Militants’ attacks: Lagos residents put up houses, lands for sale

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…hospitals, hotels shut

.Navy storms creeks
.Panic uncalled for –PPRO

Gbenro Adeoye, Fisayo Falodi, Kunle Falayi, Tunde Ajaja, and Eric Dumo

Some residents of riverside communities in Lagos State are selling off their lands and houses in fear following attacks by suspected Niger Delta militants in the areas, Saturday PUNCH has learnt.

In the first week following the last attack by militants in Igbo-Olomu and Isawo areas of Ikorodu, residents fled hurriedly to avoid being killed.

But during a visit to the communities, our correspondents learnt that the residents had gone beyond fleeing the troubled communities to selling their houses, lands and other properties in panic.

The panic sale was confirmed by the head of the Olomu family, the main landowner in Igbo Olomu.

A real estate agent, Ojo Alaso, told one of our correspondents that he had been approached by at least three people, whom he had helped to buy lands in the areas.

Alaso said, “I cannot blame them, all the things happening here are enough to scare anyone.

“Honestly, I know this problem will be addressed one day, but people have become so scared of the attacks that they are having a rethink about living here.

“One of the men who told me to help resell his land already planned that by the end of this year, he might start the construction works. But he called me early in the week to inform me that he was no longer interested in the building plan.

“They are even willing to sell the lands below the market value.”

In Igbo-Olomu, a plot of land close to the major road is sold for between N3m and N4m, while in Isawo, it goes for up to N5.5m, one real estate agent, David Ashana, told Saturday PUNCH.

“But as you go inwards, the cost can be as low as N400, 000 and as high as N1.5m,” Ashana, said.

The agent explained that a woman who bought a land in the area for N900, 000 about seven months ago had now put it up for sale for N500, 000.

“If you have N400, 000 you can buy it from her, you only need to pay my commission,” he added.

When our correspondents visited the office of the Olomu family, a man who was later identified as the Olori Ebi (family head), explained that he had been receiving reports about people putting their houses up for sale.

He said, “People don’t feel safe because of the insecurity caused by militants. This is a serious issue; the policemen deployed here do not patrol the inner areas of the community.

“So, people may be raped and killed in the interior parts of our community and the policemen will not do anything. This is why people are selling their properties. The police presence here is not effective.”

He directed one of our correspondents to a street where an agent announced on a signpost that a house was available for sale in the community.

When one of correspondents called the agent over the phone, he said he was out of town but gave a description of the location of the three-bedroomed house previously occupied by the owner until he fled the area about a month ago.

“The man who owns the house decided to sell it two weeks ago and N2.5m is the asking price,” he said.

The cost of land alone in that same location is between N1.2m and N1.5m.

An estate agent, Mr. Victor Oluyi, who said his company had dealt with a number of clients in that part of Ikorodu, Lagos, explained that normally, a finished three-bedroomed house is worth over N4m in the area.

A community leader and rights activist in the area, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid being killed by militants, told Saturday PUNCH that a man simply identified as Aroso Alajo (a popular thrift collector) wanted to sell his three-bedroomed house. The asking price for the house, according to him, is N2.5m.

He said another resident he identified as Pastor Ogunsanwo had also put his house up for sale.

The rights activist said, “My opinions were published in the newspapers after the attacks in the community. The militants said if I did not keep my mouth shut, I would die.

“We were there when the militants first killed nine people in our area. Right now, no fewer than 40 residents have been killed in the community. They even beheaded some of the victims and took their heads away. So, people selling their lands and houses are not overreacting at all.”

One of our correspondents, who visited the Aroso Alajo’s house, noticed that no single person was in sight in the whole area. It was learnt that none of the residents had returned to the area.

A commercial motorcyclist said it was too risky to visit the house put up for sale by Pastor Ogunsanwo earlier identified.

