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Land Owners Grumble In Lekki Free Trade Zone - Politics - Nairaland

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Land Owners Grumble In Lekki Free Trade Zone by Ping411: 9:52pm On Jul 25, 2013
Inside a sparsely furnished room in Lagos, two dark skinned men rose from their seats, shook hands and embraced each other – a sign that two warring factions have sheathed their swords. About a dozen other men in the room looked on, wry smiles on their faces.
The two men, Abiodun Muslim and Samuel Babatunde, represent the two parties in Idasho, an Ibeju-Lekki community, who have been at daggers drawn due to the ongoing Lekki Free Trade Zone in the area.In the peace undertaking signed at the office of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) in Lagos, both parties agreed to maintain peace and order in Idasho villages.
They also agreed to announce to the entire communities that “none should henceforth take any step of violence against another.”

Mr. Muslim, the community representative in Lekki Free Trade Zone, had been barred from the community after inhabitants accused him of selling out.

The Lekki Free Trade Zone is an ambitious project launched in 2004 by the Lagos State government. Covering about 17,000 hectares, it is expected to accommodate over 100,000 population upon completion.

However, the host communities have been at war with one another and with the government over claims of “selling out” by their representatives as well as land grabbing by the state.
“They denied me that I should not come to the community, that they will kill me,” said Mr. Muslim, who has been the communities’ eyes and ear at the board instituted by the state government.But Mr. Babatunde said that Mr. Muslim ceased to be the community representative at the board of the project after he refused to “listen to us.”
“He was our agent to the government, representing us there, and we asked him to say no, that we don’t want to give our lands,” Mr. Babatunde, a retired police officer, said.

“We don’t want him again because we don’t have any agreement with Lekki Free Trade Zone, since they refused to pay us any compensation,” he added.

Two years after the project was launched, Bola Tinubu, then Lagos State governor, approached nine communities in Ibeju-Lekki, informing them of his intention to use part of their farm lands.

The communities’ elders said they disagreed after it dawned on them that the project would consume their entire farm lands.

However, in 2007, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between the Lagos State government and the nine host communities – Idasho, Idotun, Ilege, Imobido, Itoke, Okunraiye, Ilekuru, Tiye, and Imagbon-Segun.

The other signatories include the Ibeju-Lekki local council and Lekki Worldwide Investment Limited, a joint venture involving the Lagos State government and the Chinese Investment Consortium regarding the establishment, financing and management of the Lekki Free Trade Zone project.

According to the MOU, the government is expected to pay compensation for “all genuine claims” made by members of the affected villages and communities.

Within the first five years of the project, the state government and the Chinese firm invested over N3 billion, claiming a substantial chunk of the lands in Tiye, Ilege, and Imobidu.

While some of the villagers say they received peanuts as compensation for the over 5,000 hectares of their land acquired for the project; others say they got nothing from the state.

The compensation ranged from N20,000 to N100,000, according to Mr. Muslim.

“They paid for crops, not for land. They were farm lands. They didn’t acquire the communities, they acquired the farm lands,” said Mr. Muslim, who insisted that he had not been bribed by the state.

“If they said they have not got anything, that’s not true. What they are saying is that they got peanuts,” he added.

The CDHR, who had intervened in the villagers’ dispute, said that the state government had, under the guise of making peace, moved into the community with armed police officers.

“We have tried to meet disputed parties, it is very disappointing that the Lagos State government is not making any intervention,” said Buna Isiak, CDHR’s Chairman.

“The government has used the excuse of peace making to move in with force with hundreds of armed police men,” Mr. Isiak added.

The government, however, insisted that its presence in the community is to ensure that it has “no reason to keep boiling.”

“It is as a result of an imminent breach of peace occasioned by the disagreement among the people there,” Lateef Ibirogba, Commissioner for Information, told Nigerian Telegraph.

As soon as there is peace, and people are ready to live in harmony, nobody is taking their community from them,” Mr. Ibirogba added.

Mr. Ibirogba insisted that the community people were “properly” compensated.

“I don’t understand what they mean by poor compensation,” said Mr. Ibirogba, responding to claims that N20,000 was paid as compensation.

“Was there a compensation? Yes,” he said. “Was there a process of compensation before compensation was arrived at? Yes. Because government cannot just come and say I want to give N1. There must have been a discussion before we got to that level.”


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