By Abiose Adelaja Adams
Home owners along the Badagry Expressway, whose landed properties were demolished for the expansion of the road, are wondering if their hope of getting government’s promised compensation is not misplaced as, two years on, they remain unpaid.
While some have died and many given up hope, 45 of them are still resolute about getting compensation for sacrificing for public good the land and properties that took a lifetime to acquire.
In an open letter to the Lagos State governor, Babatunde Fashola, the counsel the landlords, Festus Keyamo Chambers, says it looks like all their appeals, petitions and follow up meetings to the ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development, has fallen on deaf ears and been for naught as no step towards compensation has been initiated.
The letter dated June 24, 2014, reads:
“Unfortunately, after more than two (2) years our clients are yet to receive any penny in fulfillment of your earlier promise to the people at the opening and ground breaking ceremony. Despite several letters, pleas, meetings and assurances from your office and the relevant authorities i.e the Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development, Ministry of Justice and the House Committee on Physical Planning and Urban Development of the Lagos State House of Assembly, nothing has been forthcoming.”
Mark Anata, the lawyer from the Keyamo Chambers who is handing the case, told the icirnigeria.org that the residents smell a rat and suspect that corruption is at the root of the non-payment of compensation to them.
“We suspect an act of corruption in this matter,” he said, adding, “But you know, since we are not calling anybody’s name, we are just saying the government; government is nobody in particular and anybody can embezzle the money.”
The petitioners said that their investigation “revealed that the affected communities were divided into 3 Lots for the purpose of payment of the said compensation and that Lot 1 and 2 have all been paid their due compensation leaving out our clients who fell within the 3rd Lot covering Maza-Maza to Okokomaiko axis.”
The lawyer observed that the landlords found out after a meeting with government in February 2013 that two officials of the ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development were saddled with the responsibility in overseeing the payment of the compensation.
“Surprisingly, every attempt at assessing the said Compensation from the relevant authorities has been met with several brick walls,” the lawyer stated in the petition.
The law firm is also worried about the ministry’s attitude to four letters written directly to it this year.
“They have not been replying. It is only the Attorney General of the State (Ministry of Justice) that responds because we always copy them in the mails”. The four letters were dated January 13, February 24, April 30 and May 2nd, while responses to the letters from the Attorney General has been thrice, either stating its acknowledgement of receipt, or an apology for delay.
According to the law, the compensation should be paid within a reasonable time frame, precisely within a month or two as it ought to have been taken into consideration at the time of demolition.
The secretary to the Lagos State House of Assembly committee on Physical Planning and Development, Alaja Brown, said in a phone conversation that government is still working on the compensation.
“The compensation is in phases and the government has already compensated some, so we cannot dictate when it will happen. But we are still working on it,” she said.
Anata thinks the process is rather too slow and is concerned that those whom the landlords suspect might have embezzled the money are just waiting for the remaining seven months of Fashola’s administration to end so that the matter can be forgotten.
He noted that the landlords have done everything required by the government, including submitting title documents, since the notice was first served in 2008 up until the demolition began in August 2012.
“We are running out of patience. We have had series of meetings with no feedback. We sought audience with the commissioner of the said ministry, but he was not available. So we are doing this open letter hoping the governor will see it and take action. If we don’t get any response, we will hold a press conference, if nothing still happens, we will take legal action as our last resort,” he said..
It would be recalled that in order to reduce the traffic burden experienced by Lagosians, the Fashola-led administration embarked on expansion of the Bagadry Expressway to a 10-way lane and with a light rails component.
The World Bank assisted project is to cost about N220 billion (about US$ 1.5 billion) and the government is confident that it would recoup its investment on the road through tolls