force on Land grabbers, Owolabi Arole has denied involvement of his officials in the demolished structure.
While responding to questions via the telephone, he said, “We didn’t demolish any property at the Cane village. I am a public officer and I am sure you know I am not permitted to speak to the press. And aside this, the matter is already in court. The people that are contesting ownership of the said property are in court and if I should make any comment, it will amount to prejudice.”