21st March, 2013
The announcement by the Lagos State Government to build 1,000 low-cost houses at the recently demolished slum at Ijora-Badia in the Apapa Local Council Development Area is a welcome development. In fact, it is a beautiful plan.
According to Mr. Tunji Bello, the Commissioner for the Environment, the new houses will replace the shanties demolished in the area by the state government. The houses, he assured, will alleviate the plight of over 60,000 residents who lost their homes and properties in the demolition exercise.
We are happy that the state government is taking this bold step to provide decent accommodation for all those affected by the demolition exercise at Ijora Badia. Our prayer is that by the time the houses are ready to be delivered to those displaced, the price will not be beyond their reach as is usually the case when government undertakes to develop an existing property.
A case in point is the Tejuosho Model Market in Yaba, Lagos Mainland where thousands of the poor traders displaced when the government decided to redevelop the market into a modern one could not afford the new price for the shops. We are told that to get the least of the space, a klee klamp, in the redeveloped Tejuosho Model Market, Yaba, you need N700,000. How many of the displaced traders can afford to pay this amount now when they have been rendered redundant for the past six years?
The traders were displaced in 2007 when reconstruction started.
This is why we want to caution the state government not to repeat the same thing at the completion of the new houses at Ijora Badia.
Efforts should be made to ensure that the originally displaced people are the beneficiaries of the houses. The Maroko experience where thousands of residents were removed from their abodes and the land redeveloped for the rich should not be allowed to happen in Ijora Badia.
In this regard, we implore the state government to register all the displaced property owners at Ijora Badia so that on completion of the 1,000 low cost houses, there won’t be any confusion as to those who should benefit from the project.
We also want to appeal to the government to always have the poor in mind when fixing the prices for its new houses. We have observed on many occasions that the prices fixed by the Babatunde Fashola administration for most of its houses are beyond the reach of the poor.
Even with the so-called mortgage arrangements provided by the government for home seekers to own their own homes, the hurdles placed on the way of low income earners towards acquiring the houses are insurmountable.
The Ijora Badia housing project should truly be made available for the poor; those who earn less than N1,000,000 a year.
We also hope that the conditions attached to the mortgage for those wishing to access houses built by the state government are made more flexible while the payment should be stretched for between 20 and 30 years for the convenience of buyers.