New Wave Of Property Demolition And Emmerging Concerns

Lagos – With the increasing rate of property demolition across the country, professionals in the built environment have again expressed concern over the development, some of which they have described as illegal.

According to them, any demolition exercise carried out without recourse to the laws governing developments in the country or state, is illegal.

The Nigerian Urban and Regional Law of 1992 as well as the various states urban and regional planning and development laws, stipulate the processes to be followed before a demolition can take place.

According to experts, before any building is subjected to demolition, it must either have been tagged irredeemably sick to the extent it can no longer perform the function for which it was designed; it constitutes a safety hazard both for the occupants, immediate environment and the general public; it contravenes urban and regional planning requirements; and also in situations where there is a change of use from its original design, etc.

Even where the aforementioned is the case, Kenneth Nduka, president of the Nigeria Institute of Building (NIoB) stated that, the occupants of the building would be given sufficient notice to pack out and the owners of the adjoining properties will be sensitized of the impending demolition exercise through appropriate hazards assessment and risks indemnification insurance cover.

Bisi Adedire, former chairman of the Association of Town Planning Consultants of Nigeria (ATOPCON) corroborated Nduka’s position by stating that demolition is not just carried out randomly, as the regulatory agency would have served several enforcement notices such as contravention notice, stop work order, quit notice, seal-up notice, regularization notice and lastly, demolition notice, depending on the stage of construction work.

This demolition, Adedire remarked, is to be carried out by the owner within 21 days. If this, is not done, the regulatory agency would do it themselves and recover cost of demolition from the owner or developer.

According to Adedire, if the building is under construction, and it is discovered that it did not meet up with planning standards, the contravention notice would be served. The developer would be expected to make necessary adjustments to the structure within 90 days of issuance of the notice. If after 90 days, corrections are not made to the on-going construction and work on the building continues, the relevant agency would issue a stop work order to the developer. This is a direct demand for work to be stopped on the building. If after this, the developer refuses to stop working, then a demolition notice would be served.

It is regrettable, however, that many a time, personal interest, political vendetta, abuse of public office, malice, official high-handedness, executive impunity and many more, override adherence to the law.  In such kinds of situations, Nduka remarked that resorting to a court of law becomes the saving grace. Every Nigerian has a right to be heard in a court of law over any issue they feel aggrieved over, he added.

This was substantiated by late Justice Niki Tobi, in the case of Attorney-General of Lagos v. Attorney-General of the Federation (2004) 18 NWLR (PT 904) 1 at 53, when he stated thus:

“The courts are available to accommodate all sorts of grievances that are justiciable in law and section 6 of the Constitution gives the courts power to adjudicate on matters between two or more competing parties. In our democracy, all the governments of this country as well as organizations and individuals must kowtow to the due process of the law and this, they can vindicate by resorting to the courts for redress in the event of any grievance.”

It is only after the complaints of the aggrieved persons have been dismissed by the court of law that any demolition can be carried out in any part of the country.

However, investigation also reveals that most of these demolitions were carried out while cases challenging their validity are still pending in courts.

In August 2017, despite a court order, restraining the Executive Governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, from carrying out an eviction and demolition exercise, he went ahead and ordered a combined force of the Nigerian Army from the 34 Artillery Brigade, Obinze, Owerri; operatives of the Nigerian Air Force; State Security Services; the Nigeria Police; National Security and Civil Defence Corps, Imo Security Network and a platoon of armed thugs to be used as security cover, to both evict traders and demolish Ekeukwu Market in Owerri, which was developed by private estate developers contracted by the old Owerri Local Government Area and Owerri Municipal Council to build and operate the market for 99 years to enable them to recoup their investments.

In 2013, the same governor, hiding under the Land Use Act, decided to relocate mechanics from the Orji and Nekede mechanic villages they occupied.

The mechanics protested, informing the governor that the two mechanic villages were captured and designated in the Owerri Development master plan by Owerri Capital Development Authority (OCDA). They also informed the government that they obtained valid approval from the Owerri Capital Development Authority (OCDA) to build their sheds and residences, where many of them resided with their families, telling the governor that they have valid Certificates of Occupancy, which had not been revoked. These all fell on deaf ears, as the governor went ahead with the demolition.

Also, in November 2016, 30,000 residents, according to reports, of the Otodo Gbame residents of Lagos were kicked out of their homes in a process that left 15 people dead. However, On January 26, 2017, there was an order by a Lagos High Court to stop the demolition for a mediation process between the state government and the community.

The Lagos State government defied the court order by withdrawing from the mediation process and continued with the demolition, using brutal force. And a concerned citizen asked was forced to ask, of what relevance is development that cares less about the plight of its citizens?

Still on the demolition exercises, in 2011, Yahaya Yusuf, a director of the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) with some men of the FCDA, without due process, reports said, moved into Sunshine Estate, Apo-Abuja, and demolished 172 houses worth over N3.4billion with bulldozers.

According to Ugo Peace Udoh, Property Development Manager of Sunshine Estate, Yusuf and his men at the FCDA have been following every phase of development of the estate since it started two years after the land and approval for the building of the estate was given in 2006 by Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC).

Ikechukwu Ezechukwu Esq, solicitor to Sunshine Estate narrated that Yusuf bore grudge against his clients after his demand for 10 houses in the estate, as the management turned down a condition for the continuation of the development.

And most recently, during the wee hours of February 19, the Governor of Kaduna State was said to have personally driven a bulldozer, accompanied by armoured tanks to pull down the building of Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi, located at 11b Sambo Road, which he donated as the secretariat of the Restoration faction of the All Progressive Congress.

It would be recalled that the APC faction issued a query and warning letter to the governor, followed by a six months suspension when the governor refused to respond to the query.

Even though the Kaduna State Urban Planning and Development Agency (KAPSUDA) justified their action by citing flagrant land use violation and non-payment of ground rent since 2010, Bunmi Ajayi, former president of Nigeria Institute of Town Planners described their action as the height of illegality.

Ajayi requested that KAPSUDA should bring out its Gazette and explain the punishment for non-payment of annual ground rent. It cannot be to go and demolish anybody’s property, he retorted. What would happen, he said, is that they raise you a bill and ask you to pay; and when you don’t pay, at most, government takes over the building.

“So, why go and demolish somebody’s house in the middle of the night. It is number one illegality in this country. You cannot do such a thing over night and even the reason you are giving is not valid because the punishment for not paying Land Use Charge or tenement rate is not demolition of the house.

“Secondly, how do you give people notice between 24 hours and go ahead to demolish?  That is the height of illegality. The man who owns the house should sue and get compensation.”

Adedire added that we are in a country where power, position, politics and influence replace process.

The post New Wave Of Property Demolition And Emmerging Concerns appeared first on Independent Newspapers Nigeria.

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Author: Nkasiobi Oluikpe