Six associations plying their trade in Okobaba Foreshore in Ebuta-Metta have faulted a suit filed before a Federal High Court in Lagos challenging their planned relocation to new Ultra Modern Sawmill in Agbowa-Ikosi, a suburb of Ikorodu by the Lagos State Government.
A group, which described itself as Timber Dealers, Sawyers, and Towing Vessel Owners, had through its lawyer, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, filed a suit on behalf of the stakeholders in Okobaba asking the court to restrain the State Government from relocating them to Agbowa.
But addressing journalists at Bagauda Kaltho Press Centre in Alausa, six critical associations in Okobaba said apart from the fact that they were not contacted before the suit was purportedly filed on their behalf, they equally had no reason whatsoever to stop the good intention of the State Government from coming to fruition.
The associations are Lagos Mainland Sawmillers Association, Association of Planing Machine Operators, Association of Engineers comprising Turners, Welders, Blacksmiths and Rewinders, Wooden Turners Association, Carpentry and Furniture Association and Photo Frame Association.
President of Sawmillers Association, Alhaji Abdulganiyu Onikeku, who addressed journalists alongside executives of other associations, said those who purportedly filed the suit lacked the interest of the generality of stakeholders at heart, adding that the Ultra Modern Sawmill prepared for them at Agbowa by the State Government is the first of its kind in Africa.
Recalling how it all started, Onikeku said he was at the time the General Secretary of the Association when the idea of relocation started, saying the project was first mentioned by former Lagos State Governor, Alhaji Lateef Jakande in 1979.
He said: “As at that time, Alhaji Jakande wrote us a letter and the letter was copied Chief Obafemi Awolowo as Premier of the Old Western Region, and he (Awolowo) indeed wrote to us as well and promised that all that we needed would be provided before we are relocated to the new site.
“Unfortunately, Jakande could not start the project but it came up again during the tenure of Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu. We were about to be relocated to Ejirin but we soon find out that the Lagoon at Ejirin was too deep for our business and there were no sufficient land that could carter for the people from Okobaba. We stood our ground then that we could not move to a place that would not be sufficient for all of our members.
“In the end, Tinubu saw reason with us and told us to go and look for a suitable place which we did. We are the one who located Agbowa and went back to the then Governor, who then approved it and ordered that everything must be done before our relocation.
“Eventually, Tinubu’s successor, Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola started the project and one fact I must point out is that we the stakeholders planned how the new Sawmill will look like with the Engineers to tell you that we were actively involved and that government carried us along right from when the idea was conceived.
“Governor Fashola wanted to commission the project by December of 2014, I refused because the project had not been completed and he agreed with us. Then, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode came and continued the project.
“The last time he (Ambode) went to the site, he initially planned to commission the Sawmill on April 19, 2016 but he shelved it when he was told by Engineers that they needed six more weeks to complete the project, and he even agreed to pay so that the project would be delivered as scheduled.
“I gave all the background for people to understand the sincerity of government on this project and the fact that we the stakeholders were involved at every stage.
“So, we don’t have any reason to frustrate the good intention of government and those who filed the purported suit, I must say, are not the real stakeholders.
Also speaking, the State Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Tpl. Wasiu Anifowose assured that the new sawmill will be completed and commissioned as scheduled by the end of July 2016.
He said Governor Ambode had already directed the officials of the Ministry and the contractor handling the project to keep to the deadline, adding that the directive of the Government would be strictly adhered to.