The inhabitants of Otodo-Gbame, a fishing settlement outside Lekki, Lagos, on Friday raised alarm about an ongoing demolition of houses and destruction of properties despite a subsisting court injunction stopping the forceful eviction of residents.
Residents claimed that about 8.30 a.m. on Friday, three backhoes accompanied by anti-terror police officers and officials of the Lagos State environmental task force arrived the community and started pulling down houses and other structure.
They claimed they were shocked by the demolition as they had not been served notice of demolition by the state government.
This is the second time in five months that houses in the community will be demolished.
In the early hours of November 9, 2016, gang of boys linked to the Elegushi family had attacked residents of Otodo Gbame and proceeded to set fire on their bamboo houses.
Residents claimed they invited police officers from nearby Ilasan police station to intervene in the fracas but they were shocked that when the police officers arrived, they soon joined the hoodlums and started pulling down and setting fire to their homes.
The Lagos State government denied it had ordered the demolition at the time.
But curiously, the incident occurred a day after the ruling of a Lagos State High Court stopping Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, who had vowed to demolish all illegal waterfront communities in the state, from going ahead with his threat.
The demolition stopped following a well-reported protest by residents at the office of the Lagos governor.
However, on Friday, four months after they returned to piece together what was left of their lives and belongings, resident say officials of the state’s Ministry of Environment task force entered the community and began demolishing the rebuilt parts of the town.
Megan Chapman, co-director of Justice Empowerment Initiatives (JEI), a community-based legal and empowerment organisation, which represents the residents of Otodo-Gbame, said at least 4,598 people will be affected by Friday’s demolition.
“I’m here now. I can tell you who is on-ground is Lagos State task force, police, officials from the Ministry of Environment, Lagos State, those are ones that put on the navy blue with red uniforms and also, military wearing red beret. They are the ones on ground and demolishing the houses,” she said.
Ms. Chapman said the officials on ground claimed that the state government was personally supervising the demolition in a helicopter that hovered overhead.
“There was absolutely no notice whatsoever. They just showed up this morning,” she added.
She said Friday’s action by the state government was even more shocking as they had just commenced a court-ordered mediation with the state government last week.
“As you are probably aware there is a case going on right now between 15 waterfront communities including Otodo-Gbame in which JEI is representing the community as counsel. The Lagos State High Court gave an interim ruling on the 26 of January saying that this type of demolition without an opportunity for people to find alternative shelter or without provision of alternative shelter constitute cruel and degrading treatment.
“The court ordered the state government to go into a mediation with us.
“We started the mediation process last week and it is still on-going and we were supposed to report to the court at the beginning of next month. The court also ordered that the parties should maintain the status quo until the ending of the mediation and the subsequent judgement of the court. So this in direct violation of the court order,” she said.
Also, human rights group, Amnesty International, has condemned the on-going demolition, adding that it “condemns forced eviction in any form and calls for a halt. The affected community are entitled to Right to Housing. Forced eviction without consultation, relocation or compensation is a violation.”
The spokesperson to the Lagos State Governor, Habib Haruna did not answer or return several called made to his mobile telephone number. He also has not responded to a text message sent to him for comment.
When reached for comment, the Lagos police spokesperson, Olarinde Famous-Cole, said he would get the full details from the divisional police officer in-charge of the area before responding on the involvement of the police.
He did not respond to subsequent calls and was yet to get back on his findings.