Thousands of residents at Ilepa, Ogun State, staged a protest march yesterday against alleged moves by former President Olusegun Obasanjo to grab their lands and demolish their homes, using the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) as a smokescreen.
Among the protesters were pregnant women and nursing mothers, who braved the scorching sun, chanting protest songs, as they appealed to the government to come to their aids.
According to them, millions of people, including landlords and tenants, would be rendered homeless if the planned demolition by the LUTH authorities is done.
More than 25 villages and thousands of buildings will be affected in the exercise.
The residents told the Nigerian Compass that they had to stage the protest because a matron from LUTH, simply called Afolabi, had given each of them 100 days to peacefully leave their homes or caterpillars would make a mince meat of their bodies.
They alleged that the woman had also told them that anyone who wished to continue residing in the area should cough out N500,000.
Many of them alleged that the land acquisition and planned demolition was actually the work of Obasanjo, who used LUTH as a front to get the lands. They claimed that Obasanjo had been coming to the community with his surveyor to have secret meetings with the Onilepa of Ilepa, Oba Fatai Oladipupo.
They further alleged that, already, 20 hectares of the lands had been sold for over N65 million.
They insisted that Obasanjo was involved because in one of the documents they were able to lay their hands on, the former President’s surveyor is prominent. In this document, one of the reasons given for coming after lands at Ilepa was that the place was fast developing and would attract a good sum of money than other lands in the area.
Part of the anger of the residents was that LUTH, under whoever it’s fronting for, has over 50 hectares of virgin land, to site the purported Cooperative Centre it wanted to build.
Chairman of Ifesowopo Community, one of the communities affected, Mr. Peter Kolawole Olufemi Joe, said that most of them bought their lands from the owners, identified as the Ilepa, while others claimed to have bought from agents of the Oba of Ilepa. They also have receipts to show that they bought and paid for the land.
He said: “We bought the land from the owners. We are now hearing that LUTH bought it in 1979. The people we bought the lands from are still very much alive.
“The Ilepa people said that LUTH did not pay them compensation. They showed us the paper of enumeration. LUTH has over 50 hectares of land, fenced. The lands are still virgin ones, why can’t LUTH go over there and use it? As we are talking, about 600 hectares are still virgin land.
Now, they want to collect the land that people had already built on, because they said it will sell fast. They want to punish all the souls living on this Ilepa. The owners of the land are solidly behind us!”
A member of the community, Mr. Adio Egungbohun, said: “I am one of the people that sold lands. I learnt that some people are intending to demolish houses built on these lands. I am not happy about it because someone who came all the way from Lagos to build just a room here has a reason for it. Some people cannot even afford to build; they just cleared the land and keep their properties there. I was told that the king said he was not concerned about the issue on ground that everything is to be sorted out by the owners. So, I’m saying this now, if a caterpillar comes to this place, the driver will first lose his life”