Controversy over Fed Govt’s Ondo housing initiative

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Ondo State is one of the states selected to benefit from the Ministerial Housing Scheme under the National Housing Fund programme. The state was picked to benefit from the 10,000 mass housing units for workers by former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2011. The Jonathan housing project was yet to be completed when President Mohammadu Buhari initiated another housing project. A total of 105 housing units were to be built as part of the first phase of the project which began in 2015 and expected date for completion of the project was first quarter of 2016.

Contract for the housing project was awarded to Meadville Building and Construction Company owned by Otunba Ademola Mike-Benson. The buildings comprising two and three-bedroom flats are built along Igbatoro Road, Alagbaka area of Akure.

It was gathered that the land on which the housing project was being built was acquired 40 years ago. It was said to be part of the land covered by Federal Government Layout which housed other Federal Government structures such as the State Police Command Headquarter, the Nigerian Customs Service; the Ondo State Headquarters of Nigerian Immigration Service; the National Population Commission’s Office; and the Federal High Court building, among others.

A recent visit to the site showed many of the housing units located opposite the Ondo State Police headquarters have neared completion stage but further progress work on the project has been delayed due to funding and attack by some traditional worshipers on workers engaged by the construction firm. Engineers and labourers are now scared to return to work as charms and juju were reportedly placed on the land some weeks ago.

Besides the alleged attack by the traditional worshippers, suspected thugs are said to constantly harass workers and scare them away.

It was gathered that those indigenous to Akure are not happy that the lands given to various government agencies by their forebears were being underutilised.

Sources said they have written to some of the agencies such as the Federal College of Agriculture to return some acres of land so as to use them for community development.

However, the bone of contention between the estate developer and the Deji of Akure, according to state government sources, is the insistence by the Deji of Akure that some acres be returned to the community.

In May this year, traditional worshippers, clad in white, allegedly stormed the project site with black fowl, white pigeon and other fetish objects to perform what was said to be an annual ritual. Workers present at the site fled until policemen were called in to restore normalcy.

Leader of the traditional worshippers, Chief Abisoye Asoga the Adigun of Akure land, said they were not at the site for the purpose of land grabbing but to perform the ritual at a small rock inside the estate, which he said is performed once in 10 years.

But Otunba Akin-Benson said the worshippers were being sponsored by some land grabbers to stop further work on the site, even though the land was legally acquired by the Federal Government for the purpose of building the low-cost housing estate.

Akin-Benson said incessant attacks by thugs and ritualists made him to seek legal redress and the court ordered all parties, including the Deji of Akure Oba Ogunlade Aladetoyinbo to maintain the status quo ante to enable the contractor to return to site continue work on the project.

He called on President Mohammadu Buhari and Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, to call Deji of Akure Oba Aladetoyinbo Aladelusi to order and to warn him to stop using herbalists to hamper progress of work on the project.

Akin-Benson said all efforts to make peace with the Akure monarch failed, adding that Certificate of Occupancy (Cof O) of the land has been given to him (Medaville Building and Construction Co. Limited) since July 16, 2009, regretting that the Deji is still claiming ownership of the estate.

He said: “I was astonished that, despite the case of criminal trespass before the Ondo State High Court, the Imperial Majesty came and threatened us. They brought juju and charms to disrupt the Federal Government’s housing project in Alagbaka. It is quite unfortunate.