Ijora Badia evictees want Ambode to halt demolition
Hundreds of protesters from Badia East, Ijora, against the odds, defied the midday rain on Monday to march to the governor’s office asking Akinwunmi Ambode to stop the Ojora family of Lagos from demolishing and forcefully evicting over 15, 000 people from their homes.
Badia East is an informal settlement that was partially demolished on February 23, 2013, leading to a long struggle for compensation with support from the World Bank, which had financed slum upgrading in the community. The government demolition was stopped halfway following widespread local and international condemnation. The state later secured a World Bank loan to develop the demolished section of the community for the benefit of those whose properties were destroyed.
Thirty months after, the remainder of the community is being demolished, displacing an estimated 15,000 persons with wholly inadequate notice of less than 24 hours. According to the residents, about 200 police officers led by a man simply identified as Asoju, an agent of the Ojora family, arrived the community last Thursday and started marking houses with red paint, pasting a notice, which stated that their properties now belong to Ojora Chieftaincy Family.
Twenty-four hours later, bulldozers arrived and started destroying houses at midnight when residents were mostly asleep. “Within a few hours, thousands of us were outside by the rail line or amidst rubble with what few possessions we could salvage. Thousands of us have no option but to sleep outside,” the community members said in a statement.
The Amnesty International and Justice and Empowerment Initiative (JEI) have jointly declared the demolition a forced eviction and a gross violation of human rights. JEI is representing the community in Nigerian courts, aiming to stop the demolition and working with the Nigerian Slum/Informal Settlement Federation with a campaign, which says ‘Never Again to forced evictions in Lagos and the rest of Nigeria.’
Amnesty International had last year indicted the state government of violation of human right in the demolition of over 200 structures and displacement of over 2,000 people in Ijora Badia, which was contained in an 80-page report. The body also expressed disagreement with the compensation package approved for Lagos State by the World Bank for people forcibly evicted from the informal settlement.
The body in a report titled: “At The Mercy Of Government,” said the World Bank wrongly endorsed a compensation process that was not consistent with international human rights standards or the bank’s own policy.
“It is an outrage that a community, left destitute by the actions of the Lagos State government, has been denied an effective remedy by the same government and that the World Bank has been complicit in this matter,” said Audrey Gaughran, Director of Global Issues at Amnesty International.
She added that Badia East was chosen to benefit from a World Bank-funded project, which aimed to increase access to basic services such as drainage, through investment in infrastructure. “However, the demolition of at least 266 structures that served as homes and businesses took place without genuine consultation or adequate and reasonable notice and with no remedy for the loss suffered.
One of the leaders of the community, Godwin Ilawole, said the demolition carried out at the weekend were led by soldiers, police officers, naval officers and members of vigilante group, the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC).
The demolition took us by surprise because the Lagos State government had assured us that we would not be evicted until the section demolished in 2013 had been completely developed and we are settled into our new abode. The reason we are here to protest is because the former governor of the state, Babatunde Fashola, promised that the community would not be demolished.
“Some of us took loans from banks to invest in the community. Now that our houses have been demolished, we don’t know how to pay back the loans. That is why we are appealing to the government to come to our aid and stop the demolition.”
When contacted, the Oba of Ijoraland and head of the Ojora family, Abdulfatai Aromire, denied that the family illegally evicted the inhabitant of the community. He said the family was merely executing a court judgment, which says the land on which the community is situated belongs to the Ojora family.
We have gone to court with this people since year 2002 and we have our judgment delivered on March 2014 by Justice Alogba. So we are executing our judgment.” He also denied that the community was only notified on Thursday. “Ask them, last year we placed a notice that they should come and regularise their papers, they didn’t turn up. After a year, we decided to take over our land.”