In response to the recent demolition of several buildings at the Alaba International Market by the Lagos State Government, Mr. Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), has expressed his concerns. Obi acknowledged that while certain demolitions may be justifiable, they have resulted in numerous victims, particularly ordinary individuals who, in his opinion, were either innocently uninformed.
According to Obi, the foremost responsibility of any government is to ensure the well-being and safety of its citizens.
On Tuesday, the ex-governor of Anambra State took to his official Twitter account to issue a statement, offering his advice. He said: ‘necessary corrective measures to planning or zoning violations by governments, need not be punitive or unduly insensitive.’
It is worth noting that on June 16, the Lagos Government initiated the process of demolishing what it referred to as dilapidated structures within the Alaba International Market situated in the Ojo Local Government Area of the state.
According to a report from Africa Daily News, the enforcement exercise was conducted jointly by the Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA) and the Lagos State Task Force.
Amidst the controversy surrounding the operation, the government reiterated its stance that the exercise was implemented as a precautionary measure against potential disasters.
Nonetheless, Obi asserted that Nigerian citizens should not bear the burden of unforeseen hardships, urging for their relief from additional stress.
The tweet read: ‘Recently, there have been reports of widespread government demolition of so-called ‘illegal’ structures erected by some innocent Nigerian citizens in error. We face a paradox: with a 70 million housing deficit and vast unmet housing needs nationwide, some resort to self-help by building structures that serve as homes, businesses, SMEs offices and stores. Invariably, some of these structures were either not approved or were built with the tacit collusion or approval of the local authorities.’
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‘While some of these ongoing demolitions may be excusable, they have nonetheless, left many victims, mostly ordinary people who erred innocently or were ill-informed or misguided. Necessary corrective measures to planning or zoning violations by governments need not be punitive or unduly insensitive.’
‘There should always be room for compassion and humane correction in taking any remedial action. I respectfully appeal to various governmental authorities to marry the need to enforce compliance with extant regulatory regimes, with consideration for human feelings and necessary compassion.’
‘In Nigeria, we live in a time of extreme difficulties for citizens because of stagnated income, spiralling inflation, huge unemployment escalating socio-economic costs and high costs of living.’
‘Nigerian citizens should therefore, not be subjected to the additional stress of unexpected hardship. Moreover, the various concerned governments should consider paying compensation to those who have lost properties and livelihoods in these unfortunate demolitions to ameliorate their suffering. Such compensation should fall under the rubric of eminent domain that is applicable for properties and assets acquired or demolished in the public interest.’
‘It cannot ever be overemphasized that the primary duty of any government is the responsibility to care for and protect her citizens.’
This highlights the importance of prioritizing citizens’ welfare when taking governmental actions. While swift measures are justifiable for averting future dangers, it is crucial to reassess the potentially detrimental effects of such actions on their economy. Adequate orientation and compensation should be provided beforehand to mitigate the hardship that may arise as a direct consequence.