A property developer; ASUCON and Company Nigeria Limited has accused the Lagos State Urban Renewal Agency (LASURA) of forceful eviction and allege breach of leasehold agreement on a property located at Tinubu square in Lagos Island. The property, a two-storey building comprising, offices and stores was developed by Asucon and Company Nigeria Limited through a joint agreement with LASURA on January 1995. According to the agreement, LASURA was to provide the land for the project while the developer build and enjoy 20 years leasehold on the property.
A senior official of the company, Mr. Asubiaro Abideen said initially the agreement, which was to run for 20 years, was however extended by additional four years based on consent between the two parties due to the fact that there was a court case on the site.
“The agreement was for the development and construction of shopping and office complex within the Central Lagos precisely, Block No. P at 12 Nnamdi Azikiwe Street. We were in court for four years on the matter. We eventually won. Before the expiration of 20 years agreement, we told government that we have to add the four years to the earlier 20 years, which they agreed”, Abideen said
Besides, upon completion of the project, the developer explained that another agreement was entered into with LASURA to enjoy additional five years leasehold on the property for providing some basic facilities.
The claimant avers that the costs for the provision of infrastructure like water and electricity arose because the authorities responsible, Lagos State Water Corporation and the then National Electric Power Authority (NEPA), insisted that due to the magnitude of the commercial buildings, they wouldn’t connect utilities to the building from the nearby source but that separate transformer will have to be procured for the building. He said the company had to connect water to the property from Tom Jones Street, which is quite a long distance from the said property.
According to him, there was an order of court compelling the defendants to grant the agreed five years extension to the claimants in respect of the two-third proportion of the entire property and to execute a supplemental deed to the agreement dated January 10, 1995, evincing the said five years extension forthwith.
He said, “So we have the four years of litigation plus the five years for providing electricity and water. The 20 years initial agreement expired on January 2015 while the four years for litigation expired January 2019. We suppose to enjoy the benefit of the development agreement till January 2024. But LASURA is saying that the five years is not applicable that they wouldn’t agree to it.
“Whereas they did through a meeting held on February 1996 through the then commissioner for environment and physical planning which made it unequivocally clear than an extension of the leasehold for a further five years tenure was available to meet the developers’ cost of providing electricity and water to the properties.”
The decision of LASURA to renege on the commitment to grant five years extension to cover the costs incurred by the developer, he said was unfair and illegal in the circumstance, as it has made entire development agreement an unprofitable venture and a mis-adventure for them. He further allege that on October 16, 2019 a notice was pasted on the wall of the building stating that the tenants should vacant the property on October 18.
“We have filed a case, which was served LASURA on October 23, but they rejected it from the lawyer. On the 30th we went to the property in company of the lawyer to just calm the tenant that the case was in court. Getting there, we saw staff of LASURA barricading the building with iron sheets as if they plan to reconstruct the building. The second day, they went there with task force, to stare people away. The taskforce vandalized the shops, removed the burglaries, windows and peoples’ properties”, he stated.
Reacting to the matter, LASURA General Manager, Mr. Lateef Sholebo said the firm should send the documents they have proving that they still have an extended period on the property to the agency.
Sholebo said, “Everybody knows that their tenure has expired. They should present the documents they have and show us where they have the five years left. If they have proof of that, let them send it to us.
If we don’t respond, then they could take us to court from there. If they think that they have a case, let them go to court and the court will sort it out. But as far as we’re concerned, they have expended the years given to them.”