COMPENSATION FOR ALL TENANTS AND SHOP-OWNERS AFFECTED BY DEMOLITION
By Davy Fidel
On Tuesday 17 November of last year, a government’s demolition squad, accompanied by armed personnel, descended on the Awodi-Ora community in Ajegunle area of the Ajeromi-Ifelodun LGA, Lagos. In few minutes, it was as if a train had run over the buildings, shattering them into pieces, as shops and houses along the Mba/Cardoso road turned into rumbles, leaving the affected people in a state of shock and even grief. Many affected persons spoke bitterly of the brevity and absurdity of the “seven days” notice issued by the government. It was completely inadequate to seek alternative accommodation within such a short period. Notwithstanding, the government has no plan of compensation for affected persons, who were mostly poor working people. They just cannot raise such sum for a new rental space within such a period! Some of the affected persons are shop owners, whose family rely on their daily sales for survival. They had to secure loan facilities from micro-finance banks to restart their small businesses and have now been saddled with the burden of paying a debt their businesses can hardly afford. This may run many families into the dark abyss of trauma, with ripple effects telling on family members who have to eat, cloth and pay school fees.
This is coming at a period when the Nigerian economy is a sinking ship as in “titanic”. Nothing practically is working. The economy is in bad condition.
The construction of the road should be a welcomed development, given the expansion to the terrible state of the current road that would ease the heavy vehicular traffic along the Cardoso/Mba link road that serves as a connecting route to Mile 2, Badagry and Oshodi Express road, as well as serving as an alternative route into the ports in Apapa. If the project does not become an elusive one to siphon government’s funds as with many Nigerian road projects, it would have a positive economic impact. But this should not in any way be the basis of ruining the livelihood and existence of others. The MSA calls for the necessary mechanism to be put in place to cushion the effect of this demolition on the affected persons, which should include the setting aside of funds for tenants to procure new space for new shops or residence.
The approach of limiting compensation to only landlords, who possess government-approved Certificate of Occupancy is completely discriminative. It leaves the most vulnerable tenants to their fate, with landlords even unwilling to refund rents paid in advance or consider compensating tenants from a portion of the compensation they would receive from the government.
WITHOUT COMPENSATION, HOW WILL THE AFFECTED COPE?
In a planned economy of socialist society, where the government puts the wellbeing of the working masses first and foremost, the construction of roads will be a blessing to all, because the adequate alternative would be provided to any who may be affected negatively. The representatives of government and the traders and tenants residing in the community, before the road construction will take effect, would have held town hall meetings. All those involved would have expressed how the construction works would impact on them negatively, with the necessary investigation, and the necessary arrangement put in place to allow all affected to get reasonable alternatives, without imposing the burden of ruination on them. This would have required working committees of each trade associations putting forward what they will require and government in turn meeting all of the expectations before the demolition is effected, as opposed to the current approach of merely given written notice for people to vacate their businesses and habitation, without considering the complexity of existence.
Indeed, the government via the contractors, “Banci Nigerian Limited”, will say the demolished houses were along the road. However, if the government has been up and doing in her housing plans and policy, building low scheme houses and affordable market centres for petty traders, no one would have liked to settle in a messy place in the first instance. But because, the government, representing capitalism, is not ready to improve the lot of the poor, people have no choice than to settle less.
FOR A PUBLIC WORKS APPROACH TO ROAD CONSTRUCTIONS
The MSA stands opposed to the approach of awarding contracts to lining the pockets of private profiteers with public fund under the false notion that “government does not have business with business” of using public money to construct public roads, improve the power sector, fund public education, healthcare etc. It is fraudulent the idea that it is the private sector alone that should take up the task of providing infrastructure and be allowed to earn their profit from such “investments”. However, what we have seen is the philosophy of the Public-Private Partnership, being used to enrich some few individuals. The PPP is an agenda of the capitalist politicians, used to steal and appropriate public money to themselves. This has been the case in all projects, via the agenda of PPP, where politicians will award contracts to themselves, using public fund to execute private projects. In Lagos State, most of the budget for the construction of new public roads always have been padded with “kickbacks” and unnecessarily over awarded.
An article titled “What is the Cost of Road Construction in Nigeria?” reveals that the “cost of road construction in Nigeria is between ₦300 million to ₦1.5 billion per kilometre”. This is twice higher the budget of constructing roads in Ghana, Tanzania, Mozambique, Madagascar and other African countries. On the rehabilitation of bad roads, the cost is between “₦100 million to ₦1 billion per kilometre.” (naijacarnews.com, 09/09/2019) This huge amount to maintain just a portion of bad road will construct ten to fifteen public roads that will last for 15 years if road constructions are done through a public work department in the Ministry of Works that will provide employment directly for all categories of skilled and unskilled labourers that are needed to handle a road construction than to the cronies of politicians that own the Construction firms.
But capitalism, and its merchant politicians, representing the interest of members of the billionaire club, would inflate the budget and award contracts to themselves via shadow companies. It is therefore not impossible that companies like Banci Construction Nigeria Limited that has won the Mba/Cardozo road contract could be spuriously linked to one politician or other, who is either a member of the board of Directors or has the endorsement of the powers that be in Lagos.
Only with a planned economy under a socialist system could capitalist politicians, awarding contracts to themselves and their shadow companies, come to an end. Under socialism, road construction and other infrastructures shall be democratically managed by working masses to get quality at a cheaper rate than the cutthroat price paid for low-grade works.
While noting that the Mba/Cardoso road construction has kicked off with demolition without compensation, it is important to insist that Community meetings of affected persons, residents, market people, youth, and artisan be initiated. The purpose is to democratically organise ourselves as people, to elect a supervisory action committee that will time to time monitor the road construction to ensure a quality job is executed. Such Supervisory ACTION COMMITTEE must also take up the task of organizing to demand all of the other essentials, including regular electricity, playgrounds and community arts centres for the youths.