In their numbers, residents of Ogunrun Ori in Mowe, Obafemi Owode Local Government Area of Ogun State, took to the streets on February 27, 2022, to protest the planned demolition of their houses to give way to the construction of a bridge on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.
The inscriptions on their placards reflected their frustration. They pointed out that about 800 houses would be demolished, a decision they said had not only left unsettled but was a threat to the community which had been in existence for about 200 years.
Apart from protesting against the planned demolition, the residents, led by the Baale-in-Council, Chief Babatunde Olatunji, also called on the Federal Government to handle the compensation of persons who might be displaced as they did not want the state government to play a role in that.
“We don’t want the state government,” they chorused as they walked in groups.
Olatunji, who is also the Baale of Ogunrun-Ori, said he had met with the Federal Controller of Works, Mr Popoola Olukayode, who confirmed to him that the compensation of those to be affected had been transferred to the state government.
It was also gathered that the Baale was notified last Thursday of the demolition to be done in seven days. This, it was learnt, prompted the protest. The Chairman of the Pakuro Area Community Development Committee, Olusegun Omoloso, said the protest was aimed at appealing to the Federal Government to handle the compensation.
Omoloso said, “We agree to the development as long as they say it (the bridge) is for overriding public interest but we are only appealing to the Federal Government not to refer us to the state government for compensation. One afternoon, some people came in and started marking houses without informing us beforehand. Those that came to mark our houses were from the Ogun State Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development. They have marked two houses now and they left contravention notice there. The contravention notice stated that we had gone against the law.
“We had a meeting with them on Tuesday, February 22. They came to tell the Baale to tell everyone that the town planning unit would start marking all the houses. We had a lawyer among us during the meeting and he told them the implications of what they were about to do and they knew we were telling the truth. That meeting delayed them from marking other houses.”
A 77-year-old resident of Isokan community in Ogunrun Ori village, Mrs Janet Alabi, urged the state government to act with mercy and not demolish their houses.
“We can’t fight the government. Those that came to mark our houses in 2019 were from the Federal Government but those who came this time round were from the state government. Years ago, cement was cheaper and more affordable but now it’s about N4,200 per bag. The price of sand has also moved from between N18,000 and N20,000 to about N27,000. When you add the cost of iron rod and the cost of land, you would understand that it’s more expensive to build a house now.
“That is why we are concerned about compensation. Some landlords have died since this issue started in 2019, while some were paralysed. I know a woman who lost her sight while coming from one of our meetings; she can’t see,” Alabi said,
She further alleged that the vacation notice was already pasted on some houses while the occupants were chased out.
“That is why we are pleading with the government to treat us fairly because we have nowhere to go. We have done what we can, my CDA and one other CDA wrote a letter to the government when the Federal Government came to mark the house but they have not fulfilled their promise to compensate us.
Another resident of the community, Jubril Nurudeen, said Ogunrun Ori had been in existence since 1847, preceding the creation of Ogun State and the amalgamation of Nigeria in 1914.
Nurudeen added, “When they wanted to construct the Lagos–Ibadan Expressway, our forefathers cooperated with them, why do they want to pull down our houses now? The community is highly populated now. Should we exhume the corpses of our great grandparents that were buried here? Where should we take our shrines to?”
“The Federal Government came to talk to us and we told them many times that the bridge they were constructing was too big. We suggested that it would be easier to construct a flyover. With that, fewer people would be affected, the compensation to be paid would reduce and it would still serve the purpose. Good examples are the Maryland bridge and Anthony bridge in Lagos; there are houses on both sides of the bridge.”
He lamented that if people could be struggling to feed with the current economic crisis, the situation could be worse if people lose their houses.
He stated, “We want the Federal Government and not the state to answer us on this matter. We want them to build a flyover for us and if it is not possible, they should move the town to another location. We are appealing to the Federal Government, especially the Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Raji Fashola, to consider the economic situation. We are talking about over 800 houses. How do they want to relocate them?
“We are not against development but we are against them erasing our town. The minister should look into this; we don’t want to negotiate with the state. We are also using this medium to talk to President Muhammadu Buhari to look at our plight. People have died on this issue, so they should please listen to us.”
A native of the town, Olushola Oyekunle, lamented that the promises made to the people had not been fulfilled.
“For the past two years, they promised to make the residents happy but it was all deceit. Now, they changed everything by saying the state would pay us compensation. Has the state even met all its obligations? After deceiving them, we heard about the seven days’ notice but they had to plead with them. Many of the residents here don’t have anywhere to go. Will they go and live under the bridge? They should have sympathy for us and they should remember that there is God.”
The Baale added the representatives of the community had been to the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing and Julius Berger Construction Company and were told that the Federal Government would compensate the landlords.
“But now, we hear it’s the state government. Some of the residents had a stroke when they heard their houses would be demolished. Some died. We don’t want them to demolish our houses. They should adjust their plan,” he added.
Reacting to the residents’ apprehension, the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State, Kunle Somorin, told City Round that the state was handling the issue with the Federal Government.
“I’m sure you know those whose properties were affected by rail lines in Laderin were compensated,” Somorin added.