A coalition of civil society operatives has frowned at reasons given by the Lagos State Government for demolishing Otodo Gbame, an ancestral fishing settlement in Lekki, on Friday, March 17, 2017 despite a subsisting order of court prohibiting the eviction of Otodo Gbame and other Lagos waterfronts.
The groups said in a joint statement made available to EnviroNews on Thursday, March 23 2017: “We condemn such impunity and brazen disregard for the rule of law, which is incongruous with a democratic society and Lagos’s aspiration to be a center of excellence and a world-class megacity. Lagos is a megacity by virtue of its population and it will only be a world-class megacity if it refocuses its energies on serving the needs of the people, especially the poor and vulnerable.”
Describing the Otodo Gbame community as “illegal shanties and unwholesome habitation”, the government in a statement said its action was carried out in order to forestall an environmental disaster and another round of deadly skirmishes that led to the razing of the Otodo Gbame community in November 2016.
In a statement signed by the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Steve Ayorinde, the government said the action was informed by the overriding public interest to ensure that the waterfront area is free from environmentally injurious and unsanitary habitation few months after it was consumed by fire and rendered uninhabitable.
The government denied flouting any court judgment as alleged, insisting that it owes a duty to the larger population of the state to ensure that public health and safety is maintained.
But, the coalition, comprising the Justice & Empowerment Initiatives; Nigerian Slum/Informal Settlement Federation; Network on Police Reform in Nigeria; Enough Is Enough; Centre for Children’s Health, Education, and Orientation and Protection; Centre for Defense of Human Rights Democracy in Africa; Community Life Project; and Legal Defense and Assistance Project, declared: “We are shocked by the state government’s attempts to justify the forced eviction of nearly 4,700 people based on protection of the environment and to deny that it was violating a court order. The purpose of preserving the environment is for the wellbeing of mankind and, therefore, environmental protection measures must also respect and protect fundamental human rights.
“An order that parties should maintain the status quo, indeed, refers to the status quo ante bellum. Under the circumstances, the status quo ante bellum refers to the situation before the conflict began, i.e. when all the communities that fell under the Governor’s 9 October 2016 attack were still intact since this is the situation the communities sought to preserve by approaching the court.
“Further, there can be no question but that the forced eviction of nearly 4,700 people from their homes without any notice and without any alternative shelter constitutes yet another unconstitutional violation of the right to dignity, among others, already condemned by the court.”