Ilubirin… Mounting concerns over sand-filled Lagos

By Tope Templer Olaiya, Assistant Lagos City Editor
It took a public verbal spat between Governor Babatunde Fashola and the Minister of State for Defence, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, over the ongoing Ilubirin housing estate for the project site to attract a second look from motorists plying the Third Mainland Bridge.
Before the tirade, which began in April, the area had generated a passing interest despite being listed among the locations of the Lagos State Home Ownership Mortgage Scheme (Lagos HOMS). The government had planned to build on the reclaimed land, a total number of 1,254 flats, comprising two and three bedroom apartments on eight floors.
Until recently, Ilubirin was inhabited by Ijaws, Ilajes, settlers from Badagry and migrants from Benin Republic and Togo, who traded on commodities that riverine dwellers are known for. Specifically, their men fished, while the women supply fish to the major markets in Lagos.
This was until the Lagos State government demolished the settlement and embarked on reclaiming the place from the sea through the process of sand filling. While the removal of people from the environment was hailed, the reclaiming of land from the sea has continued to attract condemnations.

Ilubirin 2Those who frowned at the sand filling argued that constant encroachment on the ocean and lagoon does not augur well for the state ecologically and environmentally. They maintained that the damage to the ecosystem by excessive reclamation of land is gradual, accumulative and imperceptible, noting that the effects are irreversible.

While Fashola had taken excerption to the minister’s use of military personnel to disrupt the ongoing project, Obanikoro, who represents Lagos in the federal cabinet of President Goodluck Jonathan, had wondered aloud why the state government has decided to build affordable houses on water and with barely a year to the expiration of the governor’s tenure.

“It is no longer a secret that most of the affordable housing communities in the world were built on land and not water. Moreso, the location of the Ilubirin project breaks all the laws on setback requirements for highways and roads.

“This administration has consistently done amateur-styled land reclamation projects across the state, an action that has caused severe environmental damage and extreme discomfort to many families living in Lagos,” he told The Guardian.

Though the act of reclaiming land from the sea is a global practice, it is surprising that the latest one by the state government to build a low-cost housing estate has generated controversies. With the expertise employed by the government in all its sand filling projects, the existence of fears about ecological and environmental impact assessment of the projects, has somewhat been sustained.

Governor Fashola (middle) in discussion with his security team

Governor Fashola (middle) in discussion with his security team

Commenting on the growing incidence of land filling and reclamations going on in Lagos Island, Emeka Okonkwo, an estate surveyor and valuer, said it is a project driven by fraud because the cost of sand filling is going to be ten times the cost of opening another place.

“There are tablelands all over Lagos. There are places even in swampy areas that can be recreated and redeveloped than going to pour sand in water, which is unreasonable. They reclaimed a lot of places in Dubai but the costs of those apartments are simply ridiculous.

“The island is already chaotic. How are you going to manage the traffic? Yet, the government is spending so much money reclaiming the land when there are slums littering Lagos that could have been redeveloped like Badia. But in the face of profit, money, and tax for government, the action may just make sense. However, as a professional, my advice to government would be opening up other areas instead of sand filling,” he said.

An environmentalist, Chief Osawe Irabor, said he saw nothing wrong with the exercise. “If done in an organised manner, I believe nobody will complain. But when it becomes rampant and reckless, the people must resist it because usurping natural settings could be disastrous in the long run,” he said.

Backing his argument with contemporary examples, Osawe said: “Nearly every part of the Netherlands was reclaimed from the sea. What is happening in Lagos should not be different. Statistics have it that China reclaimed 13,455 hectares of land from the sea in 2010, resulting in earnings of more than 7.82 billion yuan.

“However, with every sense of purpose, I will say that what is happening in Lagos is being driven by the desire to make money. It is business on the part of those doing it because poor people don’t benefit from the houses being built on the reclaimed land. I hope they are being done according to the best practices in order to protect the ecosystem,” he stated.

Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, Minister of State for Defence (middle) on a recent visit to Naval Base, Apapa

Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, Minister of State for Defence (middle) on a recent visit to Naval Base, Apapa

Still on his worries, he said there are possibilities of buildings erected there to sink while the state stands the risk of being swept off by earthquakes and tsunamis.

A professor of Geography, Prof. Kaine Amikpume, in his environmental impact assessment of the project told The Guardian that there are inherent dangers associated with sand filling.

“We must tell ourselves the truth that this is a coastal state. And we are not immune to natural disasters associated with littoral states. It is just that we have been lucky not have experienced something beyond an ocean surge. Continuous reclamation of land from the sea distorts the ecosystem. But if done in an orderly manner with proper environmental impact assessment, the possibilities of failure will be minimal.

“I understand what the state government is going through in trying to meet up with population explosion, but the future of those you are trying to cater for should not be endangered by the same process. Other alternatives to sand filling should be explored to prevent the long-term effect, like opening up tablelands because you pay less to open up tablelands. But when you reclaim, you pay much and that informs the high cost of properties on reclaimed lands.”

It would be recalled that the state chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), had called on the Federal Government to halt the sand filling of the ocean and lagoons in the state in the overall interest of the country. The party also berated the state government over what it described as “deceptive and diversionary evacuation of occupants from areas tagged slums, which was worsened by direct government negligence.”

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In a statement by its Publicity Secretary, Mr Gani Taofik, the party said the call came on the heels of the frequent ocean surges, which recently claimed lives and property at the beaches.

It alleged that the unnecessary loss of lives and property should be blamed on the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led administration, which has “remained adamant, irresponsible and only pursuing business interest that it chose to sand fill the ocean in its purported Eko Atlantic Project, where a plot of land is being sold for N350 million.”

The APC had in its reaction through the state Publicity Secretary, Mr. Joe Igbokwe, said: “We take it that Lagos PDP is far gone in mischief or it is on its well known antics of conning Nigerians for sympathy when it blamed the ocean surge on the laudable Eko Atlantic City, which is generating worldwide attention.

“We feel that PDP’s greedy inclination which sees every opportunity as fat cow to be milked by greedy party men is leading it into reading such negative meanings into great projects that promise to lift Nigeria from the quagmire it had sank the country into.”

Micheal Adegbola Dominic, governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in Lagos during the 2011 election, sees it differently. “I can only say that Fashola is sinking concrete into the Atlantic Ocean, building bridges across the lagoon to Lekki and Banana Island and all that, but that is not what the majority of Lagosians need.

“The people of Lagos don’t need those concretes he is burying inside Atlantic Ocean, what they need is motorable roads in places like Ayobo, Ejigbo, Ikorodu, Ikotun, and so many other places in Lagos. Fashola is doing something good for himself and his elite friends. The people of Lagos are suffering, they are living in slums.”

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Fashola Has No Approval From NIWA To Build Houses On Water, Says Obanikoro

By Tope Templer Olaiya, Assistant Lagos City Editor
THE Minister of State for Defense, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, at the weekend replied the Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola, on his comments that the minister took soldiers to disrupt the ongoing Ilubirin Housing project on the Lagos Island.
Fashola had at an event last week decried attempts by Federal Government to take over reclaimed land at Ilubirin, earmarked for housing estate by the state government.
Speaking yesterday, Obanikoro said Fashola description of his personal visit to the planned Ilubirin housing estate as “Rambo like” was mischievous.
The minister, who is representing Lagos in the federal cabinet, noted that the governor has refused to get the required approval from the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA). “He has objected to getting an approval from the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN). He does not even want the consent of the Federal Ministry of Works. The location of his site breaks all the laws on set back requirements for highways and roads.
“Despite all pleas, the governor has turned deaf ears on economic hazard of his project. As at today, the only approvals he has are the ones he manufactured for himself using various state ministries, departments and agencies. I am still confused about the logic behind building houses underneath high electric-powered cables.

