The Nigerian Automobile Technicians Association (NATA) has protested what it described as the “systematic stealing” of designated mechanic villages in Lagos by government officials.
In a petition written to the Lagos State governor, signed by the state’s chairman of the association, Asiwaju Jacob Omonide Fayeun, NATA complained that the mechanic villages allotted four decades ago by the administration of then Governor Lateef Jakande have been progressively reclaimed by government officials “under various pretexts.”
“About four decades ago, Lagos State government under the unforgettable Alhaji Lateef Jakande administration allotted mechanic clusters known as Mechanic Villages to Lagos mechanics to curb the menace of the problematic ‘roadside mechanics’ littering Lagos neighbourhood before that time.
“Unfortunately, since 1999, these public spaces, many of them in difficult marshy areas and canal setbacks redeveloped by the mechanics at great expense, are being systematically stolen by government officials under various pretexts,” the petition reads in part.
It alleged that in the past two decades, some government officials in the Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Transport, Lagos Lands Bureau and Ministry of Physical Planning have continually colluded with private ‘developers’ and land grabbers to dispossess the association of the mechanic villages, or in some instances, converted the spaces to private use of the officials.
Some of the mechanic villages it listed as having been taken over or sold out to developers in recent years include: Babs Animashaun Mechanic Village, Surulere – which it said was demolished on 20th October, 2017 by the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Physical Planning, after evicting over 3,000 mechanics.
On that spot, according to the association, today stand a hotel, petro station and residential units.
Another one is the Odo Aladura Mechanic Village, which it said was demolished on 7th July, 2020 by the Ministry of Transportation.
“Over a thousand mechanics were affected by this eviction with hundreds of vehicles and properties worth hundreds of millions of naira destroyed, while scores of vehicles were towed away to the Task Force Office.
“Some of these vehicles are still there up till today. We later learned that this mechanic village was sold to Igbo traders,” Fayeun said.
Others the association listed include GID Mechanic Village, Surulere; Ifelagba Mechanic Village in Coker, Surulere (demolished by the Ministry of Environment and Lands Bureau on 29th April, 2021 “because we could not pay N57,500,000.
“However, this land was sold for N300,000,000. Was this money paid into the government purse?”)
NATA alleged that six mechanic workshops were taken by a serving special adviser in the Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s administration and converted to personal use where he makes thousands of naira daily to himself.
It alleged that the same special adviser has also illegally taken over several mechanic workshops at 39/41 Ojekunle Street, Papa Ajao, Mushin, Lagos which he now uses for private business.
The association further alleged that the only mechanic village at Owutu, Ikorodu, is about to be taken by a local government chairperson, who wants to build lock-up shops and market on the space.
“Deacon Oye Akinola Mechanic Village in Alaba Oro is about to be acquired by Igbo traders, mainly spare parts dealers. They are boasting that with N10,000,000 to N15,000,000 being given to officials at Alausa, they will surely drive us away from the mechanic village like the case of Odo Aladura in Ladipo,” NATA alleged.
It, therefore, appealed to the governor to help facilitate the return of the mechanic villages “taken over by the force of arms, orchestrated by various agents of the Lagos State government.”
It also requested the provision/allocation of more mechanic work clusters across the state to take care of the needs of Lagosians for the services of skilled technicians and as means of employment for thousands of newly trained mechanics and auto technicians, many of whom are graduates of technical colleges and polytechnics.