First it was Ilubirin in October 2016, then Otodo Gbame a month later and again in March this year. On Thursday, Governor Akinwumi Ambode’s bulldozers visited Badia East, another slum community in Lagos State, leaving many in tears, including a woman who was knifed in the leg by a policeman.
Construction workers first started fencing off Badia-East last week Thursday, apparently believing that the action would convince residents of the community of government’s determination to evict them from their homes. But when that did not work, a more vicious and brutal squad was sent to the area on Thursday. And by the time they left and the dust settled, more than 500 persons, mainly women, youth and children, had been rendered homeless.
“They (the residents) continue to remain outside despite the heavy rainfall this (Thursday) morning,” read a statement by Spaces For Change, a non-governmental organisation that has been canvassing for the rights of the residents since the demolitions began in late 2016.
“Wet mattresses, refrigerators, television sets, heaps of clothes littered the entire demolished area. Children clustered round their mothers, looking on helplessly as bulldozers flattened what used to be their homes.”
KNIFE IN THE LEG
While the destruction lasted, any attempt to approach any of the government officials was met with beatings and maltreatment. People who dared to retrieve any piece of belonging were brutalized and some were thrown into a waiting Black Maria. Neither gender nor age mattered to the policemen who inflicted injuries on some of the residents with knives and anything they could find.
Video had to be recorded from afar to avoid the wrath of the policemen
Spaces for Change said its personnel was present as the demolition was being carried, and it witnessed firsthand the “brute force” with which the policemen that accompanied the bulldozers treated residents.
“Ms. Bilikisu Adeoye was arrested when she tried to pack her personal effects. She was beaten and locked up in a waiting Black Maria,” the group would later report. “While inside the Black Maria, a police officer hit her leg with a knife injuring her in the process.”
Twenty-three-year-old Sunday Ajayi, another resident, was injured in the leg by a demolition officer, making it difficult for him to walk. “They removed his slippers and also dragged him into a waiting Black Maria.”
“Victor Eno, 21, was arrested for no reason, and also beaten, and bundled into a waiting Black Maria. In total, six persons were arrested.”
NOWHERE TO GO
On the one hand, the federal government wants the area cleared to make way for the reconstruction of a railway line that passed through the area. On the other hand, the Lagos State government said it wants to use the area for a housing project named “Jubilee estate”.
But neither the federal nor the state government made any provision for the relocation of the thousands of people who have lived in Badia for as long as 30 to 40 years. The residents say no form of compensation whatsoever was given to them. “Where do they want us to go,” queried one of them.
LIKE FASHOLA LIKE AMBODE
Thursday’s incident was not the first time Badia East would be demolished. Babatunde Fashola, the immediate past Lagos State governor, had also sent bulldozers to the area in 2013, under the same guise of constructing a mega housing project.
After the 2013 demolition, the residents mobilized and carried out a peaceful protest to the government house demanding compensation, but the governor refused to address them.
Watch the 2013 demolition of Badia East:
The area was again demolished in September 2015, months after Governor Ambode was sworn into office. The demolition was said to have been carried out by the Ojora Chieftaincy family, which is laying claim to the land. But residents of Badia East believe it is the state government that is using the Ojora family as cover to continue what it suspended in 2013.
However, almost two years after, there had been little or no government project in the area, prompting the people to return to their abodes.
JUSTICE FOR THE POOR
The NGO, Space for Change, said it has fought, for the residents of Badia East since 2015 when the demolitions resumed. The group sued the state government asking for compensation for the over 1000 families that have so far been displaced as a result of demolition exercise.
The case came up for hearing on June 13 and was adjourned till October 9 for ruling.
Among other things, the group is demanding that the demolition exercise be suspended until government puts in place concrete plans to compensate the residents adequately as well as relocate and resettle them.
They also want the government to “undertake to comply with international and national legal standards relating to the right to adequate housing and prohibitions on forced evictions”.
DISRESPECT FOR COURT RPOCESSES
The demolition of Badia East is coming less than three months after Ambode approved the demolition of Otodo Gbame, another riverine community in Lagos. The demolition was carried despite a valid court injunction given in January by Justice Adeniyo Onigbanjo of the Lagos State high court directing the exercise to be put on hold.
Many residents of Badia East slept in the open Thursday night, one of them wondering how a state chief executive could sleep with two eyes closed knowing that hundreds of people had been displaced as a result of his actions.
“It appears the ‘modern city’ that is being constructed is at the expense of the ordinary people,” he said.