Plans to site an International Airport at the Lekki Free Trade Zone suffered a setback as the stakeholders’ meeting between Lagos State government and representatives of Ibeju Lekki and Epe communities ended in a stalemate Representatives of the 65 communities at the meeting on Thursday strongly disagreed with the government officials, led by the Permanent Secretary of the State Land Bureau, Gbenga Ashafa, to use their land for the proposed airport.
At a meeting well attended by the village heads and clans of both communities, Ashafa had urged the representatives to support the government’s plan, saying that they would all be compensated. However in a swift reaction, the villagers rejected the compensation offered by the government but preferred to partner with whichever company or individual that would build the airport on the land.
According to Abduraheem Owolabi of the Ogungbo community, who spoke on behalf of the communities, the issue of land acquisition is beyond compensation now. He added: “We don’t need government compensation. What we need now is a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between either the government or the company that is planning to site an airport on our land.”
Owolabi, who claimed to be a lawyer, said that the discussion over the location of the airport was beyond the permanent secretary, calling on the government to reschedule a meeting where the modalities and terms of acquisition would be adequately spelled out to the landowners.
“We are not illiterates. We see what is going on in the developed countries. I’m not a politician, and I [a] make bold to challenge any government. We are not ready to take any compensation. The government must tell us if the building of the airport is through private public partnership or not. We need to know, and we want to participate. We don’t need compensation,” he said.
Corroborating Owolabi, founder of Oodua Peoples Congress, Dr. Fredrick Fasheun, called on the government to be cautious about the acquisition, saying, “We have to be very careful not to let this be like another Maroko saga where many people lost their land without any compensation.”
In his comment, representative of oil palm farmers in the area, Wale Oyekan of Bahma Farms, said he had invested over N250 million on the land and that no compensation could be sufficient enough to take care of the investment.
In his response, Ashafa reiterated the commitment of the state government to compensate the landowners, adding that the government had so far paid over N390 million as compensation over land acquisition to the Export Processing Zone. He said that the present administration, however, stopped to pay some people when it realized that the villagers had been duplicating documents to collect compensation twice.
“As [of] now, we are still investigating on whom to pay and not to pay. This is because we don’t want a situation where the auditor will think that we have colluded with the people to steal public money,” he said.