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Aftermath of demolition: Victims say, there is no place to go

by April 15, 2017 General

By Ebun Sessou, Monsuru Olowoopejo & Chigoziri Onuoha

More than 30,000 residents of Otodo-Gbame a waterfront slum in Ikate area of Lagos whose houses and properties were demolished have continued to express their displeasure over the way the Lagos state government have addressed the issue.

To them, the action was totally inhuman and an abuse of their fundamental human rights. Unfortunately, Otodo-Gbame was not the only community involved in this action.

Before now, some slum areas including Tomaro, Otumara, Orisunmibare, Oko Agbon, Itun Atan, Sogunro, the Ikorodu communities of Ofin, Bayeku and Olufunke Majidun and the Bariga communities of Ago Egun, Ebute-Ilaje among others have been demolished and the residents were displaced.

The question therefore is where do the residents of these areas go after demolition?.

It was learnt that some of the communities successfully got a court injunction from Lagos court to halt the demolitions but the injunction was ignored.

Presently, some of the residents of Otodo Gbame community are stranded. They do not have anywhere to stay. Some even seek solace with some NGOs that have been fighting their cause. Some women and children have nowhere to go. What happened to those whose homes had been demolished in the past?

Inside Lagos News gathered that an NGO, Justice and Empowerment Initiatives (JEI), a legal campaign group working with slum dwellers accommodated some of them.

However, Lagos State House of Assembly in November last year constituted an ad-hoc committee to look into the issue of demolition in Lagos. The House also stated that before any demolition would take place in Lagos, an alternative must be provided.

In an interview with newsmen recently, ,Andrew Maki, co-director of JEI said these slums were on waterfronts which are now being recognized as prime areas for redevelopment. “Broadly, we have seen a pattern of evictions in the past year, where increasingly land that has been occupied by the urban poor, sometimes for decades, is being acquired by the government,” Maki said. These acquisitions, Maki says are masked “under the guise of public interest.”

According to him, “Ilubirin, a waterfront area also on the Lagos lagoon, which has also had slums demolished, is an example. In 2014, after the demolition, the state government launched a project to build affordable housing for Lagosians in Ilubirin, but there has since been a change of plans: a new developer, in partnership with the state government, now plans to build luxury condos in the area

However, Member, Lagos State House of Assembly and Chairman House Committee on Works and Infrastructure, Mr. Abiodun Tobun explained that, a slum is not habitable.

According to him, the role and responsibility of any good government is to protect lives and properties of the citizens.

“Before that demolition, I believe government would have called them for possible relocation but because most people seem to be contented with the way they are living, they ignore it. In most cases when it rains, it sweeps them off and some houses become submerged because Lagos is below the water level.

“It is equally very fair that we live in a very decent and conducive environment instead of living in a swampy area, where we eat, defecate, sleep and bring up our children in that same environment. If we are to go by the proposed Mega city status, those slums cannot continue to exist in high brow areas of the state”, he said.

The lawmaker further stated that, if there is a proper arrangement with the government on the alternative shelter, they will be adequately accommodated.

“After all, when Maroko slum was demolished, Lagos state government made arrangement to settle them. “But in most cases, what you discover is that instead of them to enter a meaningful dialogue with the government they tend to engage the government through some element who want to benefit from their ignorance .

“Instead of sitting down with the government and make some conclusion, they say no. So I feel the government would have made adequate arrangement to relocate them or to resettle them.

“However, there are some cases when such people need not to be resettled, government just have to send them out of the place.

“As the case may be, if government fails to take some decisions on some issue, it will be criticized. We cannot allow people to live in the slum because it means committing suicide and any responsive government will not allow its citizens to commit suicide.

“So I feel the upgrading of the slums in Lagos state should be a welcome development as we have experienced in other advanced countries including Singapore. There are a lot of countries that their slums were upgraded and the people were still living healthy live”, he added.

On their contribution to the economy of the state, he said, Lagos is a decent place where anyone can do their business adding that business should be done legitimately. They can do their fishing business and live a decent life.

The co-executive director of the Justice Empowerment and Initiatives, jei, Nigeria, Megan Chapman lamented that the state government seems to be projected a master-plan without including the poor. They do not want the poor to continue to live in the city. From all indications, they are making life miserable for the poor. They even want to eliminate the yellow buses which is the principal mode of transportation for those who do not have private cars . So, it seems the government has declared war on the poor and the poor are like 70 percent of the population’’she concluded.