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Urban renewal: Ilorin traders, others lament as govt steps up demolition

For many residents of Ilorin, the massive demolitions amidst constructions going on in the state capital has been a source of concern. The government recently…

For many residents of Ilorin, the massive demolitions amidst constructions going on in the state capital has been a source of concern.

The government recently rolled out the bulldozers to pull down shops and structures around strategic places within the metropolis it said encroached on its urban renewal project.

The development was a follow-up to the several quit notices the present administration and the past governments had served the affected traders and residents.

The Chief Press Secretary to Kwara State Governor,Rafiu Ajakaye, reacting to criticism from some quarters that trailed the exercise, said “Marking (and demolition) of encroaching structures is a standard practice aimed at facilitating infrastructural development.”

From Ahmadu Bello Way, including the gate and fence of the Government House, to popular areas like Taiwo, Unity, Sulu Gambari, Post Office, Tanke, part of Offa Garage and down to the hinterlands of Oloje, Alfa Yahaya and Surulere, demolition is ongoing, to pave way for construction work.

However, while the government has received applause in some circles over the decision to restore and improve the planning of the state capital, the development has come with pains for many of the victims following the large-scale demolition of their shops and businesses including knocks from the major opposition party.


How it started

In 2022, the state government announced its plan to present a new Ilorin master plan, the second since the creation of the state in 1967. The move, it said, was to reposition the fast-growing city for the next 20 years.

According to the executive chairman KwaraState Geographic Information Service (GIS), Mallam Abdulmutalib Shittu, who doubles as the chairman of the working committee of the Ilorin master plan project, the new master plan will address “the future of the about 3.5 million population growth in Ilọrin.

“The first master plan was designed in 1976 during the regime of David Bamgboye and expired 21 years ago. It was long overdue to address the issues of road expansion, wastage disposal/management and other aspects that make safe and decent human living possible.

“The new master plan would have such infrastructure as an industrial park, bus mass transit, model international market, special economic zones and residential cities among others, and cover trade, investment, healthcare, agriculture, transportation, housing, tourism and education.”

Speaking during its launch which was accompanied with the unveiling of a N1.7 trillion smart city as part of activities for this year’s Democracy Day, Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq said Kwara State was adding another cornerstone to the foundation laid over 48 years ago by the founding fathers who designed the first master plan for Ilorin.

“This is about making our capital city habitable, compliant with the rules that govern urban planning in the age of climate crisis, and bequeathing a legacy for those coming after us. The United Nations World Population Prospects has put Ilorin as the third most populous metro area in the entire northern Nigeria, preceded only by Kaduna and Kano in the ascending order.

“Ilorin, according to this data, has had a population growth rate of between 2.53 percent in 2020 and 3.3percent in 2024. These are not mere statistics but have dire consequences for how we live and survive.

“While the Ilorin City Master Plan has been designed to guide how we live sustainably for the next 40 years, the Smart City is our innovative response to the multidimensional challenges of urban living that now confronts Ilorin, including congestion and the associated pressures it brings on the existing infrastructure,” AbdulRazaq said.

But the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in a statement by Olusegun Adewara, its Publicity Secretary, knocked the administration over the ambitious project, describing it as anti-masses.

“At a time when the government should be implementing programmes and policies to ameliorate the hardship in the country, the Abdulrazaq administration decided to embark on the massive demolition of people’s businesses and sources of livelihood,” he said.


Traders, residents lament

Shop owners and residents affected by the ongoing demolition across the metropolis have called on the government to provide them with assistance.

According to Mallam Yusuf Abdullahi Shiga, a wrist watch and perfume seller, the demolition has seriously affected his business.

“We don’t have any ownership evidence or CofO to claim right or any compensation. The government did not provide an alternative place for us to move to.Where will I start from now with the situation in the country after spending 30 years here?.

“I have three wives and 18 children. A lot of people have been thrown out of business and these youths you see selling second hand jeans and clothing around here are mostly graduates. If they cannot get what to eat and where to do business, what do you expect? Kwara is one of the most peaceful states in the country, the government should look at how to assist the over 1,000 people affected in just this axis, this is like adding salt to our injuries,” he stressed.

A business centre owner, Elder Akande Johanson, said: “We are disappointed over the situation. Some of us only got a few days notice unlike others.

“Some of us just recently got a loan to improve our businesses. Those of us that don’t have the opportunity to work with government but are struggling to survive deserve to be supported not pushed out of business.

The government, rather than driving us away, outrightly, from this place, can come up with a plan to use this development to further improve the state IGR by constructing shops and renting them out to us,” he said.

A student, Tunde, who deals on sim cards said: “We were informed about the plan to relocate us from here since 2023 by the previous government.

“We have graduates and secondary school leavers, including parents and children trading here, where do they want us to start from?”

Mrs Rukayyat, a lingerie seller, who broke down in tears, said the government’s action would increase her hardship as a single mother.

“It is painful looking at your lifetime investment crumbling before your very eyes. I am a single mother and depend on this business which I started in 2008to cater for my children and family members. They should have provided an alternative place for us before the demolition of our shops and sources of livelihoods in the present economic situation. The government should please come to our aide, this is devastating,” she added.

Another student, who simply identified himself as Abdullahi, said: “I sponsor myself in school from the money I make daily here and also assist my parents but that is no more possible. We are left with zero options for now, all our containers and shops are gone. It will be difficult to quantify or estimate our loss in monetary terms, although I am not saying the action is bad. Personally, I look up only to Almighty Allah because any promise from the government cannot be relied upon,” the phone accessories seller said.

Another trader, Mazi Joe Ojukwu, said although they are occupying the place illegally, the government should have made it a win-win situation because they also collect revenue from them.

“The country is hard and throwing people out of businessat this time is not the best. Some of us collected bank loans and just restocked. This might lead to a high rate of crime because majority of the victims are youths. Although business had been slow after the removal of fuel subsidy, we were still hanging on. But this will worsen the situation,” he said.

Speaking with Daily Trust, a Kwara-based private developer, Prince Adegoke Adeola, said there are three perspectives to the issue.

“Every state has its master plan that the government would want to follow strictly which the Kwara State government is doing now in the case of those who encroached on its setbacks.

“On the other hand, hunger across the country calls for stomach infrastructure which the government can create by providing an enabling environment which is not limited to beautification. Most of the basic amenities like electricity, farm roads and hospitals need to be top notch to attract expatriates and investors.

“The affected residents and traders need to comply with the government on this. They can however try to seek the consent of the government for assistance to help them pick up after the loss of their means of livelihoods.”


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