The Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development in Lagos State, Dr Idris Salako, has said no approval has been granted for housing development in the green belt area of Magodo in the Ikosi-Isheri Local Council Development Area of the state.
Salako said this in a rejoinder to an article that the ministry might have secretly given a nod to a consortium made up of suspected land-grabbers, a real estate firm and the traditional authorities to develop an estate in the flood-prone green belt between Magodo phases 1 and 2.
Members of the Gateway Zone Community Development Association in Magodo have vehemently opposed the development of the estate.
PUNCH Metro had reported that the Chairman, Lagos State House of Assembly Committee on Lands, Adedamola Kasunmu, had stated during a press briefing at the Assembly complex that the reports he got from various government agencies, including the Drainage Service Department of the Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development, and the New Towns Development Authority, indicated that developmental projects could be done in the green belt if the drainage channel was upgraded.
Reacting to this, a retired Federal Director of Housing, Yacoob Abiodun, had in an article titled: ‘Magodo green belt development: A physical planning taboo’, condemned the alleged unhidden bias for the project by members of the House committee led by Kasunmu, and the new acting General Manager of the NTDA, O. J. Aboyeji.
Abiodun had also wondered why Salako kept mute on the contending matters regarding land use and physical planning, which were directly under his purview, especially when the Commissioner for Environment and Water Resources, Tunji Bello, had issued a stern warning against the project.
Bello had stated, “The Ministry of Environment is concerned about protecting our green belt areas… The absence of monitoring and enforcement of such areas in the past four years has led to a lot of encroachment.”
In his reaction, Salako stated that the ministry never granted approval for any housing development in the Magodo green belt as doing so would contravene the laws of the state.
The rejoinder read in part, “The Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development, being statutorily charged with physical development and control in Lagos State, deems it appropriate to state in unequivocal terms that there is no iota of truth in the claim that the ministry granted permit for housing development in the Magodo green belt area of Lagos State.
“For the benefit of setting the records straight, the general public is hereby informed that neither the ministry nor any of her agencies received (application for) or granted permit for any housing development in the green belt area of Magodo as mentioned in the subject article.
“This is because doing so is tantamount to outright contravention of the state planning and development control laws, which are the principles and major instruments bestowing a balanced and sustainable environment on distinguished Lagosians.
“Thus, any frivolous claim alleging the involvement of the Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development in this unwholesome development is a deliberate and indeed malicious defamation, which lacks substance or proof.”
The commissioner noted that the state frowned on illegally developed structures, adding that building construction had been suspended in the state because of the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic.
He stated, “However, the ministry will continue to implement the state’s policy of zero tolerance for all illegal physical developments, including the regrettable encroachment of the sensitive/ecological zones to preserve and guard against the misuse/abuse of all green belts, gorges, water bodies, wetlands and other vulnerable natural landscapes in every part of the state.
“The general public is therefore assured that the ministry is in the forefront of efforts to attain an orderly, organised, sustainable and liveable environment by maintaining studious application of the state policies and operative development plans, especially at this period of global environmental challenges typified by the coronavirus pandemic, which has occasioned the state’s directive for the suspension of all building construction as a means of stopping the spread.
“The ministry urges anyone with contrary information to the above to feel free to approach the Lagos State Physical Planning and Building Control Appeals Committee, which is open to receive complaints from members of the public on infractions relating to the built environment.”
Reacting to Salako’s position, Abiodun urged him to back his statement with action to demonstrate the seriousness of his ministry against the encroachment on the Magodo green belt area.
He said, “The commissioner has openly declared that the state government has zero tolerance for green belt development. My take is that he should walk his talk. The part of the Magodo green belt already fenced should be pulled down to demonstrate the seriousness of his ministry against environmental abuse.
“Nobody accused him. I only asked a few pertinent questions as to why he kept quiet and who gave the developer the permit to commence development in the green belt zone. If Tunji Bello went public to declare that green belts were no go areas for development and Salako agrees as he wrote in his rejoinder, what is frivolous in the said article?
“They both need to go the extra mile and take inventory of all green belts in Lagos (Alapere inclusive) in order to determine the extent of the development that has taken place within those preserved areas. Definitely, it is going to be a jaw-dropping revelation! Let every agency be alive to its responsibilities. No more, no less.”