In a Twitter statement, Peter Obi, the former Anambra State governor and Labour Party presidential candidate, expressed concern over the recent demolition of buildings in Alaba International Market by the Lagos state government. Obi argued that while some demolitions might be justifiable, they have resulted in stress for innocent citizens who were either misinformed or misguided.
Obi emphasized that corrective measures taken by the government to address planning or zoning violations should not be punitive or insensitive. He called for a balance between enforcing compliance with regulatory regimes and showing compassion towards affected individuals. Additionally, he suggested that compensation should be considered for those who have lost properties and livelihoods in the demolitions.
The controversy surrounding the demolition began on June 16 when the Lagos Government initiated the removal of distressed buildings in Alaba International Market, citing the need to prevent potential disasters. However, critics argue that the demolitions have negatively impacted ordinary citizens who were not fully aware of the violations or had received tacit approval from local authorities.
Obi’s statement emphasized the importance of governmental responsibility in caring for and protecting citizens, particularly during times of economic difficulties, high unemployment, and rising costs of living in Nigeria.
The statement 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.
“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.”