Dozens of traders were thrown out of their shops on Saturday when the Chairman, Eti Osa Local Council Development Area, Olufunmi Rafiu, ordered council officials to demolish some shops in the Sangotedo Market.
It was learnt that council officials arrived in the morning with bulldozers and begun pulling down some of the shops while some traders were not allowed to salvage their goods.
This occurred despite an instruction from the Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development that no action should be taken until after a meeting with all stakeholders scheduled for Tuesday.
There was also no court order sanctioning the demolition.
It was learnt that due to the infraction, the Chief of Staff to the council chairman and other officials, who supervised the demolition were detained at the Ogombo Police Division.
A trader at the market told our correspondent that thugs stormed the market as early as 7am and began demolishing the shops.
He said, “They came around 6am and parked a caterpillar near the market. When they were challenged, they left and then returned after 30 minutes and parked in front of the market. Soon afterwards, thugs came with daggers and they started demolishing. About three policemen accompanied them.
“They didn’t even allow traders to salvage their goods. Thugs carted away people’s goods. As it is, we don’t even know how many shops have been demolished but even the ones that were not affected, thugs removed the doors.”
“This is heartless coming during an economic hardship caused Covid-19. People lost millions of naira.”
The trader said there was no approval for the act, adding that the council chairman acted illegally without the approval of the state government or the permission of the traders.
However, the council chairman said he had the approval of the state government.
Rafiu said the plan was to demolish and reconstruct the market within six months and return the shops to their previous owners.
He told our correspondent, “The demolition is being done so that we can rebuild it to a better standard in line with the Eti Osa master plan of the Lagos State Government.
“There are a lot of shanties there and a lot of atrocities happen there. So, we want to rebuild it and then return the shops to the previous owners. It is not that we want to hand over the shops to new set of people.
“We had a series of meetings with these traders and the commissioner for physical planning. It was not illegal. We had even erected a notice there since January 6 but they have been resisting. They got the commissioner of police to stop us and we delayed. We have just six months to do this job.”
When asked why he hired thugs to harass the traders, he responded he only sent men to secure the goods belonging to the traders.
“My boys were there to secure their goods so that no miscreant would steal the property of the traders. Even before the policemen came, I had instructed the contractor to stop the demolition and allow the traders to take all their things before they continued,” Rafiu added.
He admitted that indeed his chief of staff had been detained by the police, adding that the police had refused entreaties.
Meanwhile, human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), has described the demolition as illegal, adding that it would be challenged.
“The demolition is a shame to the government and should never happen in a democratic society. It will definitely be challenged,” Falana said.