15 November 2017

Nigeria: Amnesty Int'l - LASG Forcibly Evicted 30,000 From Homes in Defiance of Court Order

Photo: Al-Jazeera
Members of the Otodo Gbame community.

Eleven persons were killed while 17 went missing when unidentified armed men attacked the Otodo-Gbame community in Lekki, Lagos State, even as the state government forcibly evicted 30,000 persons from their homes in the community, the Amnesty International (AI) has alleged.

The international human rights watchdog group lamented that the state government came to evict the people soon after the community was burnt down by the unknown gunmen who are still at large.

In its reaction, the Lagos State Government in a statement made available to THISDAY yesterday acknowledged the Amnesty International's (UK) latest report but rejected it for its apparent bias, inaccuracies and exaggerations.

According to a new report released by the AI tagged: 'The Human Cost of a Megacity: Forced Evictions of the Urban Poor in Lagos' which details the repeated forceful evictions both at Otodo-Gbame and Ilubirin communities, AI said the actions were carried out in defiance of court orders.

Amnesty International Nigeria's Country Director, Osai Ojigho, said: "These ruthless forced evictions are just the most recent examples of a practice that has been going on in Nigeria for over a decade in complete defiance of international law.

"For the residents of these deprived communities, many of whom rely on their daily fishing to make a living, the waterfront represents home, work and survival. Forced evictions mean they lose everything-their livelihoods, their possessions and in some cases, their lives."

Ojigho stressed that the state government authorities "must halt these attacks on poor communities who are being punished for the state's urban planning failures. The instability and uncertainty created by forced evictions is making their lives a misery as they are left completely destitute."

Amnesty International also lamented that the matter is made worse because no alternative was provided for the evicted residents nor was any compensation provided for them a situation which has forced almost 5,000 of the people who refused to leave their ancestral home to sleep in canoes or out in the open covering themselves with plastic sheets when it rains.

However, in its reaction, the state government in a statement made available to THISDAY acknowledged the Amnesty International's (UK) latest report but rejected it for its apparent bias, inaccuracies and exaggerations.

The government therefore clarified that the main area of focus in the report - Ilado (which visitors to the state often refer to as Otodo Gbame) has always been a private land and subject of a law suit, which has been decided in favour of the family owners, adding that it was in November 2016 that inter-ethnic clashes led to the fire incident that got the settlement consumed and not as a result of government-sponsored demolition.

According to the statement, "Otodo Gbame was one of the 39 waterfront settlements that took Lagos State to court over its plan to rid its prime waterfront areas of illegal shanties that constitute security and environmental threat to the public. The court judgement in favour of the plaintiff has since been appealed with related applications for stay of action.

The state government insisted that Otodo Gbame was used as a temporary fishing outpost. The fishermen had their permanent homes in Badagry, Cotonou (Benin Republic) and Lome (Togo).

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