I spent some time this afternoon at the site of Ọláìyá House/Ilojo Bar, a national monument, the contentious demolition of which I reported on yesterday and which has raised lots of angry voices including this petition by the Legacy Nigeria Group.
I arrived there at around 1.55pm, just minutes after the officials of the Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA) got there to begin opening up the corrugated roofing sheets which had been constructed to protect the site of demolition from public eyes.
I sneaked into the enclosure and took a few shots of the workers. I also made a small panoramic video clip against the background of the pounding noise.
There was no visible law enforcement. Just men in the uniform of the LASBCA and their supervisors.
Later I was accosted by two senior officials from the state ministry who wanted to know what I was doing in the enclosure. Told them I was a journalist and interested and curious citizen. But not being able to produce a “journalist” identity card, I was asked to leave.
I was later referred to the PRO of the ministry, who gave me his phone number and promised to answer any questions I have at a later date, but not at the venue.
There were a few cameras on sight as well as a small television crew from TVC news who had wanted to interview the LASBCA director, Mr. Ọládọ̀tun Lásojú. They got their way after about an hour, when the demolition of the fence was done.
When I left the enclosure, I returned outside to eavesdrop on the surrounding conversations by observers and passers-by, and also talk to residents.
Here is what I gathered so far, from the scene, and from talking to eye-witnesses of the original demolition:
- Ilojo Bar was pulled down on Sunday, September 11, 2016, a day before the Eid Holidays which began on Monday the 12th. (Heartbreaking photos here)
- The demolition took about five hours to complete.
- At the time of demolition, there was nobody in the building. They had been served some notice ahead of time (perhaps a few days, perhaps a few hours) and they had evacuated, along with their properties.
- During and the demolition, area boys auctioned off parts of the building to the highest bidder. A part of the building (photo attached) was sold for 700 naira to a local resident who wanted it as souvenir and who has shared the photo with me.
- For the period of the demolition, nobody stopped the demolition crew. They operated freely.
- The “developer” who supervised the demolishing of the building had documented approval (either from a ministry in the state or a Federal one) to complete the task. Still unclear which. His name as he gave it to newsmen was “Onitolo”. (Source)
- After the building was completely pulled down on Sunday, and valuable parts of it auctioned out, the land was fenced around with corrugated roofing sheets, held together by thin wooden planks.
- There has been a conflict over the building for a while now, with competing descendants of the family taking their cases to Abuja over many years. The building could not have been pulled down without some form of support by government officials.
- [I’ll update as more facts become clear]
But before the pulling down of the roofing fence was complete, a group of men from the area came in to challenge the LASBCA workers and to ask them for their permit from the State Government to come work on a private property. They either didn’t have any, or weren’t willing to produce it. This got the invaders pretty incensed.
There was a lot of shuffle and near breakdown of order, but no punches were thrown. One of the men claims to have obtained the original permit to pull down Ilojo Bar. I tried but I couldn’t get him to show me the document he had so I could photograph it.
After a few hours of work and plenty arguments with the invading men, the LASBCA was finally done pulling down the artificial fencing. They then erected a green sign post they had brought along on which Lagos state asserts its claim to the space, warning trespassers off.
Then there was a short press conference for the television crew.
I managed to shout in one indignant question about why the state couldn’t stop the demolition while it was in progress. The response was in itself a question: “What if they demolished it during the holidays when officials weren’t around?” I couldn’t get a follow-up in because the PRO held me back informing me that I hadn’t shown her that I was a journalist, and I was being a nuisance to the television recording.
I have obtained exclusive video of the original demolition from Sunday, September 11. Watch it here.
I left the venue at around 3.05pm.