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Building collapse: Residents show mixed reactions over demolition of 180 buildings

The tragedy that befell residents of Itafaji area of Lagos Island, where a building collapsed, leading to the death of school children and some adults, with several others injured and hospitalized, has gotten worse.

In the wake of the tragedy, the government has directed the Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA), to commence the process of identifying defective buildings in the area and immediately proceed to demolish them, to forestall such tragedy from occurring again.

Already, about 180 houses in Lagos Island have been marked for demolition. The officials of the government said that they had since 2013, served several notices to both property owners and occupants forewarning them about the defective state of their houses. They stated that the warnings were apparently not heeded by most residents.

Harvest of demolition:

With the commencement of the process, many of the affected residents have been agonizing over and traumatized by the marking of their homes. Many of them complained bitterly at the short demolition notice given to them, saying that they have no place to relocate or temporarily keep their belongings. They appealed to the state government to ameliorate their plight by providing a temporary shelter where they could keep their household effects and house their little children.

When newsmen visited the neighborhood, many of the residents whose houses had already been demolished, were seen desperately trying to salvage their belongings. At Freeman Street, some of them were busy pulling some of their valuable items from the rubble of the demolished buildings. Many looked forlorn as they loitered around the neighbourhood.

The streets where houses have been marked for demolition include Apaterin, Evans, Tonguwa, Olushi, Smith, Alli, Palm Church, Onilapo and Isale-gangan.

Some of the affected residents could not hold back tears as they tried to count their losses. “The notice for the demolition exercise was too short,” lamented Mrs Olabisi Ashiat, and added: “I just had a baby. Where would I find a place to move my belongings to? How do I cope with searching for another house and fending for my children? Please help us tell the government to come to our aid, because we don’t know where to go. And I’m so confused.”

Another resident, Ahmed Idris said: “Government should do more to ameliorate our plight.” He contended that many residents would be rendered homeless if government does not provide some succour. “I feel concerned because a similar thing happened at Olushi area of Lagos Island last year. That time lives were lost and houses were also demolished. And I tell you many of those affected by the demolition are still homeless. Till date they still sleep at street corners with their families. It is painful watching it repeat here. Many people would lose everything because of the short demolition notice given by the government agency. We are appealing to the government to provide a place for them to temporarily keep their belongings till when they can get another house.”

Mr Keinde Animashaun, who lost his fiancé in the tragic incident said: “My fiancé died in the collapsed house. We had been engaged for five years and were making plans to wed on September 13, this year. I feel sad each time I try to imagine the excruciating pains she must have passed through at the point of her death. I’m heartbroken.

“Also, it hurts me seeing the pain we are going through in this neighborhood. How can our government start demolishing people’s houses after giving only two to three days’ notice? And without providing an alternative place for affected residents? That’s very bad. And we will mobilize ourselves to protest such display of insensitivity to our plight by the government.”

Similarly, Abdul Adio, another resident with four children, expressed his dilemma: “I just learnt that our compound in Tonguwa St has been marked for demolition by next week. I renewed my rent there just last January. So I’m confused because I don’t know what do. The notice is too short for me to go borrow money and find another house and move my family.”

Some residents commend govt

Meanwhile, amid all the outrage towards demolition by the state agency, some members of Itafaji and its environs applauded the government for swinging in action to take down dilapidated structures within Lagos Island. Some of them blamed the greed of house owners and property developers for the recurring incidence of building collapse in the state. “Lagos government should please intensify the effort and bring down houses that don’t meet required standards,” said Mrs Bola Balogun of Cardoso House. “Such houses are too many here in our community and people, including families, live in them. All such houses are disasters waiting to happen and government should forestall it. It is their responsibility to save lives. We don’t want people dying carelessly like we do in this country.”

Concurring with Mrs Balogun, another resident, Baba Wasiu, also praised the government for the demolition exercise. “Most cases of collapsed houses are not the fault of the government, rather it is we citizens that should be blamed. Many property developers and landlords use inferior materials to build their houses. Many of them don’t renovate their houses even after 20 years. So we appeal to the government go ahead with the demolition exercise, to bring down houses that pose risk to residents. Those that say they don’t know where to go should relocate to their villages till they get a better place.”

No going back on demolition

By every indication, the demolition of more houses would continue next week as Mr. Lekan Shodeinde, the General Manager of LASBCA disclosed to newsmen, insisting that any house found not to be structurally sound would be brought down. “We are doing this so that no more lives will be lost in Lagos. We are going to evict the occupants to avoid disaster because lives of Lagosians are important to us,” Shodeinde said.

Credit: The Sun

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