By now the news must have trickled everywhere. In spite of a court order forcing the Lagos state government from further demolishing the home of the dwellers in Lagos seaside fishing settlement Otodo Gbame, which fringes the Lagos state’s pride and joy the Lekki peninsula, yesterday the government went in will cranes and bulldozers, armed guards to threaten citizens and proceed to bulldoze major parts of the slum, condeming 4700 people to homelessness, most of whom are women and children.
This isn’t the first time the Lagos state government has acted outside the law, punishing poor women in its bid to make Lagos a ‘megacity’. There is the well documented cases of the Tejuosho market which was demolished to make way for an ‘ultra-modern’ market complex which today stands largely unoccupied and dilapidated because of unrealistic rent prices among other things. There was also the Oshodi market and its casualties and now the Otodo-Gbame fishing community.
The first demolitions at Otodo Gbame have been linked to the Elegushi royal family, who lays claim to the region and is poised to make millions of dollars selling off the land. The Eko Atlantic city and the dredging and sandfilling done to create the articificial cove cost the livelihoods of many fishing families and resulted in the deaths of many women and children from disease and collapsing buildings. The residents of these villages survived that and sought to rebuild. It seems that was enough for land grabbers and opportunists.
In November 2016 thugs linked to the family came in the dead of night and set fire to the houses of the people in the community. After public protests and international shaming and the women of Otodo-Gbame taking Governor Ambode to court and obtaining a court order restraining him and the Lagos state government from harassing them any further, the Lagos state government stalled. But pressures from private interests seeking to make good money from water front land have resumed demolitons.
- The very lives of the poor women and children of Otodo-Gbame and the other fishing villages that Ambode has vowed to destroy hang in the balance. We have sat and watched, insulated by our middle class lives as the poorest of Nigerians have their rights violated and their very lives threatened to sate the greed of a few. If twe do not speak up for them, it will be us they come for next.