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Otodo Gbame evictees seek justice, compensation

The Nigeria Slum/Informal Settlement Federation is standing in solidarity with the over 30,000 people who were evicted in a state-led land grab from Otodo Gbame community in Lagos in November 9, 2017.

Otodo Gbame community evictees
Protesting Otodo Gbame community evictees

They are demanding the immediate resettlement of evictees from the land from which they were forcefully evicted, as well as full and adequate compensation of all affected by the forced eviction.

Besides clamouring justice for the families of slain persons during the eviction, the group demands an immediate moratorium on the demolition and continued engagement with the community to pilot and demonstrate workable or alternative to evictions.

Speaking at the Freedom Park on Lagos Island, Megan Chapman, co-founder, Justice Empowerment Initiatives of Nigeria, a community legal support initiative, said tens of thousands of evictees are homeless and living in desperate poverty while the land from which they were evicted is used for luxury real estate projects, such as the Periwinkle Lifestyle Estate.

Megan further stated that the forced eviction in  Otodo Gbame which took place from November  2016 to April 2017 was a blatant disregard of an order restraining the government from evicting  the community and that, despite  widespread condemnation  from the community,  members  of civil society organisations, concerned  citizens and the  international community, government in  a show of impunity withdrew from court ordered mediation and proceeded to demolish the community, chasing  all residents off the land in March-April 2017.

At least 11 community residents drowned during the eviction and many were shot and killed, including a 42-year-old fisherman, Elijah Avonda, who left behind two wives and 10 children, and a young man  in his 20s, Daniel Aya, who was helping to salvage his family belongings before being shot in the neck by the state task force police.

Some of the community leaders in a chat with our correspondent during a protest match on Tuesday April 9, 2019, Pastor Oshun Pascal and Segun Atinkpo, condemned the action of the government of Lagos State. According to the leaders, Otodo Gbame is a fishing settlement which has been in existence for over 100 years.

“Our people migrated from Badagry and had been living in this community, we were born and bred here in Otodo Ggbame, our great grandfathers settled in this community before we were born.

“Now the government is saying we are not Nigerians just to achieve their ulterior and selfish motive.”

Pascal added, “We have been living in pain since the eviction, over tens of thousands of settlers  who managed to survive the government action in this case are suffering the many negative  impacts of  forced eviction, including homelessness, loss of livelihood, family separation, physical and mental  illness, interruption of education and death. However, the people have been unrelenting in their struggle for human dignity and justice.”

In June 21, 2017 Justice S.A Onigbanjo of the Lagos State High Court handed down a landmark judgment in favour of the fundamental human rights of the waterfront residents of Lagos State including those of Otodo Gbame. The judgement declared these evictions without resettlement to be unconstitutional in violation of the prohibition on cruel and inhuman and degrading treatment and the right to dignity.

The court ordered the state government to consult and resettle all evictees.  While restraining the state government from any further evictions of the Lagos waterfront communities.  Despite its promises to the evictees and a court order requiring resettlement of evictees, the Lagos State Government is yet to provide any relief or resettlement since initial promises in April 2017. The government appears to have ignored repeated communication from evictees.

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