Recently, residents of Otodo-Gbame community in Lekki phase 1, Eti-Osa Local Government of Lagos State woke up to find bulldozers, escorted by policemen and other security officials demolishing their homes. By the time the dust settled, about 4,698 residents of the small fishing settlement on the edge of the Lagos Lagoon have been rendered homeless.
This was despite the fact that there was a subsisting court order and positive interim court ruling, gotten four months ago, which ordered the State Government to mediate with the residents of waterfront communities.
The residents argued that the demolition squad included security personnel attached to the Lagos State Task Force, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC and officials from the state Ministry of Environment.
When questioned, some of the personnel reportedly claimed that they were deployed to work for the Lagos State Ministry of Environment. A Task Force official at the scene disclosed that the demolition order came from the Governor, just as he pointed to a Rapid Response Squad (RRS) helicopter hovering over the community during the demolition exercise.
One of the displaced residents, Abdul-rahman Sehnu, lamented that there was no prior notice from the government to the residents to vacate the community.
The Lagos state government has however denied it ordered the crackdown on waterfront slums, blaming the destruction at Otodo Gbame on fire incident.
The State’s Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Steve Ayorinde, on the government’s website, explained that from Police reports and evaluation by the government, the waterfront community was razed by the fire incident that happened as a result of the ethic clash that occurred between the Egun and Yoruba residents within the community.
Many people have traced the whole issue to the government’s ambitious mega city project. Lagos has an infrastructural and housing crisis which is a no brainier considering that modest estimates put the state’s population at 18 million. A number that continues to swell as more and more people migrate to the state daily. Housing projects have not kept up with this number meaning neighborhoods are incredibly crowded and expensive for those that have to resort to living there.
As it is to be expected, waterfronts are prime real estates and the government and private developers likely see the prospect of luxury homes, a money-spinning shopping mall or high-rise office complex. This means that slum dwellers like those at the Lekki waterfonts are now at much higher risk of being evicted, without notice or compensation. Thus forceful evictions have almost become the order of the day especially when the dwellers are poor and have no where to run to.
The Commissioner conceded this much when he said that the Otodo Gbame shanties clearly fell within the prime waterfront areas where Lagos State Government would prefer to have better development, befitting of a prime area in a mega city. Although he maintained the government was mindful of the fundamental rights of the various residents living in the area.
Reacting to the development, Amnesty International (AI), in a statement, condemned the demolition exercise by Lagos State Government. Morayo Adebayo, Housing Rights Researcher with AI, said: “This is to draw your attention to the fact that, right now Lagos state government with the cover of military and police have demolished Otodo Gbame, a waterfront community contrary to a court ruling restraining any demolition of the community.
“Amnesty International condemns forced eviction in any form and calls for a halt. The affected community is entitled to Right to Housing. Forced eviction without consultation, relocation or compensation is a violation of Human Rights,” she added.
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