Lagos, Nigeria (GPA) – Some 4,700 people have been forcibly evicted from the fishing community of Otodo Gbame in the city of Lagos, Nigeria by police and government forces, according to Al-Jazeera, whose video report can be found below. The eviction seems to be in violation of a previous court order.
Reports indicate that at around 8:30 am Friday, police and government officials came into the Otodo Gbame neighborhood with construction equipment and began destroying buildings in the community.
Megan Chapman, co-director of an legal advocacy group in Nigeria called the Justice Empowerment Initiative, was on the scene. She described the scene and identified the groups involved in a statement to Al-Jazeera.
“I’m here now. I can tell you who is on-ground is Lagos State task force, police, officials from the Ministry of Environment, Lagos State, those are ones that put on the navy blue with red uniforms and also, military wearing red beret. They are the ones on ground and demolishing the houses… There was absolutely no notice whatsoever. They just showed up this morning.”
Chapman also told Al-Jazeera that in addition to tear gas and the demolition equipment, government officials also opened fire with live rounds in order to subdue the surprised residents. At this time, it is unclear how many people were killed or injured during the forced eviction.
This current incident in Otodo Gbame comes just five months after a previous act of violence against the fishing community, nestled amidst one of the African continents’ largest cities. On 9 November, 2016, a “gang of boys” came into the community in early morning and began setting fire to the makeshift housing used by residents. According to Premium Times, residents called the Lagos police, but when they arrived they joined the “hoodlums” in the destruction of the neighborhood.
This incident took place a single day after a Lagos State (a federal district of Nigeria) High Court ruling that prevented Governor Akinwunmi Ambode from destroying “illegal” fishing communities in Lagos State. The ruling had been a victory for Otodo Gbame residents, who had long protested the destruction of their community and livelihood.
This current eviction of Otodo Gbame, which seems to have open Nigerian government support, comes after a push for legal mediation. Megan Chapman of the JEI describes the situation.
“There is a case going on right now between 15 waterfront communities including Otodo-Gbame in which JEI is representing the community as counsel. The Lagos State High Court gave an interim ruling on the 26 of January saying that this type of demolition without an opportunity for people to find alternative shelter or without provision of alternative shelter constitute cruel and degrading treatment… The court ordered the state government to go into a mediation with us… We started the mediation process last week and it is still on-going and we were supposed to report to the court at the beginning of next month. The court also ordered that the parties should maintain the status quo until the ending of the mediation and the subsequent judgement of the court. So this in direct violation of the court order.”
Otodo Gbame resident Ahisu Celestine described the plight of his community and made a plea for international aid.
“We want international communities to help us, the poor… It is a not a crime for poor people to live where rich men are.”
Geopolitics Alert will monitor the ongoing situation and bring readers further details from Lagos, Nigeria.
[Featured Image, “Market In Lagos,” Wikimedia Commons]