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Otodo Gbame evictees demonstrate on lagoon, seek church’s intervention

On Tuesday, May 15, 2018, the Nigerian Slum/Informal Settlement Federation (known as Nigerian Federation) and evictees from Otodo Gbame took their demonstration to the Lagos lagoon to commemorate one year since the final stage of the eviction of the community and six months since the violent crackdown on their last peaceful protest.

Otodo Gbame evictees
The protesting Otodo Gbame evictees

The evictees, along with sympathisers, marched from the Freedom Park, Ojota, to Lagos Government House, Alausa on November 15, 2017 to protest the forced eviction of April 9, 2017.

EnviroNews learnt that, on November 7, 2016, the Lagos State High Court restrained any eviction of the waterfront communities, including Otodo Gbame, an Egun fishing community, located around a prime real estate in the Lekki area of Lagos.

On June 21, 2017, the same court reportedly pronounced the forced evictions unconstitutional and ordered resettlement for those evicted. But the Akinwunmi Ambode administration seems to be foot-dragging on the matter.

Re-enacting the moment they became internally-displaced “boat people” during the final and most brutal stage of the eviction, thousands of the evictees – who remain homeless and in squalor till date – pushed out their canoes into the Lagos lagoon.

The evictees had gathered in solemn commemoration, joined by their peers from other waterfront communities and the Nigerian Federation, in a flotilla of boats between University of Lagos (UNILAG) Waterfront and Third Mainland Bridge in the early morning hours.

The event was marked with traditional Egun music and an on-water procession from UNILAG Waterfront past Makoko and Oko Baba Waterfronts to the headquarters of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), where evictees called for support from religious and other leaders in their continued struggle for justice and to end forced evictions.

In company of local and international media coordinated by Megan Chapman, co-founder/co-director of Justice & Empowerment Initiatives (JEI) – Nigeria, the homeless evictees, after demonstrating on the lagoon, headed for the RCCG headquarters at Redemption Way, Ebute Metta, to deliver a letter to the church.

Taiwo Murtala, who coordinated the evictees, told EnviroNews their mission to RCCG.

“We want Governor Akinwunmi Ambode to understand that we deserve justice.

“With the opportunity of the procession, we are telling the governor, whose wife is a senior pastor of RCCG, to give us justice,” he said, adding that about 90 per cent of the evictees are Redeemers.

Elijah Atinkpo, media coordinator of the event, corroborated Murtala that they were at the RCCG to submit letter to the church leaders, as “Mrs. Ambode is a senior member of the church.”

“We feel that people like Vice president Yemi Osinbajo, who is a Redeemer, can help sit Ambode down and talk to him on our behalf, to see how we can arrive at a consensus that will favour both sides,” he said.

He was optimistic that the church can get justice for them because religious organisations are for the well-being of humanity.

The community’s demand, according to him, was for government to reinstate them at Otodo Gbame because they were living there for good reasons, one of which is their occupation, which is fishing.

On April 9, 2017, the final 5,000 evictees were chased into wooden boats on the lagoon and their homes set on fire.

Reports have it that over 30,000 people have been displaced and over 13, including Daniel Aya, killed, while 158 peaceful protesters have been arrested due to the eviction.

By Chika Onwuji

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