LAGOS STATE GOVERNOR, SANWO-OLU

LAGOS STATE GOVERNOR, SANWO-OLU

In this concluding part of the two-part special report on the ordeal of the Lagos State Housing Scheme Allottees, the government denied defrauding victims, giving reasons allottees lost out on the scheme. JULIANA FRANCIS reports.

 

Demands Of Allottees Of The Housing Scheme

The allottees want the Lagos State government to refund their money, including jettisoning the demand for original copies of their receipt.

According to the civil servants, demanding original receipts, which they were not given, was equivalent to the government creating stumbling blocks to ensure they did not get their money.

Shade enunciated: “We demand that they should give us our money, whether we have the photocopy or original receipts. Even those with original receipts are yet to get their money. We are civil servants! We need our money. Some people deposited as much as N2m back then, do you know what that means? We are only asking for our money to be refunded without interest, ordinarily, we should be refunded with interest.”

Philips on the other hand, wants the Lagos State government to give him a moratorium, not one year, at least to make up the payment.

He added: “Lagos State should refund my deposit with interest as exchange rate ₦156 to a dollar as of 2008. I feel very bad and I feel being defrauded by a government that prides itself as the Centre of Excellence. How can a state be so insensitive to its people? If this was done by a property company, EFCC would pursue and sue them and get our money out for us and if possible, jail the promoters. We want justice and refund of our money with interest.”

Philips said that a similar incident happened in Ogun State regarding the allocation of Housing Estate (Kobape) and Ogun State promised to instantly refund with Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) interest rate to subscribers who could not get houses. He urged Lagos State to borrow a leaf from Ogun State.

On his part, Mr Ben Ijeh was introduced to the Egan Housing project by the then LBIC Manager with offices at Jakande Estate, Oke-Afa Isolo.

He said: “We went for an inspection of the project and I was impressed with the development going on at the proposed estate, while the LBIC Manager assured me that the completion and allocation of the flats was imminent.

“I then subscribed and paid a total sum of N3.5m which was the price for a 2-bedroom flat as was advertised. This was more than 20 years ago.  Over time, I continued to monitor the completion of the project over the years, but it was not forthcoming until the current dispensation.

“A recent check at the offices of the Lagos State Ministry of Housing shows that the cost price of the 2-bedroom flat has been increased to N12.5m.

“Regrettably, as a pensioner, I don’t have the financial capacity to raise the additional N9m. Given my financial position, I requested a refund of my deposit, on Monday, 13th May, 2024. However, no response has been received to date.”

Another unhappy allotee is Bisiriyu Akeem, who took to his XSpace@keembisi, complained that the Lagos State Government failed to refund initial depositors, alleging that, “politicians hijacked the scheme.”

 

Lagos State Government Reacts, Denies Allegations

On the 25th of June, our reporter went to the Ministry of Housing, Alaua, Ikeja and spoke with the Spokesman, Mr Adesile Rufai concerning the allegations made by the fuming allotees.

He explained that contrary to allegations by the victims, that they were schemed out of the scheme, it was possible they went afoul of some laydown rules in the policy relating to the scheme.

He also stated that violations of the policy and some of the items contained in the provisional letter of allocation could make allottees no longer fit to continue.

Another reason given by Rufai is that allottees were supposed to start instalment payments the month after the initial deposit of their 10 per cent, but they did not. This means they had faulted and would not be allowed to continue.

Incidentally, the aggrieved allottees denied giving or receiving any policy relating to the housing scheme.

He said: “Only those who had fully paid their money are entitled to owning a property, those who have paid only 50 per cent of the money are entitled to the new rate.”

Reacting to civil servants who said they have only photocopy receipts to show proof of payment, Rufai said it was not possible that photocopies would be given as receipts. He insisted they should go and get the original receipts as requirements for their refunds, or they could go to the police to complain, and then should further make moves to demand for Certified True Copy. He also suggested that the aggrieved parties can also reach out to him.

