Lagos state commissioner for Justice and Attorney General, Ade Ipaye has reacted to the Amnesty International Report on the forced evictions in Badia East area of Lagos. He said contrary to Amnesty’s suggestions of an inhumane government, the Lagos state government was committed to the welfare of its residents and the protection of their rights.
Ipaye spoke at a news conference today, that in the main focussed on the appeal by the government against the acquittal of Major Hamzat Al-Mustapha and Lateef Shofolahan by a Federal Appeal Court on 5 July.
He stated that while government was in the process of organizing assistance for affected persons on humanitarian grounds, the public should be reminded that rights come with responsibilities and that it should not be assumed that anyone could set up residence anywhere without necessary approval and compliance with planning and public health laws.
“Illegal settlements, unapproved buildings and poor sanitary conditions cannot be justified as these may end up in painful evictions or demolitions. The particular area which was the subject of Amnesty International report is a part of the Badia settlement which was earlier cleared of all structures in 2003. It was in fact, a swampy strip and the least built up of the entire community.
“Unfortunately, government was unable to immediately re-develop the area. It was subsequently filled up with refuse, having been used as a refuse dump since it was cleared. A few plank and shanty structures were put up there which grew gradually into a small community characterized by all the negative features of urban slum settlement, including unstructured shelter arrangements, regular flooding, unhealthy environment, insecurity and people engaging in all sorts of nefarious activities,” he explained.
He added that government had to retake possession of the land to build 1,008 estate, saying that before the retaining of possession of the slum, government had held several meetings with stakeholders in the area and that it was agreed that the illegality in the area must not be allowed to continue.
Ipaye said government was currently in the process of ascertaining the persons actually affected by this project with a view to assisting them, stressing that while such effort was ongoing, “we need to stress that we have a limitation, in that we cannot make that a standard procedure.
“Because of limited means and various competing interests, government does not have the resources to guarantee payment to any person that puts up an unapproved building on land to which he or she is not entitled.”
He added that “while we are mindful of the need to discourage such practices, obviously, once government begins to pay for illegal developments, it will have to do so in all other cases. As a responsive government, we will continue to make and implement policies that positively affect the lives of our citizens and fulfill our electoral promises while managing the impact on persons who may be adversely affected by the process.”