Owners of a recently demolished multi-million Naira shopping complex on Monday staged a peaceful protest in Lagos State while calling on the Governor of the State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, to wade into the matter.
The traders came out in their numbers to speak out against the demolition of the complex built from their sweat.
The building was demolished in August.
The traders want the urgent intervention of the Governor to prevent a total breakdown of law and order in the Balogun area of Lagos Island, where the structure once stood.
The group, led by Chidozie Chikelu, the developer of the complex, told journalists who thronged the venue on Monday morning that they could not understand why their building was destroyed on the ground that it was a government-acquired land but looked the other way when another developer by the name of Saheed Keshinro, aka Saheed Marley, is currently building on the land.
They are not happy that despite repeated calls made to the Lagos State Government on the issue, the matter has not been resolved, with the encroacher on the land being allowed to get away with the illegality they alleged he perpetuated by bringing down the building.
Spokesman for the group, Emeka Ojiego, told of how they all woke up one Sunday morning in August to the news that officials from the Lagos State Building Control Agency, Lagos State Urban Renewal Agency, Lagos State Physical Planning Permit Authority and a combined team of armed policemen had invaded the site of the building located at 7, 9 and 11 Akinsemoyin Street, by Breadfruit Street, Balogun, Lagos with the clear mandate to bring it down.
The building was brought down with the wares of all the shop owners trapped in it and without any advance notice.
This, to Ejiego, was the worst crime a government could perpetrate against its people.
He said: “We are not only surprised that our building was so wickedly brought down in a manner eliciting much suspicion, but we are also shocked that the authorities who declared it off limits for our use would allow another person to build there.
“It is the worst kind of double-speak we know and we are determined to get to the bottom of the matter.
“The most baffling aspect of this whole sordid drama is the fact that despite a court injunction restraining the new land occupant from continuing any further activity on the land, he has continued to build in defiance of the court ruling which was obtained by the Akinsemoyin family-original owners of the land-on October 12, 2023.
“The said Saheed Keshinro is not only defying the court ruling but he has also been heard saying he had the verbal backing of Governor Sanwo-Olu before pulling down the building.
“In the light of this, we are calling on the governor to speak up and clear the air on the matter once and for all. We also want salient questions asked the agencies of government like LABSCA, LASURA, LA SPA and so on, that appear to have been implicated in this ugly mess.
“We are not certain that the governor, known for his respect for the rule of law and an astute defender of the rights of the less privileged would order the demolition of a building of such economic importance to the people.”
Two members of the Akinsemoyin family, Oyeku Akinsemoyin and Gbenga Akinsemoyin, also added their voices to the discourse as they condemned the reckless invasion of their family land by Keshinro and his backers.
They said: “The land on which Saheed Keshinro is building after succeeding in demolishing the complex built by Chidozie Chikelu, the developer and CEO of Good Wave Resources Limited, belongs to our family.
“We have owned the rights to the land since it was acquired in 1944.
“It is a freehold and there has never been any contention over it up till now.
“We the Akinsemoyin family duly signed a 15-year agreement leasing this land to Good Wave Resources Limited, and not to Saheed Keshinro.
“We are surprised that despite a subsisting court injunction forbidding further activity or development on the land after that unfortunate demolition that took place on August 20, 2023, the said Saheed Keshinro a.k.a Saheed Marley has continued to work on the land, something we all view as unbridled impunity.”
The next hearing of the case at the Lagos High Court is fixed for November 23, 2023.