On the 17th of March, just last week, over 4,000 members of the fishing settlement in Otodo Gbame community of Lekki area in Lagos State were rendered homeless in less than 24 hours by officials of the Lagos State Task Force, accompanied by Military Police and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC) who said they were under orders from the Lagos State Governor and Commissioner of Environment.
Barely five days after, on Tuesday, the 21st of March, that act was made permanent when the officials returned with their excavators, swamp buggy, menacing faces and a complete readiness to destroy anything that stood in their way. Of course, no sane person was going to stop them. The two “Black Maria” vehicles they had come with earlier to quell any resistance still a lingering memory in the minds of the remaining residents, they were sure to be no resistance this second time. note that the first time the officials came on the 17th, the residents had put on brave front getting themselves into a formation; some sort of human shield. it didn’t work though, anyone who has lived around here long enough would know that, that kind of resistance is easily dispersed with a round or two of tear gas and that’s exactly what happened.
What kind of Government does that to its own people? Over 4000 Men & Women, their dependent elderly and Kids thrown out of their shanty homes without notice. Without alternative shelter arrangement. Without explanations. Just thrown out. Out of homes that had long been theirs. Homes that certainly none of them had grown hoping to live in.
Sadly, this turn of events is not surprising, not in Nigeria and especially not in Lagos, the Mega City; the economic Capital of Nigeria where the Governor’. hopes and aspirations seems to be a dangerous obsession with returning the State to some grand master plan that no one is yet privy to.
“Itesiwaju Eko l’o je wa logun”
Governor Ambode is not flying solo however. It started with Governor Fashola’s “eko o ni baje” dreams. But it has certainly become worse under this dispensation. Governor Ambode has gone from mandating street hawkers to clear off the metropolis roads otherwise face the threat of being rounded up randomly by self-seeking KAI officials without regards for any of their fundamental human rights.
He’s signed a law that illegalises the existence of “omo oniles” who terrorise land owners in Lagos State and he certainly has no patience for home/building owners who obstruct the grand master layout of his Mega Lagos city. The owners of the businesses demolished in Ikoyi (including Nuli Juice) last year can attest to this.
It does not take a special understanding to see that the plan of the Governor is turn Lagos into the city of dreams. To make Lagosians compliant no matter the cost. But the problem with this and the reason we are disappointed is that the Governor does not seem to see that the lives and human capital that power this mega city are the ones he is putting at risk – sacrifising, if you please – to attain that huge fancy dream.
To be perfectly honest, all of the Lagos State government plans seem to have an elitist outlook with no tolerance for the poor.
We stopped being surprised the moment we started to see the disdain that this administration has for the indispensable yellow “danfo” buses and their two and three-wheeled counterparts.
But what we are now is disappointed. Utterly so. So disappointed at the lengths that the government is willing to go to achieve this. This time, it was flouting a subsisting court order barring the demolition.
On 26 January 2017, the Honourable Justice Onigbanjo of the Lagos State High Court delivered a landmark ruling in the case brought by waterfront residents, including those from Otodo Gbame against the Lagos State Government with regards to the demolition of their shelters. Relying on the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules, 2009, the court found that demolitions on short notice without provision of alternative shelter constitute cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in violation of the right to dignity enshrined in Section 34 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Article 5 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Rather then entering final judgment, Justice Onigbanjo then ordered the parties to attempt mediation through the Lagos State Multi-Door Courthouse and ordered them to maintain the status quo – refraining from any evictions – during the pendency of the mediation and the suit.
So why did this demolition still take place? When the residents presented documents evidencing the court order, the demolition agents retorted:
“This is Lagos State. We don’t care about court orders; take it to the Governor.”