Weeping, sorrow, disappointment and regrets filled the atmosphere in Festac Town, Lagos, on Sunday, as a Lagos State task force demolished the popular Agboju Market, shanties and other illegal buildings on the town’s Buffer Zone.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that traders, mechanics and other artisans operating on the zone counted their losses as bulldozers turned their goods, shops and workshops into rubbles.
NAN gathered that the task force was working for the Federal Housing Authority (FHA).
Both the leader of the task force and a representative of FHA refused to comment on the development.
They told NAN that they did not have the authority to speak on the matter.
More than 100 shops, shanties and other buildings were pulled down by the task force.
While some traders and artisans hurriedly moved out some of their wares and tools, many of them could not.
Some churches operating at the place were seen moving their property, removing the roofs and gates away in case of demolition.
As at the time of this report, however, no church building was pulled down.
NAN gathered that FHA gave the affected occupants a notice of the demotion a week ago.
Many traders and artisans were seen moody and crying. They told NAN that they were fed up with challenges.
Isaac Kadiri, Vice President, Nigerian Automobile Technicians Association (NATA), Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area, described the demotion as a disaster.
He told NAN: ” We believe that if government wants to chase us away, it should give us an alternative but it just gave us seven days’ notice to leave.
“We had an alternative place at 6th Avenue that was given to us by Festac Town Residents Association (FTRA) and Federal Housing Authority (FHA) but the place is not ready.
“We put the access roads here, but look at what we are losing. We have lost more than 100 million here. What we have lost here we can’t gain back.
“We have mechanics, battery chargers, vulcanisers, panel beaters and painters as our members.
“We were served the seven days’ ultimatum through Lagos State Task Force, which claimed FHA invited it to carry out the demolition.”
Mr Kadri called on government to urgently provide an alternative place for the artisans and others affected by the demolition.
“We want government to give us a place where we can earn our living. If it says the site is ready tomorrow, we will move.
“We were paying rent to Amuwo Odofin Local Government. We are paying tax to Lagos State Government. We pay rent of N10,000 each, per annum. We are more than 5,000 artisans.”
Hamad Tijani, a panel beater and painter said: “When we got here, it was just bushes and swamp, nothing was here but we sand-filled the place and many people are benefitting from here.
“Government should help us as citizens of this country, there is no place for us to go,” he told NAN.
Fatai Onidolu, a mechanic, alleged that the place allocated to the artisans by FHA at 6th Avenue had been sold.
“So where do they want us to go now? They gave us seven days’ notice which is too short to find an alternative. Why are they treating us this way?”
A cleric in Festac Town who did not want to be mentioned appealed to FHA to show mercy to the affect occupants.
He said many Nigerians were undergoing hardship occasioned by COVID-19 pandemic, insecurity and economic difficulty and didn’t need additional trouble.
He said that although government had a right to its property, the timing of the demolition was wrong and the notice short. (NAN)