The Lagos state government says recent demolition of distressed buildings in Alaba International Market in Ojo Local Council was neither a witch-hunt nor intended to acquire the land but done to protect lives.
Gbolahan Oki, general manager, Lagos State Building Control Agency, (LABSCA) said this on Saturday during an on-the-spot assessment of the demolition site.
Mr Oki visited the market amid heavy downpour alongside his counterpart in Lagos State Physical Planning Permit Authourity (LASPPPA), Kehinde Osinaike, and the seven-man committee set up by Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu in the aftermath of the demolition exercise.
They were led on the trip by Oluwole Sotire, permanent secretary of their parent parastatal, the Lagos State Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development.
South-East traders in the market, led by Imo Governor, Hope Uzodimma, met with Mr Sanwo-Olu of Lagos to put to rest allegations of tribal bias behind the demolition exercise.
During the on-the-spot assessment, Mr Oki explained that the demolition was simply to enforce building regulations and laws, to prevent building collapse.
According to him, most of the demolished buildings were without permits, and necessary documentations needed by the state government were also ignored.
“All we are after is that the lives of traders and other Nigerians are extremely important to the Lagos State Government.
“I have seen people painting buildings that are delapidated, that are not good, it is not painting that makes a building new. Our lives are more important,” he said.
Mr Oki urged owners of distressed buildings marked for demolition to remove them within two weeks, to prevent disaster, or else government would move in to take action.
“My mandate is to remove anything that is dilapidated, that is harmful to the people that even owns it,” he said.
He said Mr Sanwo-Olu set up the seven-man committee to look into the demolition without causing disaffection among the traders at Alaba International Market.
He said LASBCA officials were usually prevented from enforcing laws by people who failed to get building plan approvals or those who did illegal conversion of their properties.
The LASBCA boss waded through flash floods to issue stop work order on a contractor on site from the Ojo Local Government, for amicable resolution of all issues.
He assured protesters carrying placards that government had their interests covered with the appointment of additional 17-man sub-committee compromising their market leadership, for quicker resolution of issues.
Mr Oki explained why distressed buildings were being demolished and the need for some of the traders to do regularisation.
He said this was because of issues of land grabbers selling one land to several people as well as the need to correct haphazard development.
Earlier, the general manager and his team had a meeting with leadership of the Alaba International Market traders at LASBCA head office at Ikeja GRA, before they all embarked on the trip to the market.
During the meeting, the market leaders who are members of the seven-man technical committee set up by to look into the issues of demolition in Alaba International Market discussed the way forward.
The LASBCA boss explained processes and procedures guiding laws on physical developments and what must be done to comply with regulation.
He said that there was no ethnic colouration to the decisions of government, whose only motive was to prevent building collapse, to ensure safety of lives of the traders and other Nigerians.