“Operatives of the Lagos State Environmental and Special Offences, popularly called Taskforce, in an over-night exercise, removed some ‘illegal’ structures comprising shanties, mechanic workshops, containarised kiosks and commercial bus garages around government schools at Mile 2, Badagry Expressway, Lagos.
“The Chairman of the Task Force, DSP Olayinka Egbeyemi said the removal was sequel to numerous complaints and petitions by residents, particularly management of the public schools (Imoye High School and Amuwo Odofin Junior Secondary School) that criminal elements have turned the area into hideouts/spots for carrying out their nefarious activities, thereby making the environment unpleasant for living or learning.”
According to him, “It was disheartening seeing these illegal business operators like mechanics, Iron benders, food, fruits vendors and others turning the entire perimeter fence of these schools into illegal trading spots. “In addition, they have littered the entire area with indiscriminate dumping of refuse and waste metal materials posing serious health hazards to residents.”
This was how most media establishment reported the demolition exercise of Monday 2, March, 2020 by the Lagos State Government Task Force on Environmental and Special Offences Unit. But, what was missed out, deliberately or as an oversight, was the fact that the vast expanse of land also housed some Lagos State government agencies, whose structures were also demolished by the task force.
What actually transpired
The Lagos State Government Task Force on Environmental and Special Offences Unit demolished Mile 2 Zonal office of the Lagos State Vehicle Inspection Service, VIS, where no fewer than four impounded vehicles were damaged.
The demolition exercise came after the expiration of a seven-day ultimatum issued by the Task Force Chairman, CSP Olayinka Egbeyemi for the VIS and other occupants to quit the vast expanse of land along the Lagos Badagry Expressway. This happened in the early hours of Monday 2, March, 2020 before 5.00am.
Egbeyemi, who was physically on ground on Tuesday 25, February, 2020 to hand down the quit notice to occupants, had said that the land was being illegally occupied.
The filthy expanse of land, notorious for being a haven for criminal activities, was not only occupied by auto mechanics, petty traders, illicit drug sellers, National Union of Road Transport workers, hoodlums, it also housed some Lagos state government agencies such as Lagos State Environmental Sanitation Corps, LAGESC, Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA, Motor Vehicle Administration Agency, MVAA, and Vehicle Inspection Service, VIS, whose officials are called Vehicle Inspection Officers VIO.
All the merchandise, containers, shop and offices which they occupied including some government property therein were destroyed in the demolition exercise, with no fewer than four offenders’ vehicles damaged, including those impounded by operatives of VIS at the Saturday 29, February, 2020 road check.
The vehicles affected, it was gathered, included, Mitsubishi Space Wagon with registration number BDG120DV, Suzuki Every Mini Bus with number KTU60XZ, Ford Bus with plate number APP765XY and Suzuki Mini Bus with registration number SMK413XW.
No doubt, the clearing of the land is a welcome development as it will go a long way in reducing criminal activities along that corridor.
But then, the demolition of government property and vehicles impounded by VIO raise some pertinent questions particularly about the attitude of government officials who are in charge of our common wealth, safety and well-being.
All the agencies, expectedly, got the quit notice from CSP Egbeyemi but none took it serious, thinking probably, that they would be spared. The case of VIS negligence generated more interest because of people’s vehicles that were damaged.
Now, we need to ask, were the top hierarchies of VIS not aware of the quit notice even when Egbeyemi led over twenty heavily armed police men to serve removal order to occupants in a well televised visit, and whether they care about people’s vehicles in their custody?
Interestingly, this is not the first time impounded vehicles will be damaged in controversial circumstance in the custody of Lagos VIS. One of the well-known cases was the burning of one Mr Oluwadamilare Afolarin’s car in an unknown circumstance at the Eti-Osa Zonal office of the agency in 2017. It took the combined effort of the press and Mr Femi Falana, SAN for the 42 years old citizen to be compensated!
Let’s even agree that they were aware, what action did they take to protect government property and offenders’ vehicles? Remember, the vehicles are most times products of hard labour of the owners. In fact, some use such to fend for themselves and their families!
Are there reliable security for impounded vehicles? At the demolished zone, like in most zones, there are no accredited security personnel on ground. Miscreants without any traceable address are those in charge of protection of vehicles.
Fine, the demolition had been carried out and people’s vehicles had also been destroyed, what are the efforts put in place by VIS to contact owners of the affected vehicles? Is the government willing to pay compensation for the damages?
Agreed that the government agencies on the said land acted irresponsibly by defying the removal order, should the Task Force still have gone ahead to demolish government property therein? Or was DSP Egbeyemi not aware of government property on the land and why did he choose to destroy tax payers money in the name of clearing illegal structures or are they also selling illegal items in government offices?
The above posers certainly indicate absence of proper coordination of various government agencies in Lagos State, and it speaks volume about possible in-house rivalry among government institutions in the state, regrettably under an articulate Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
Although CSP Egbeyemi said that the Task Force had commenced verification of the claims of those affected but with legal documentation for the payment of monetary compensation as approved by the governor, discretion should have been used in sparing the impounded vehicles as well as government property on the land.
After all, it’s tax-payers’ money that will still be used in paying the compensation, so why destroy them in the first place?