11 Killed, 17 Missing In Lagos Mass Evictions

By Stephen Ubimago, Ejikeme Omenazu

 Eleven people were feared killed and 17 missing following the forceful eviction of about 30,000 settlers from Otodo-Gbame and Ilubirin waterfront communities in Lagos by security forces led by agents of the Lagos government, Amnesty International (AI) said on Tuesday.

300,000 more are still under threat of eviction, stoking fears that more casualties might still be recorded once the next round of mass evictions commences later in the year, AI said.

According to Amnesty International (AI), which made the disclosure on Tuesday in its report titled, ‘The Human Cost of a Megacity: Forced Evictions of the Urban Poor in Lagos,’ more disturbing about the exercise which started since November, 2016 is that the evictees were provided with neither consultation nor adequate notice; neither compensation nor alternative housing.

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This means that the evictees practically lost everything – their livelihoods, possessions, and in some cases their lives, AI said.

It added that some of the casualties were recorded among evictees who had drowned while fleeing from police gunfire.

Osai Ojigho, AI’s Country Director, 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 fish catch to make a living, the waterfront represents home, work and survival.

“Forced evictions mean they lose everything – their livelihoods, possessions and, in some cases, their lives.

“The Lagos State 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.”

The human rights organisation stressed that its findings were put together following its conduct of the interview of 97 evicted people, saying they all told “a similar story of being made homeless and losing almost all their possessions.”

According to AI, the first phase of the forceful eviction exercise lasted between November 2016 and April 2017, and witnessed the eviction of 30,000 residents of the waterfront communities by Lagos State authorities.

In the first eviction at midnight on November 9, last year, police and unidentified armed men chased out residents with gunfire and teargas, setting homes on fire as bulldozers demolished them, it said.

Panicked residents tried to run to safety amid the chaos, resulting in some being drowned in the nearby lagoon while fleeing from gunfire.

AI quoted an evictee, Celestine Ahinsu, as saying, “After a couple of days we started seeing the bodies floating.

“I saw three – a man with a backpack and a pregnant woman with a baby on her back. The community youths brought the bodies from the water. The relatives of the pregnant woman and child came to take their bodies.”

The human rights organisation berated the action of Lagos State government, saying, “It is a completely disproportionate response” to its desire to address security and environmental concerns in the state.

It also hinted that despite the fact that residents showed the security agents copies of court orders dated November 7, 2016 and January 26, this year, restraining the Lagos State government from proceeding with the exercise, the police still went ahead with the demolition in defiance of the orders.

In Ilubirin community, 823 residents were forcibly evicted between March 19, 2016 and April 22, 2017 after being given just 12 days’ written notice of eviction.

AI reports that Lagos government officials and dozens of police officers chased residents out of their homes, and demolished all the structures in the community using fire and wood cutting tools.

Evictees subsequently returned to the area and rebuilt their structures, which however were demolished six months later with just two days’ oral notice.

Source: independent.ng

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