By Kazeem Ugbodaga
Displaced residents of Otodo Gbame, a sprawling slum in Lekki area of Lagos, Southwest Nigeria on Wednesday stormed the State House, Alausa to protest and demand the resettlement of over 30,000 displaced victims.
The protesters barricaded the entrance to the governor’s office and demanded immediate resettlement.
Armed with placards, leaves and mat, the protested said they would pass the night at the entrance of the Lagos House if Governor Akinwunmi Ambode failed to fulfill their promises.
The protesters said after the final demolition on April 2016, the state government allegedly promised to provide relief and resettlement to the evictees.
Following the assurance, the protesters said they embarked on tracing evictees to various communities and compiled their lists which was handed over to the government for possible action.
The protesters said even with the court order directing that evictees be resettled, the Lagos State Government was yet to provide any relief or resettlement months after.
Spokesperson of the protesters, Olutimehin Adegbeye, Policy Advocacy and Communication Officer for Justice and Empowerment Initiative (JEI), decried that the government has failed in fulfilling its promises.
He added that the government had allegedly failed in responding to correspondence from the organization.
According to him, the body had communicated with the state government on several issues as regard resettlement and compensation for the victims, but that the government had assured that relief.
Amnesty International had on Tuesday said the Nigerian authorities must halt a violent, unlawful campaign of demolitions and forced evictions of waterfront communities in Lagos State which has so far left more than 30,000 people homeless and 11 dead.
A new report, “The Human Cost of a Megacity: Forced Evictions of the Urban Poor in Lagos,” details repeated forced evictions of the Otodo-Gbame and Ilubirin communities carried out since March 2016 without any consultation, adequate notice, compensation or alternative housing being offered to those affected. Some evictees drowned as they fled police gunfire, while at least one was shot dead.
But the Lagos State Government on Tuesday faulted the report released by Amnesty International regarding forced eviction of residents of Otodo Gbame.
A statement from the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Steve Ayorinde said the main area of focus in the report – Ilado (which visitors to the State often refer to as Otodo Gbame) has always been a private land and subject of a law suit, which has been decided in favour of the family owners.
“It was in November 2016 that inter-ethnic clashes led to the fire incident that got the settlement consumed and not as a result of government-sponsored demolition. Otodo Gbame was one of the 39 waterfront settlements that took Lagos State to court over its plan to rid its prime waterfront areas of illegal shanties that constitute security and environmental threat to the general public. The court judgement in favour of the plaintiff has since been appealed with related applications for stay of action.
“Lagos State Government insists that Otodo Gbame was used as a temporary fishing outpost. The fishermen had their permanent homes in Badagry, Cotonou (Benin Republic) and Lome (Togo). Indeed, many of such people have returned to their homes since the unfortunate fire incident of November 2016. The rest should be encouraged to do likewise rather than spur them on to play the victim, fight legal owners of the land or to demonise govt.
“The Lagos State House of Assembly did carry out an independent investigation and published its findings, stating clearly that Otodo Gbame was a temporary fishing outpost on the waterways which wanted to illegally appropriate the land that welcomed them on a temporary basis. It is an illegal settlement that should not be allowed to use emotionalism and sensationalism to forcibly take over a private property,” it said.
The statement said the government had no interest in the land whatsoever since it’s a private property, saying that the interest of the State was to rid the prime waterways off shanties and illegal structures, particularly when security intelligence had shown clearly that they were either safe havens or gateways for armed robbers, kidnappers and militants.