A 64-year-old retired nurse and widow, Mrs Adetutu Banjo, tells GODFREY GEORGE she has been left with no means of survival after the Lagos State Government allegedly demolished her shop built in the front of her house in the Allen Roundabout area of the state
Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Mrs Adetutu Banjo. I am 64 years old. I am from Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State. I am a trained nurse but when I got married to my husband, I had to quit so I could focus more on my home. I began a petty business which is what I lived on before the Lagos State Government demolished my shop.
What really led to this demolition?
I had a shop in front of my house since 2009 and I had been running that shop since then. My husband bought that land and built his house and that shop which he gave to me. In 2019, the Lagos State Government said they wanted to expand the road around Allen Roundabout. My shop was affected. However, we had a stakeholders’ meeting with the government where they said anything they demolished, they would rebuild it. They first marked my shop for demolition even though it was just the front that was affected. When they came for demolition, they brought down almost everything. In its place, they built a structure in front of the shop to control traffic. I kept pressurising them to follow their agreement and rebuild my shop, but it took so much time.
The shop was demolished in March 2019. The contractors came around on March 1, 2020, and said they would rebuild the shop. The structure they had in front had already blocked the shop, so I told them there was no need to build that shop but that they should build a small one just by my house gate so that I would just have something to manage since I have nothing doing.
Did they agree to do this?
They eventually did. They built a small structure, almost one-third of my original shop, but I was okay with it. I am already getting old, so let me just have a place to go out to every morning. So, they started building it in March 2020. By April 3, around the Easter holiday, my home help called to inform me that some men were marking the shop. I was surprised. Was it not the shop they had almost finished building? The shop was built in my compound, attached to my fence. It is just the door that is outside the wall. I have all the pictures to prove this. After a while, people came from the Lagos State Building Control Agency to tell me they were empowered to demolish the shop. I told them that the shop was being built by the same government who sent them but they had already marked it. They gave me two papers that stated that I was given seven days to remove the structure. I had planned to visit the ministry on the first working day after Easter. I also called the government contractor who was building the shop, but he told me they were on holidays and as soon as they returned, they would go and see them (LABSCA officials).
On April 6, I was in the Commissioner for Physical Planning’s office to meet him to explain to him what happened. When I got there, he was in a meeting and by the time he saw me, the LABSCA that gave us seven days which was supposed to elapse on April 10 or 11, had demolished the shop. They were not careful in the demolition, so it affected the wall of my house, and since then, that place has been vulnerable.
Did you inform the commissioner about this development?
Yes, I did. In fact, the commissioner even called the General Manager of LABSCA in my presence and asked the people working at Allen Junction to stop but the people at home told me that even while the commissioner was speaking with them, they went on with the demolition. Eventually, when I saw the commissioner another time, he told me to go build it back myself and I told him I won’t do it because I don’t know where I would get the money from? How am I even sure that it would not be demolished again?
Did you write any petition to this effect?
I got a lawyer who wrote a petition to them and we copied the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN). The reply I got from the government was that the shop was built on the setback – something that I have right inside my compound? How is that setback? More so, they also claimed that I didn’t have approval.
Did you have an approval?
Of course, I did. I even did a video on YouTube then and people were reacting but nothing came out of it up till now. It is almost like someone is spearheading this wickedness against me. My husband is dead and I had no child for him. We were married for 17 years before his death, and I have lived for 26 years in this house where the shop was carved out from. It has been nine years since he died. There is nobody to fight for me; that is why they are doing this to me. If this is not so, why would they say a shop built since 2009 is now one built on setback? I have written letters upon letters, granted different interviews but LABSCA has refused to listen to me and come and do the needful. The last letter I wrote to the Attorney General when he wrote back to my lawyer to tell us that he learnt that the notices that I claimed was given by LABSCA were not issued by them, that they were ‘concocted’ by me. But this is not true. I have everything on record. I have told them to do an investigation into the matter and see if what I am saying is a lie. I have lost hope. I am fed up. I have become idle and my house doesn’t feel safe anymore because the fence, which they demolished, has just been opened since then.
How has this affected your business?
Business! Which business? There has been no business since 2019. I have just been like that.
What are your demands?
I just want them to come and rebuild my fence. I don’t want that place to remain open like that. It is now a den of miscreants. If anybody wants to access the compound, it is very easy now. As for the shop, I am tired of asking the government to do the right thing for once. I didn’t steal the land the shop was built on. It belongs to my husband. The shop is my only means of survival. How do they expect me to use my money to do something they maliciously demolished? If they didn’t want the shop there, it is just the door they would remove as every other thing is just in the compound. I don’t know where they got this idea from, and I cannot tell why they treat widows like that. It is very disheartening. The lawyer says he wants to take them to court again, but I am tired of going to court. The ones I am even going to, I am tired of it. They should do the right thing and save me the stress.