Rufai handed our reporter a document showing the challenges that dogged the scheme and why it took so long to be delivered.

The document is a programme of the event of the official commissioning of 270 home Units, cluster one, Egan-Igando Mixed Housing Estate.

According to the document, Sanwo-Olu was able to deliver the project which had defied all efforts for over two decades.

It was proposed to consist of 101 blocks of 846 home units made up of 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom apartments.

The project was started by the Lagos State Ministry of Housing in 2001 with 33 blocks, 18 in one of two bedrooms. By 2002, most of the blocks had been abandoned at different stages of construction due to paucity of funds.

The document also states: “This was the status until April 2006, when former governor of Lagos State, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, during his second term in office, transferred the project to the Lagos Building Investment Company (LBIC) in partnership with the Ministry of Housing through a public-private partnership (PPP) arrangement.

“After the take up of the project, LBIC constructed Type A and B blocks, however, the project became stalled again. To increase the chances of completion, the then governor, Babatunde Fashola directed the Ministry of Work and Infrastructure to take over the project in 2013.

“In 2016, the project was returned to the Ministry of Housing by the then Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode. In other to speed up its completion, the Ministry of Housing divided the project into clusters.”

Another document provided by Rufai is welcome address by the Honourable Commissioner For Housing, Hon. Moruf Akinderu-Fatai at the commissioning

Akinderu-Fatai said: “We are proud to present Cluster 1, with 45 blocks consisting of 270 units of 2 Bedroom Apartments with complementary infrastructure. As we hand over the keys to the new homeowners, we reaffirm our commitment to completing Clusters 2 and 3.

“Mr. Governor, in his magnanimity has graciously approved that all existing subscribers with full payment for either a unit of 2 bedroom or 3 bedroom flat be allocated this very cluster at no additional fees to the selling price. This is to appreciate their trust and commitment over time in our dear State.

“However, other subscribers with more than 50% commitment on the initial selling price shall be considered with an option to balance up at the current selling price. When clusters 2 and 3 of the scheme are delivered in due course, there will be an additional 576 homes to the housing stock in the area, thus bringing us to the original vision of the project. This project was faced with a lot of challenges which made it a herculean task for over two decades.”

Rufai said that it was important for the reporter to come with documents of the aggrieved allottees so that he could trace their names and understand their challenges.

However, the reporter made available only documents of Mr Obadimeji Gbolahan Philips, which Rufai, together with the reporter started tracing.

The first office showed that Philips had submitted a letter requesting a refund. It was believed that his money should have been ready at Estate and Accounts.

However, Estate and Accounts, said that they were only in charge of filing copies of the letters requesting for refunds and that the Legal Department was in charge of payment.

The duo walked to the Legal Department, where it was stated that every allottee that wrote a letter demanding for refund would be refunded, pending proper investigations and verifications of their documents.

A lawyer and former President, Committee for Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Malachy Ugwumadu reacting to the issue, said that what was important to determine in the matter was whether there was a valid contract between those civil servants and the agency of Lagos state government or Lagos state government itself to the property.

“Once there was an offer and acceptance, without a counter offer established and documented, even if they are not documented but there are circumstances indicating that the offer made to them were taken, from both sides practical steps in the actualisation of that contract, of that understanding. Then a prima facia has arisen all they need to do is to go beyond speculations.”

The Director of Mobilisation, Joint Action Front (JAF), Comrade Peluola Adewale also has something to say about the issue.

His words: “This shows that the government is not people-friendly. It also shows that the scheme is a facade. It was set up to benefit the politicians. The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and Trades Union Congress (TUC) have to intervene in the matter. As a lesson, such a scheme should be democratically managed to include the elected representatives of workers. With such a measure it would have been difficult to fraudulently deny the affected civilian servants the benefit of their contributions.”

Note: The name of the civil servant used in this publication is not real to protect him/her from being targeted in their places of work by the Lagos State Government, which is their primary employer.

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