KORO.

“As a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), I expect him to know that the construction is illegal. He needs to stop using the name of Alhaji Femi Okunnu to legalise his illegality. It only shows the recklessness and impunity that he governs with,” the minister said.

According to Obanikoro, it was suspicious that after being in office for over 15 years, the state government, with less than 15 months to go, is considering building affordable houses for Lagosians.

Obanikoro said:“ Surprisingly, Lagos State Government chooses to build these houses on the water. It is no longer a secret that most of the affordable housing communities in the world are built on land, not on the water.

“I have always supported housing projects, especially for families living in densely populated areas of the state. They need affordable houses. But the governor seems to have easily forgotten that Mosan-Okunola, Ijede, Ojokoro, Badagry are densely populated areas in Lagos. Residents in those areas have been crying for affordable houses since 1999.

“I know what affordable houses look like. My family and I lived in one of the good affordable houses built by former governor Lateef Jakande. Why does Fashola pretend not to know that 97 per cent of the families living in Ajeromi-Ifelodun, Alagbado, Agboyi-Ketu, Oke-Odo, Ayobo-Ipaja, Bariga, Epe and Igando do not have access to Government Housing Estates?

“Many families in Itire-Ikate can only afford to live in one room. Most Lagos State University (LASU) students still live in severely overpopulated environments. My advice to the governor is focus on building houses for families living in the areas that have the lowest house ownership rates like Ifelodun (4 per cent), Shomolu (8 per cent), or Mushin (8 per cent).”

Housing for all…

Govt unveils 200 homes monthly, lists eligibility

By Tope Templer Olaiya, Assistant Lagos City Editor, and Tunde Alao

No doubt the www.lagoshoms.gov.ng, website of the Lagos State Home Ownership Mortgage Scheme would be getting hits after hits 72 hours after it was launched. The reason being that shelter is one of the intrinsic needs of man and in Lagos, there is a huge housing deficit occasioned by overpopulation.

   For many Lagosians, who had long stopped hoping of owning a home, the new development seems to have brought back the thought of a better future. From the 4th of March, the first of the monthly draws will be held for the first 200 homes. This number is expected to increase to 300 every month subject to the ability of the contractor to deliver the units on schedule.

   In Lagos millions of residents are in dire need of decent accommodation. While those who are prepared to weather the storm have found succour in slums, many unfortunate ones have fallen victim to swindlers and land grabbers in their desperate search for a place to lay their heads.

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Inaugurating the Lagos State Mortgage Board on Monday, Governor Babatunde Fashola took great delight at fulfilling another electioneering campaign promise. “I am proud because this project is a product of many years of grueling work, long hours and devotion by our team.

   “In Lagos, we hold the view that a home is not something you buy in one day, but over time in a way that your ability to acquire it is tied to your income and continued prosperity. It is an asset that outlives you. As we flag off this scheme, there are 1,104 completed homes with another 3,156 at various stages of construction,” he said.

   The buildings are blocks of four floors, containing 12 flats of one, two and three bedroom on each flour, in an optimal use of limited land space at Igbogbo Ikorodu, Agbowa, Gbagada, Igando, Mushin, Shitta Surulere, Ilupeju, Shogunro Ogba, Omole, Magodo, Sangotedo and Lekki.

  Sites yet to take off include those at Iponri, Ibeshe Ikorodu, Ajara Badagry, Sangotedo Phase II, Obele, Akerele Phase II, Oyingbo, Ilubirin and Ijora Badia.

   The rules of eligibility, Fashola vowed, would be strictly adhered to and enforced to ensure sustenance of the mortgage scheme.

