Buratai, our correspondent learnt, had been invited by the Nigerian Army Properties Limited to commission an estate, Apple Island, inside Banana Island, when the residents mobilised against the inauguration.
The Chief of Army Staff, who was taken aback by the blockage, appealed to the protesters, who alleged militarisation of the estate and destruction of their jetty by soldiers.
“I was actually supposed to come here yesterday (Friday) and I put it off for certain reasons. I decided to come here to see what the position is. I came here to see the general area first of all.
“But now, nothing is going to happen without following the due process to consult you for your view. Rest assured, we are here for your interest and the interest of the country,” Buratai said in a video of the incident.
The Chief of Army Staff was said to have left without cutting the tape, just as he allegedly ordered that the project board earlier put up for the occasion be removed.
A resident, Tokunbo Wahab, told our correspondent that a battalion of soldiers had created panic last Monday when they stormed the estate.
He claimed that the armed men destroyed the estate jetty fence and signboard on the premise that it was part of the Apple Island.
He said, “On Monday, May 28, the eve of Democracy Day, some armed military men came to destroy our jetty and everything we had there. They came in through the estate gate and stationed themselves there till Friday. They claimed to be acting on the orders of the Nigerian Army Property Limited. Despite our protest, they wanted to go ahead with the inauguration.
“On Friday, some of us challenged the illegality of militarising the estate and we asked them to leave. Around 4pm, the soldiers were withdrawn.
“However, on Saturday, we saw armed policemen and we decided to mobilise as residents when we got the information that the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, was on his way to inaugurate the said Apple Island.
“We decided to form a human shield as he was coming down from his car. We expressed our anger at the militarisation of a civilian estate and the destruction of our property. We told him that we had approval to have a jetty on the estate which they claimed was the take-off point of their Apple Island. We also said they could not use an existing estate as an access to another estate.”
Wahab, who showed our correspondent a video clip of the encounter, said the COAS appeased them by saying he had only visited to see the site.
He added that the military boss promised that the damage would be repaired and nothing would be done without the consent of the residents.
“We do not have a problem with Apple Estate. However, our concerns are that they want to use Banana Island access road by destroying the play area, the recreation area and the jetty area. They want to use them as access to their own Island. We do not agree because they will be disrupting the master plan of our estate and killing people’s investments. Banana Island is what it is because some people invested their money, resources and time,” he said.
Another resident, Wale Oladapo, claimed that the estate had approvals to use the site for a jetty.
He showed our correspondent a document dated July 2017 and reportedly issued by one M.J. Sambo of the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWAL) which approved the jetty construction.
Another document, said to have been issued by the Federal Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, approved another part of the estate for recreational purposes.
“We called NIWAL and other agencies that issue approval to ask if they were aware of these people, but the agencies denied them, including the Lagos State Government. We asked them to show one approval, but they could not. However, we have our approvals from the Federal Government.
“Everybody is in panic because the Saturday experience was horrible. The army took control of everywhere. Nobody could move or do anything. This is a family estate, not a war zone,” he added.
The Vice Chairman of the Banana Island Property Owners and Residents Association, Mr Biodun Jegede, said the residents were worried for their security and safety if Banana Island Estate was used as access to the proposed new estate.
“There is no study to show the environmental impact assessment of the proposed island on this estate because we know these things need to be thoroughly thought about. This estate is a closed unit. If you decide to cut through it to open another estate, you are opening us up to danger.
“It is also high time we stemmed the occurrence of illegality in this country. If a land has been allocated for a purpose, and it is to be reversed, it should be done the right way. Not by somebody coming up and proposing something that was not there in the first place. You don’t need to kill something good to create another good item,” he added.
The Managing Director of the Nigerian Army Properties Limited, Gen. Umaru Mohammed (rtd), did not pick his calls and had yet to respond to a text message sent to him on Tuesday.
An official of the company, who spoke to our correspondent, referred PUNCH Metro to the project developer, Mr. Jide Ayoade, of Taurauf International Limited.
Ayoade, however, said the access road was constructed by the Federal Government.
He said, “Go to the area in question and take a picture of it and the road, then go to the Federal Ministry of Lands, Works and Housing in Lagos and look at the survey. That road was established for over 30 years now and was done by the government. So, if government leaves a project and comes back to it, I don’t think there is anything wrong with it.
“When they say they have a recreational centre; ask them where the land that was originally earmarked for recreation was. They sold it among themselves.
“The estate is owned by the Federal Ministry of Works, Land and Housing. Check the layout of the estate. It is the ministry that owns it; they (Banana Island Estate residents) don’t even give them (ministry of works, land and housing) access to their own estate. The Federal Government constructed the road and gave it to the estate to manage.”