…..Insists no ethnic agenda in exercise
By Harry Awurumibe, Editor Abuja Bureau
The management of Federal Housing Authority (FHA) has stated unequivocally that the on-going removal of illegal structures in its iconic Festival Town popularly known as FESTAC Phase II in the Lagos metropolis is targeted at a particular ethnic group, insisting that narratives have been tailored towards falsehood with the intention to create mischief of ethnic dimension.
FHA’s official reaction to the recent uproar over the removal of illegal structures in FESTAC Phase II in the Amuwo-Odofin area of Lagos state was contained in a statement by the management made available to Prompt News on Monday in Abuja titled: Removal Of Houses In FESTAC Phase II: Our Position.
The statement read: “The attention of the Management has been drawn to various statements over the recent removal of illegal houses in Festac Town Lagos. These narratives have been tailored towards falsehood with the intention to create mischief of ethnic dimension.
Management has therefore decided to put the records straight and to correct this erroneous impression of ethnic targeting as is been peddled by mischief makers, some of who are serial land grabbers.
After the development of the first phase of FESTAC Town, Management of Federal Housing Authority designed the 2nd phase with a standard Layout for development. However, due to litigation that arose with some families and subsequent court orders, the development was delayed.
Unfortunately, this situation was capitalised by some persons, who started selling parts of the land to individuals. On noticing this, management quickly placed caveats; warning members of the public not to patronise such illegal transactions. The caveat later advised the public to visit FHA offices for legal searches. If they must transact bus such business.
The result of those land transactions was the springing up many illegal developments, built without approvals and against the Master plan. Houses were built at the center of major roads, very close to the canal, proper setbacks, and very close to Oil pipelines. The area was rapidly developing into a modern slum.
The Authority’s attempt at checking this was met with heavy resistance. Armed thugs molested and beat up staff on Development Control duties, and in many instances near to the point of death.
In 2018, the Authority sought the collaboration of the Lagos State government because of security to be able to enter the site. The team started serving Stop Work orders and eviction notices in 2019.
It was not until in 2021 that Management decided to embark on the demolition of these illegal and substandard structures that had rapidly sprang up in total disregard to the existing Layout, and in defiance of the numerous Stop Work orders that were issued by the Authority.
The immediate decision to embark on the exercise was based on the following:
a. The substandard buildings under construction in the encroached areas were on swampy land, with large chances of collapse due to soil type and behavior, and therefore require both professional approvals and supervision.
b. Some of the structures were at the center of major roads because they were built outside the Master plan
c. The buildings never had approvals and were not supervised by our professional, and as such we cannot vouch for their integrity.
d. Other structures were on road setbacks, drains and other infrastructure.
e. Houses were built below the level of the roads and prone to collapse because of soil settings.
However, after several appeals from some of the affected persons, who accepted to have illegally built on government land, Management decided to reconsider the exercise. At a Stakeholders meeting in FESTAC Town Lagos in January, 2022, the Management decided to reconsider the demolition exercise, and try to salvage as many buildings as possible, without compromising standards, on the following terms:
a. That all developments along the roads must be demolished.
b. That all buildings close to the canal, and pipelines must go.
c. That every building not certified by FHA officials must undergo integrity test.
d. That all forms of developments must stop.
Contravention notices and conditions for regularisation were served on affected building.
The Authority would then carry out a VRR exercise: Verification and Regularisation exercise, and where necessary Recovery.
Management immediately started the implementation of the exercise as agreed. The Authority started by carrying out an aerial survey to ascertain the level of distortion and subsequent redesign of the area, and verification and Regularisation exercise commenced.
Unfortunately, against the agreement reached with the Stakeholders and representatives of all the ‘estates’ within the Festac phase 2, many more building kept springing up without approvals and supervision. We also want to state that none of these buildings has a Federal Housing Authority letter of allocation.
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Management in this circumstance cannot watch as this phase of Festac is willfully being distorted.
In September 2023, demolition notices were served again, which led to the current exercise.
Management wants to state here that there are many building that are standing in this area. There are also hundreds of buildings that are undergoing regularisation.
Federal Housing Authority would not wait until a building collapses in this area before reacting. Our proactive action which predates now is to save impending danger that looms around this area of Festac.