by Alexander O. Onukwue
The radical drive by the Lagos State Government led by Akinwunmi Ambode to rid Lagos State its slums has been declared unconstitutional by a Lagos High Court.
The Ambode led administration of Lagos State has been on a spree of evictions of residents of Otodo Gbame and waterfront communities. A January 26th judgement by Justice Surajudeen Onigbangbo had declared the Otodo Gbame evictions on short notice without the provision of alternative shelter “cruel, inhuman and degrading”. That judgement had been in response to the demolitions that took place between the 9th and 10th of November 2016, where over 30,000 residents were forced out “by arson attack and by an excavator” while residents were asleep, according to a document by the Justice & Empowerment Initiatives (JEI).
The new judgment on the 21st of June by same Justice Onigbangbo has specifically pronounced the evictions as “unconstitutional” and has ordered the State to stop any further evictions, noting that the residents could not be justly forced out of their long-term homes without any form of relocation and compensation. Justice Onigbanjo statement directed the Ambode Government to come up with a workable resettlement plan which should be agreed to by both parties and following a due process of consultations before any communities, including Otodo Gbame, Badia East, and others, could be evicted from their settlements.
The evictions carried out so far by the Government of Lagos have increased grinding hardship being experienced by the inhabitants of those communities. With an already problematic situation with other forms of Internal Displacement, the inconsiderate evictions have rendered many vulnerable children to become refugees, while families have become disconnected from their meager means of subsistence.
The decision by the Lagos State Government to proceed with further evictions against the January ruling that it was “inhuman” has been widely commented on as an expression of oppression and tyranny by the Ambode Government. With a second ruling now confirming the first, and declaring it as against the highest law of the land, there can be no further possible justification to continue. The Ambode Government would have to cease the hostility of such evictions.
In line with the ruling, Ambode’s Government would now need to respectfully engage the members of the Otodo Gbame community, coming down to their level from the comforts of Alausa. Discussions about resettlement will now have to proceed through a dialogue based on the recognition of the dignity and humanity of the Otodo Gbame people, as poor and destitute as they may be, providing them equitable and just compensation.
And given that he put out their linens in public without any regard for their dignity, it would be must required that he begins with an apology. That is the least he should do.