Lagos Building Demolitions: An Avoidable Exercise or a Legal Imperative?

Photo of a building under demolition | Image source: Pexel

The recent surge in
building demolitions, orchestrated by both the Federal Housing Authority (FHA)
and the Lagos state government, has ignited substantial controversy within the
state. Thousands of buildings have succumbed to the jaws of unfeeling bulldozers,
leaving many people homeless and transforming landlords into tenants overnight.

In a state grappling with
a significant housing deficit of over 3 million units, as reported by Pison
Housing in their analysis of ‘The State of the Real Estate Market in Nigeria’, diverse reactions have emerged from different quarters. The perspectives range
from a vantage point of pain to one emphasizing civic duty. The demolition,
causing both economic and social upheaval, prompts numerous questions about the
justification of the associated costs.

Considering that Lagos
already faces a housing deficit of over 3 million units, with 8 out of every 10
individuals being tenants, and an average daily influx of 128,840 people,
according to the state Housing commissioner, the impact of this demolition
spree on exacerbating the housing deficit and displacing more communities
cannot be overstated.

Economically, the
consequences are dire. On the surface, one envisions the destruction of
buildings worth hundreds of millions at the merciless hands of bulldozers.
Looking more broadly, the impact on livelihoods is immense; landlords not only
transition into tenants overnight but also face homelessness. The substantial
loss of revenue for private estate developers echoes this sentiment as well.
Importantly, the government stands to lose significant tax revenue that could
have accrued from the real estate sector, impacting the direct or indirect
growth of the economy.

Despite these economic
and social considerations, government authorities provide three broad reasons
to justify their actions: structural instability of buildings, contravention of
physical planning and approval laws, and the need to save lives. Plausibly, one
might question whether the economic costs of demolition are worth the potential
loss of human lives. According to a report, one of the demolitions in an
exclusive part of the state was a response to the collapse of a 7-storey
building under construction.

Furthermore, as a coastal
city, Lagos faces a high risk of flooding, and state laws permit the removal of
buildings within a seven-meter drainage proximity. Such structures pose
significant dangers to human lives, causing massive flooding when blocking
wastewater and water channels.

However, a critical
inquiry arises when scrutinizing the situation: Where was the government during
the construction of these buildings? The apparent lack of oversight during the
construction phase raises valid concerns about accountability and

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