26th July, 2011
Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), Tuesday urged all those living in distressed buildings in the state to relocate from such buildings to enable the government remove them to prevent loss of lives through building collapse.
Governor Fashola, who spoke in Central Lagos while inspecting Bristol Hotel building which is currently a subject of an ownership tussle between the Martins Family and WEMABOD, said government was always concerned when a building collapses and life is lost, adding that government would rather take a preemptive action to avoid such a situation.
The governor, who said he had come to assess things for himself at the building on account of several petitions he had received concerning it, warned that government would enforce compliance to ensure that no defective structure causes preventable deaths.
â€œIf we see a building that is distressed, we take you out and bring down the building. Whether you want to get out or not, we owe a duty to prevent you from killing yourself and we are going to come and remove you from that building. This is not an emotional thing; we want to keep you alive first,â€ the governor said.
Speaking specifically to Bristol Hotel traders, Governor Fashola explained that the building which, according to him was over fifty years old, was not build for trading, pointing out it could give way as a result of the excess weight being exerted on it by the wares and merchandise owned by the traders.
â€œWe do not want any misfortune to happen here; that is why when we build markets, we design it to take the capacity of a market â€“ warehouses, goods in transit and everything. This Hotel was not built for trading, so you cannot trade in the building in your own interest,â€ the governor said.
According to him, â€œnothing hurts me more than coming to carry dead bodies under a collapsed building. We can avoid that and it is only the living that can trade,â€ adding, however, that no matter the temptation, the traders should not trade in the streets.
â€œThere are other shops across Lagos that are empty. So, if this place is not ready, go and take a shop temporarily elsewhere, when we finish, you can come back here. I know that it is the returns here; the profit you make here that is the attraction. But do you want to risk your lives for the profit? It will not be in the interest of your children,â€ the governor said.
The governor disclosed that government would soon finish close to about 8, 000 new shops in Oyingbo, Tejuosho and other places, adding that work would soon continue on Phase 2 of Oluwole Market.
On the issue of sanitation in the place, Governor Fashola urged the traders to endeavour to keep the area clean, pointing out that government has provided refuse collection bins for that purpose while street sweepers and officials of the Lagos Central Business District are working round the clock to ensure the cleanliness of the environs.
â€œWe created a special department in government â€“ CBD â€“ because of you so that your business will prosper. We are working to bring electricity to this place for you. So we need your cooperation; do not burden us with more than we already have. It is your responsibility to clean up this place. It is not just government alone. If you comply willingly, you will reduce your interaction with CBD officials,â€ the governor said.
Pointing out that the CBD officials were there in the interest of the traders, Governor Fashola, however, warned, â€œIf you do not comply willingly, they will seal your shops.â€
He promised that his administration would do all in its power to make Lagos livable for everybody, adding, â€œWe understand that it is the privilege and burden of Lagos State to continue to be a place for Nigerians of all walks of life to come and seek out a living and actualize their expectations in our Stateâ€.
On the ownership tussle between the Martins Family and WEMABOD, Governor Fashola, who noted that the interests in the building, requires a resolution, declared, â€œthere seems to be a conflict, the title, the ownership, between WEMABOD and the Martin Family. The matter is in court. The only thing I can tell you now is that I will not act in defiance of any court process. If there is any title dispute before the court, I am going to wait for the court to determine who the true owner is before I go in and resolve the issue.â€
The Governor, however, advised the two parties, â€œHow long that will take will depend on you. You can make court process shorter if you sit down and resolve the matter among yourselves. If you canâ€™t resolve it, clearly, the court will have to make a determination and Government will abide by the determination of the court.
â€œBut if you think that working with us, we can help you bring about quicker resolution, we can identify the titles in our registry, the Attorney General is here, the Special Adviser CBD is here, you can go to them, our doors are open, we can bring you through, show you the title documents we have, the titles wonâ€™t lie.
â€œAnd, therefore, if the issues are resolved amongst yourselves, you can find a new partnership; WEMABOD is an old hand in property development. You might find a new partnership that works for both of you. We will be glad, as a Government, to facilitate that partnership to make sure that we see the redevelopment of this place very quickly; we are waiting so that you can decide how you can develop this place very quicklyâ€, Governor Fashola said.
Governor Fashola, however, counseled, â€œLet me tell you what I always tell those people who are fighting over land; nobody owns land, it is the land that owns us and ready to consume us when all is done. So while we are here, let us make the best use of itâ€.
Earlier, the traders at the hotel had, through their representative, appealed to the Governor to help resolve the issue quickly so that they would resume their business in the building, pointing out that their wares had been locked up in the building since April last year.
Also a representative of the Martins family told the Governor that the family was ready to renovate the historic building if WEMABOD would withdraw the court case while the WEMABOD representative, who claimed that out of the three interests owned by WEMABOD in the building one had expired while two were still running, said its interest was to knock down the original building and redevelop the place.
The Special Adviser to the Governor on CBD, Mrs. Derinola Disu, on her part said the CBD was interested in the redevelopment of the area in line with the specification and design of structures within the CBD.