- Rent out rooms to ‘tenants’
A seven-storey building said to belong to the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity, located at the Marina area of Lagos, has been rented out to interested individuals by a group of street-wise touts, our correspondent’s investigation has revealed.
Their illegal action only caught the attention of the Lagos State Government late last month when officials from Urban Development paid a visit, and consequently erected a sign-post, to scare away the unauthorised occupant.
It was learnt that the “landlords” collect daily rent on the property from their “tenants.”
The abandoned property, which is just a stone –throw to the office of the Mirror newspapers, was said to have been taken over by the touts shortly after the ministry relocated to Abuja, some years back.
Our correspondent gathered initially the illegal occupants looted some of the rooms that used to serve as offices and sold off the valuables taken from the building.
The touts then began to charge anyone who wanted to take shelter in the facility N50 daily.
Most of their initial clients, it was gathered, were people coming to work in Lagos Island from far-away places.
The street-wise guys, our findings further revealed, later decided to take-over the entire building, having realised that nobody challenged their action.
“In the first instance, the area boys blocked a tiny link-path that serves as a walkway linking Marina with Broad Street by erecting a small gate with a padlock waiting for a challenge from any quarter .The gate only admits their members and what was going on inside the building remained a secret. But when they noticed that nobody appeared to be interested in their activities, they took over the entire building”, our source said.
The source added, “Barely a year later, the touts gained full control of the entire building and began to allocate the rooms for a fee to those who needed them.”
Investigations by our correspondent revealed that a room now goes for as low as N2, 000 per week, while those who live there permanently upstairs pay N50, 000 annually.
Traders who use the Marina side of the building as warehouse pay a daily token of N1000.
As at our last visit, over 20 hustlers selling goods and other items of commercial value on the Island, but could not immediately afford to rent a shop, availed themselves of the opportunity provided by the abandoned government building.
One noticeable feature of the building is its dirty and unkempt environment. Its original white paint has turned to a whitewash and brownish.
“The water pipes have been damaged by the illegal occupants, who equally broke/ removed the window louvres. Who cares?” Madam Kaleatu Suna, who fries bean-cake at the adjourning street told our reporter.Suna said that, early last year, she noticed the presence of some soldiers within the building’s premises.
“The uniformed men were there for three weeks before their sudden disappearance,” she said.
Another resident of the area, Alhaji Bankole Oki, told our correspondent, “The uniformed men were guarding the nearby banks. They only came within the precinct of the building to smoke weeds.”
One of the building’s “landlords,” Wasiu Sumonu, who was confronted by our correspondent to inquire whether the money realized from renting out the structure was being remitted to government purse, angrily said, “What sort of question are you asking me? Eh! Whether I pay money to the government? Were you sent by the government? Who are you by the way? Go and ask from Buhari whether I pay money collected from tenants. Nonsense. Idiot fellow!”
A photocopier machine operator, who has his make-shift shop at a corner of the building, said, “The building is providing food for the boys. The only thing, they should have made the surrounding clean.
“There are a lot of criminal activities going on in the building, but since I do not belong to their gang, I can only know little about their activities; you know, I have to face my own business.”
Some residents occupying the building, who spoke to our correspondent under the condition of anonymity, admitted living therein due to hardship.
One of them, who refused to identify himself, declined to disclose the actual amount being paid to secure a room in the building.
“It is my business. It is my privacy, which you do not need to probe into. Therefore, you need to mind your own business while I mind mine. Tell me another thing and stop poking your nose into my privacy,” he said.
The Lagos Police Command spokesperson, Superintendent Dolapo Badmos, who was contacted on the issue, “We are not aware of such a thing. You are giving us information and I will let the authority know about it. Just take me by my words. Have a good day”.