Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Otodo Gbame: the sad tale of the slum dwellers rendered homeless as the Lagos state police demolish their homes

On Sunday, residents of the Otodo Gbame waterfront community in Lekki woke up to a commotion as their houses were burnt and shots were fired into the air by armed policemen, reportedly following the orders of the Lagos state government.

Members of the community said scores of armed policemen, numbering no fewer than 50, invaded the community that day.
According to Justice and Empowerment Initiatives (JEI), a Lagos-based group working with the community, a 20-year-old man died from the attack, having been shot in the neck, while those who survived fled on canoes as they were dispersed with tear gas. This will not be the first time the residents of this community are facing such attack. In March, homes of thousands of people were destroyed allegedly for environmental and health reasons. This recent demolition is being explained off as "a security measure in the overall interest of all Lagosians", according to the statement by the Lagos State Governors' Monitoring Team posted on their Twitter account.
They alleged in the statement that militants were using the community as their base but residents denied these claims. Another reason given was that the settlement was illegal and without appropriate government approval. 
Tens of thousands of Otodo Gbame residents were evicted in November 2016 to make way for development projects and this led to an outcry that resulted in a Lagos court issuing an injunction halting demolitions in the waterfront communities. The injunction was issued in January this year. However, in mid-March police demolished more houses rendering thousands of dwellers homeless. Following the demolition, activists and human rights groups called out the government but Governor Akinwunmi Ambode defended the move in a statement, saying it did not violate the injunction but did that for environmental and health reasons. 
The latest evacuation, which resulted in the death of one of the youth in the area and caused injury to some others, has brought the public's attention to the plight of the Otodo Gbame dwellers and caused outrage with many accusing the Lagos state government of gentrification and land grabbing at the expense of poor citizens. Nigerians on Twitter have gone on the social platform to oppose the actions of the state government, using the hashtag #OtodoGbame. Many have expressed concerns about where the displaced people will now stay and what would become of them, having lost their means of livelihood, which was mainly fishing.

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