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From Right: Lagos State Deputy Governor, Mrs. Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire; Governor Babatunde Fashola;
Commissioner for Finance and Chairman, Lagos Mortgage Board, Mr. Ayo Gbeleyi; his Housing counterpart and member of the Board, Mr. Bosun Jeje; Executive Secretary, Lagos Mortgage Board, Mr. Akinola Kodjo Sagoe; two Executive Directors, of the Board, Mrs. Bola Fashola and Mr. Bayowa Foresythe during the launch of the Lagos State Home Ownership Mortgage Scheme (Lagos HOMS) on Monday.

“Applicants must be first-time home owners. Only those who have never owned a home, whether acquired privately or bought from government, will be eligible,” he stated and that: “Applicants would be required to swear to an affidavit that they have not got houses else-where in the contract that entitles us to repossess the house anytime, even in the 10th year if we have proof that a beneficiary owned another home when he applied to the scheme.

   “In addition, only Lagos residents, not indigenes, who are tax payers will benefit. Applicants would be required to show us their residency card under the Lagos State Residents Registration exercise. Apart from residency, applicants must show proof of payment of tax for a continuous period of five years preceding their application.

   “We also expect successful applicants to immediately pay a deposit of 30 percent of the cost of the house they choose as their equity, while the balance would be paid on a monthly basis for over 10 years. Accordingly, we would match house choices to applicants’ proven income sources to determine eligibility and it is only eligible applicants, whose forms would go into ballot from which successful applicants would be picked.”

   The governor explained that the final eligibility for ownership was being left to chance after a transparent balloting system because demand far outweighs supply, as government was committed to abide by the rules that would stand public scrutiny.

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He advised applicants to bid only for houses in the areas where they are prepared to live and not for every house that is put on the market.

   “We would not allow any successful applicant to rent out the houses. If you do not live in the house that you win, you would have violated our first homeowner rule and it is a ground to repossess the house, pay you off and offer it to those who really need a home. We would only allow you to rent it out after 10 years when you would have fully paid for the house.”

   As people eagerly await the advertised rates of the houses, it was gathered from sources in the Ministry of Housing that houses in the Emeka Anyaoku Estate, in Ikeja GRA, are going for N35 million, while the three-bedroom flats at Gbagada and other mainland areas would be offered for between N10 million and N15 million.

   In defence of the project cost, Fashola said: “In terms of pricing, the Lagos HOMS is about affordability and accessibility.

  “This is so because we have not yet found cheap or low cost cement, neither have we found low cost iron rod or low cost labour.

   “The continuity and sustainability of the entire project depends on our ability to build more at break-even cost without profit. Accordingly, we have applied an across the board discount of 25 percent to the total actual cost of land, infrastructure and building, which is the total cost of the home.

   “The houses become more competitive against what is available on the open market because there is a minimum period of 10 years to pay for it and the mortgage will attract a maximum interest of 9.5 percent per annum.”

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Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (left) addressing Royal Fathers, Dignitaries, Party Chieftains, Media Executives and other stakeholders during the launch of the Lagos State Home Ownership Mortgage Scheme (Lagos HOMS) at the Banquet Hall, Lagos House, Ikeja, on Monday, February 03, 2014.

The governor added that prompt payment of monthly mortgages would be enforced as studies show that default of payment and difficulty of repossessing houses from defaulters have been a major disincentive to investment in the property sector by private sector developers.

   Fashola stated further that the Lagos HOMS is not about providing a home alone, but it is also about a total lifestyle change.

   “We are moving our people from a desperation for shelter to an orderly and planned living.

   “Because it is a mortgage-driven scheme, we expect that people would take their jobs more seriously and apply themselves more diligently in order to retain the ability to pay the mortgage. You will lose your home if you lose your job, but we expect to see not only increased productivity but also a progressive reduction of unethical conduct in the workplace,” he said.

   He hinted that the ultimate plan by government is to become guaranteed purchasers to developers, who will acquire their own land and build according to specifications on agreed prices.

   “This way, more houses can come on stream because of the private sector participation, and government would use the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) from tax payers’ money to buy from developers and sell to beneficiaries on mortgage.”