The plight of residents of waterfront shanties as highlighted by Ripples Nigeria’s investigative report titled ‘OTODO GBAME: Lagos Govt Leaves An Open Wound That Is Refusing To Heal Months After’, has again come into focus.
The October 9, 2016 directive by the Lagos State Government announcing its intention to demolish ‘shanties’ along waterfronts across the state, which later witnessed the demolition of Otodo Gbame, on April 9, has been overruled by a Lagos State High Court in Igbosere.
The court presided over by Justice Surajudeen Onigbanjo, has restrained the Lagos State Government from evicting settlers of several waterfront communities in the state without first providing them with alternative place of settlement adding that its inability to provide shelter for scores of evicted families who will be displaced by such an action is unconstitutional.
The court ruling brought temporary relief to 33 waterfront communities including displace residents of Otodo Gbame, Tomaro, Otumara, Orisunmibare, Oko Agbon, Itun Atan, Sogunro, the Ikorodu communities of Ofin, Bayeku, Olufunke Majidun and the Bariga communities of Ago Egun and Ebute-Ilaje who took the state government on behalf of themselves and their fellow settlers to court over the initial directive by the state government to demolish ‘shanties’ along waterfronts across the state.
The Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, the state’s Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, the Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, and the Commissioner of Police, were also joined as respondent in the suit by the settlers.
In his ruling, Justice Onigbanjo said; “The land occupied by the applicants is under the control and the management of the executive governor of the state.
Continuing, he added that; “From the affidavit evidence made available to me, the applicants never claimed ownership of the land, but have over the years settled on the land. It will be wrong for them to be forcibly evicted from a place they have been in for several years,” Justice Onigbanjo held.
Onigbanjo also noted that; “The respondents’ failure to provide alternative settlements before embarking on the forcible eviction of the applicants is unconstitutional.
“Both parties are hereby ordered to carry out proper consultation on how to resolve the relocation of the applicants.
“The respondents are hereby restrained from further carrying out evictions of the applicants from the settlements, if alternative settlements are not made available,” he said.
Finally, Justice Onigbanjo ordered Lagos and the representatives of the aggrieved waterfront communities to begin talks on how to resolve the relocation of the residents, some of whom have lost relatives and property running into millions of naira ever since the struggle with the state government started.
The ruling by the Lagos State High Court will come as a welcome relief to residents of Otodo Gbame who were sacked from their community about three months ago when at least 50 to 60 officers of the Lagos State Governor’s Monitoring Team and 10 police vehicles invaded the community leaving at least one person dead, and another with a gunshot wound, as more than 4,700 people were rendered homeless.
The move by LASG at the time, was condemned by rights group who saw the action as a ‘land grab’ especially with the fact that no alternative settlement was provided for the scores of evicted families who were displaced from the waterfront community.
The Lagos State Government also received knocks from critics who were of the opinion that each time the government evicted the poor from their area of residence they made up excuses of forestalling environmental hazards but in turn gave the land to the rich and wealthy.
Months after the destruction of Otodo Gbame, residents are finding it hard to sustain themselves and their families especially with the fact that most of them are fishermen, who derive their daily sustenance from fishing.
According to Tina, a displaced resident of Otodo Gbame, who spoke with Ripples Nigeria, other members of her community who are now scattered around 16 different communities across Lagos such as Badore, Ijoyi, Ofin, Oreta, Ogogoro village, Oko Agbon, Makoko, Sogunro, Ago-Igun Bariga, Sawopoju, Sangotedo, Ikorodu, Idi Mangoro, Ijede, Igbologun, and Tomaro are now struggling to make ends meet.
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