In its determination to preserve the legacy assets inherited from the defunct Western region, the Ondo State Government has embarked on the demolition of illegal buildings along the Akure/Owo expressway, saying the structures were erected on the government’s land designated for industrial purposes.
Not less than 50 of the approximately 98 illegal structures, majorly residential, have been demolished over alleged encroachment by the landlords and land grabbers.
The state Commissioner of Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development, Mrs Lola Fagbemi, explained that the land had earlier been acquired by the Western region and had since been designated as industrial area.
She said that the representatives of government had earlier met with the affected landlords and occupants of the illegal buildings to intimate them of government’s intention to take possession of the lands.
According to Fagbemi, the demolition exercise was carried out in a bid to reclaim government’s property already in the possession of land grabbers, noting that government cannot continually fold its hands and watch its land taken over by unscrupulous elements.
“Sometimes ago, the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Infrastructure informed us that government lands designated as industrial areas have been grossly encroached upon.
“These tracts of land were acquired by the defunct Western Region government and was designated as industrial land for the use of economic, commercial and other industrial purposes.
“This place remained industrial area upon the creation of Ondo State on February 3, 1976 and this is one of the greatest immovable assets that we have as a state.
“Records at our disposal also showed that compensations were paid to the initial owners when the land was first acquired.
“We are using this medium to call on the people affected that this area is an industrial area and no residential building will be allowed there. It should as well be noted that government cannot in anyway be intimidated.”
Fagbemi said “we have been on this issue since 2016 and occupants have been served with several notices that the land is owned by the government.This has been done even when some of these houses were still at the foundation level but they all turned deaf ears.
“Let it also be on record that none of the houses built on this land has the required land documents to proof their ownership, no C of O and neither do they have land use permit. These are lands taken over by land grabbers.”
Also speaking, the Commissioner for Lands, Housing and Infrastructure, Mr Raimi Aminu said the removal of the illegal structures was done because government could not allow anything to override its determination to bring strategic development to the state.
Aminu said legitimate allotees who were given land at the industrial layout by past administrations got minimum of 5,000 square metres each strictly for industrial and commercial purposes and all of them already have tittle documents (c of o’s) but regretted that such portions of land had been massively balkanised into smaller sizes by land grabbers and sold illegally for residential purposes.
He said “the land grabbers had taken over the land from the original owners, divided the land into between 700 and 1000 square metres each, sold them for residential purposes and prevented the real allotees from stepping foot on their land”.
He stressed that the illegal occupants of the land at the industrial estate had been warned severally against erecting structures on them despite not having any tittle on them but they turned the deaf ear.
“Each time government’s task force visited the place to enforce the stop-work order the illegal developers would attack them physically”
He challenged any of the affected property owners who have title documents including Survey plan, Certificate of Occupancy and Building approval to bring them forward to confirm legal ownership.
Aminu assured that the one administration policy of the Akeredolu government had made it impossible for perpetrators of illegality to penetrate the government and use the divide and rule tactics to have their way.
One of the landlord of the affected buildings, Mr. Seyi Akinlabi, lamented that the state government did not give them enough time before embarking on the demolition of the buildings.
Akinlabi who lamented over the state government insensitivity said “they served us notice some three days ago and today they are here to demolish our buildings. I do not know where I will start from. This is what I have spent my entire life savings on; this is quite unfair and unfortunate.”
He however, said that the matter was in the court already and said “the government is being too over insensitive and overzealous on this matter, some of the landlords had already taken them to court over the matter. They should have waited for the outcome of the court. We will approach court again. This is unfair to us.”