Controversy is trailing the move by the federal government to construct an interchange at Lotto Bus stop along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.
Members of an Islamic organization, Zumratul Jamiu Mumin Society of Nigeria, said the move is a clandestine plot allegedly influenced by the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) to forcefully eject them from the piece of land at the Pakuro-Lotto axis of the ever-busy Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. An allegation denied by both government and the RCCG.
The group, whose residence, livelihood, and religious activities are based on Kilometre 43, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, alleged that the government is ejecting them in order to construct an interchange that will serve the Redemption camp of the RCCG.
The spokesman of the organization, Alfa Quasim Adejare, who showed the Certificate of Occupancy of the property when Daily Trust visited the settlement known as Islamic City, said the group, which is the only Islamic body in the area, has been living peacefully with its neighbours, including the Deeper Life Bible Church and the RCCG.
“Our founder, Muhammad Jamiu, who was a respected Arabic teacher, a farmer, and the first among his kind that uses turban, to introduce Western education into Arabic and Islamic studies, taught us to live peacefully with all our neighbours.
“Members of the Deeper Life Church whose land is very close to ours, residents of the communities around us, police officers in all the police stations around us and even the members of the RCCG, know we are law-abiding citizens,” he said
Adejare accused the management of RCCG as the mastermind of the move to construct the interchange in order to allow free flow of traffic to the Redemption Camp. He said the move will lead to the demolition of both the government-approved primary and secondary schools established by the group, its mosques, 22 rooms hostel for students and the tombs of its founder and other late members, among other properties.
“Some of the students here are orphans the group is taking care of. How do you displace them to create an interchange that only serves another religious organisation? How do you want them to feel that the burial grounds of their parents were crushed in order for pastors and members of RCCG to have access to their auditorium and university?” he queried.
Adejare, who alleged that the RCCG had approached them in the past with an offer to acquire the land and relocate them to any other place of their choice, added that the idea of the interchange is to achieve the aim of evicting them since they rejected the offer of resettlement from the church.
“The initial plan when this project started was to construct a flyover at Lotto bus stop, which can be seen from the invitation to the stakeholders’ meeting in June 2019, but by February 2020, we got another invitation to another stakeholders’ meeting where we were told that an interchange will be constructed for Redemption camp.
“Why do you have to sacrifice Islamic city and hundreds of other properties if the interchange will serve RCCG. Redemption camp has over 2,500 hectares of land, why is the government targeting our six acres? The interchange can be built at Car Park C but RCCG does not want to lose any property because they have people in power,” he alleged.
The secretary of the organisation, Ahmed Sulaiman Atanda, said the demolition of Islamic City will lead to the displacement of some of their students.
He added that the government should listen to their plea as they have been an organization whose activities are based on engaging children in moral and academic activities. He also said the schools operated by the group have produced graduates from reputable institutions in the country.
“Each member of the group has farmland, even outside the Islamic City, which we use to feed these children and assist the government to feed the nation.
“All the stakeholders at the last meeting with the Federal Ministry of Works wanted a flyover but the government said no going back on its action. Then, RCCG should be asked to make sacrifices from its hectares of land,” he said.
A student of Zumratul Jamiu Mumin Anglo Arabic Secondary School, Abdul Azeez Ridwan, said the demolition of Islamic City would jeopardize the education of the students.
“The leaders of today should not destroy the future of tomorrow’s leaders. If they displace us from here, some students will drop out and might become a nuisance to the society,” he said.
On her part, Abdul Azeez Aishat, pleaded with the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola, not to sacrifice their future for the construction of an interchange.
When Daily Trust visited, it was observed that some properties have been marked for demolition as staff of Julius Berger construction company have started putting structures in place for the interchange.
Daily Trust was told that the project supervisor from the company was away but it was gathered from a staff member, who identified himself as Monday Ojugbeli, that flyovers would be constructed at Kilometres 16 and 37 while an interchange would be built at Kilometre 42.
He added that government had marked houses, petrol stations and other areas that would be demolished.
“The Islamic City is one of the affected areas,” he said.
Speaking with our correspondent, the Director of Highway in the South-West who is in charge of the project, Engr. Adedamola Kuti, said the planned construction of the interchange is in the overriding public interest.
He dismissed the insinuation that the construction was being instigated by certain religious organizations.
According to him, Islamic City is not the only structure affected in the planned demolition.
He said, “First of all, as a government, we don’t do our work based on any religious sentiment. The construction of an interchange at that location is in the overriding public interest. The place has been cited and when it was cited there, nobody knew at that time whether there was any Islamic city or anything.
“So, whatever we have done there or whatever we are doing there is in the overriding public interest. And in any case, they are not the only structures affected”.
The engineer maintained that the construction of the interchange has no religious correlation, stressing that structures belonging to churches and private individuals would also be affected.
“When you are constructing an interchange in the public interest, even if you have a mosque or a church, it has to give way. You cannot put up an interchange and then maybe a mosque or a church, a building or any structure for that matter will be beside it, for the protection of the people,” he said.
He said the ministry has only done the spot assessment of the area, stressing that until the enumeration process is completed, he can’t give specific information on the properties that would be demolished.
“We have not done the actual enumeration to really know who owns which property or which properties are going to be affected.
“They are just speculating. When you want to do any demolition, the owner of the structure, they will take his picture, his details, everything and take the picture of the property, and nobody has done anything like that for now.
“Some properties have to go but I cannot tell you precisely which structure because the actual enumeration has not been done,” he added.
The RCCG has denied the allegation that it influenced the siting of the interchange at Lotto Bus stop, noting that the church is the most affected by the decision.
The Head of Media and Public Relations of RCCG, Pastor Olaitan Olubiyi, who said it is not possible for the organisation to influence the decision of the FG, also denied knowledge of any meeting where RCCG asked members of the Islamic organisation to relocate.
“RCCG is not the FG, the project belongs to the FG. How then can someone suggest that it was RCCG that decided the site of the project for the FG. It is not RCCG that determines where FG will cite its project.”
source: Daily trust