He said the area was too deserted but took one of our correspondents to another house, a storey building with a servants’ quarters with at least half a plot extra land. It was put up for sale for N5m by the owner.

At Totowu, a community in Igando area of Lagos, that had initially been attacked by militants few weeks ago, residents are also disposing of their homes in fear.

Findings by Saturday PUNCH showed that a good number of landlords had already put their houses up for sale fearing that the militants might strike again anytime.

“They promised to ‘clear’ our community, so what is the use of staying here, when none of the security agencies has visited this place since the last attack. Since the militants promised to come back, I’m sure they will have a field day, so it’s best to run away before they come,” a landlord told Saturday PUNCH.

Meanwhile, all the houses on offer for sale are at prices far below their market value.

“It is so bad that most of us just want to sell before we are killed by those boys, because it doesn’t even seem this place will be safe in the nearest future, the landlord, who identified himself as Jonathan, said.

Jonathan said he had already succeeded in selling his property, a three-bedroomed flat for N2m. He said it was a better option for him as he didn’t know what would become of the area in years to come, more so that the militants could make good their threat.

Jonathan said, “If they succeed with that threat, we would be killed while the houses would be gone as well.”

Although a plot of land in the area costs around N1m, Jonathan explained that he spent N4m to complete the house.

Though there are no “To Let” boards on the properties, our correspondents learnt from reliable sources within the estate that many properties were already put up for sale and the owners were ready to sell them at any reasonable price.

On one of the streets is an uncompleted four-bedroomed flat. The construction has reached lintel level but the owner has already sold it for a meagre N600, 000.

A resident confided in two of our correspondents that the owner of the building sold it to raise money to relocate. One of the landlords said, “I can confirm to you that some of us are offering our properties for sale. Two people have sold their own already. Somebody sold a bungalow for N2m. And another person sold his four-bedroomed flat to avoid staying there and be killed by militants.

“There are many houses for sale now and they are very cheap. All of them are on a dry land. If you want to buy a house, whether completed or uncompleted, just come. You will get many of them because many people want to sell.

“Since that incident, some people have not come back because there is this fear that the militants could come back. Some even told us to help them look for buyers. There is no police presence since then. They have not deployed their men. In fact, we are living under the mercy of God here.

In same vein, Iyewo Estate in Akesan, Igando area of Lagos is another community that had come under attack by the militants earlier in the month.

As a result of the attack, some residents had fled the community, while some others, who seem to have lost hope in the security of the place, have put up their houses for sale.

At least two landlords on Samuel Olaoluwa Street are said to be looking for buyers for their houses. Meanwhile, a source close to the landlords said they seemed ready to accept any reasonable offer just to hurriedly flee the area.

Commenting on the development and its impact on property values, an estate surveyor and valuer, Mr. Dipo Fakorede, said, “Of course, it will have effect on property values, because when everybody is leaving a particular location, it means the area is not safe and when there are no demand for properties, automatically the prices will crash. Definitely the prices, both rental and sale, will crash.

“Meanwhile, some speculators will take advantage of the situation. When people are abandoning their properties and selling at ridiculous prices, people who have the cash would definitely buy, although for future advantage. This is because by the time the insecurity there is addressed, the values will keep rising and people who have taken advantage of that would be laughing to the bank.

“On whether it is a good idea to buy such a property, some people might think you are taking advantage of the victims, but there is nothing wrong for any investor who wants to buy such a property inasmuch as they are not going to the bank to borrow the money.”

However, the police in Lagos said the panic in the areas previously attacked were unjustified, promising that they are on top of the situation.

“People don’t have to move out of the areas, the Lagos State Police Command is on top of the situation,” spokesperson for the police in Lagos, Dolapo Badmos told Saturday PUNCH.

On Thursday, news filtered in that the military in company with other security agencies were conducting operations in Ikorodu, Lagos. The operation was also extended to Arepo and Ibafo areas of Ogun State where the military bombed some militants’ hideouts.

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