Human rights commission inspects demolished slums in Lagos

[PHOTO: www.bbc.co.uk]

The commission promised to return to Lagos.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Thursday commenced on the spot assessment of the demolition in Makoko Waterfront, Otumara (Ebute Metta) after concluding the four-day public inquiry of demolitions and forced evictions in Lagos.

Led by its board chairman, Chidi Odinkalu, the commission at the end of its public inquiry for the South West, proceeded to Makoko waterfront where the Lagos State government in 2012, demolished some buildings in the floating settlement.

The government claimed the buildings were erected under the high tension power lines.

Whilst moving around the murky water of the riverine community on a boat, Mr. Odinkalu, a law professor, requested the state government to present the Environmental Impact Assessment report (EIA) on the community.

The Baale of Makoko, Adekunle Olaiya, informed the delegation that the community has existed on the lagoon for over a century and it was the government that constructed the power lines above their residence.

“It was after they started the demolition that the Lagos state government brought up the issue of not building less than 150metres away from the power lines.” “The houses were there before the power lines came” he explained, standing on the edge of the moving boat.

Social and Economic Rights Action Center (SERAC), the civil organization standing as the legal representative for Makoko, also revealed that a restoration plan of the community developed with the University of Lagos was already submitted to the Lagos State Government, before it proceeded with the demolition, displacing 4,037 people.

Mr. Odinkalu demanded that the restoration plan and the report on impact of power lines on human settlements must be presented to the commission.

The Senior Special Assistant to the Lagos Governor on Justice, Olanrewaju Akinsola, who represented the state government as its lead counsel during the public inquiry, promised to provide the required reports.

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Displaced families were seen residing on boats that lay afloat the ocean with cloths roofs erected with sticks, raised over their abode. They now live on the boats.

Makoko armada

As the boat conveying the NHRC members paddled into the ocean for a view of the power lines and building construction, the boat was surrounded by over 70 other boats of Makoko fishermen, women and youth.

They trooped out with their speed and paddled boats forming an armada around the commission’s members, chanting and begging the NHRC to save their community.

The community leaders also presented a graphic picture of a chief who was killed by a police officer during the demolition. Mr. Odinkalu appealed to the Lagos state government official to write a condolence letter to the family members of the deceased.

“In Nigeria, life has to mean something. If a Nigerian who does not have to die is killed, let’s send a letter of condolence to the family,” stated Mr. Odinkalu.

The commission proceeded to inspect Otumara community in Iganmu where members of the community lamented that the Lagos State government demolished their main market to construct a needless canal.

Explaining the plight of the settlement, Akinitimi Israel, stated that the canal which was constructed is of no use because the federal government had already constructed a very wide canal around the national theatre which was effectively serving the community and adjoining areas.

“The entire Otumara market was demolished and the canal that joins nothing was put in place of our market” he lamented, adding that “we had to construct a wooden bridge to be able to pass over the canal.”

The canal which lay parallel to the community has become a dump site with the water content stagnant.

“They constructed this canal to kill us with mosquito” said Nimota Jato, Otumara’s market leader.

The inspection which was meant to proceed to an alleged illegal detention centre of the Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI) in Alausa, was called off due to time constrains.

The public inquiry in Lagos was adjourned to January 10, 2014 for the commission to round-off hearings on the remaining 16 petitions.

According to Mr. Odinkalu, “the commission received 18 petitions and it has concluded hearing on the two petitions that came from Ogun State.

We had 11 petitions from Lagos with seven new petitions filed this week, so we just have to come back to Lagos.”

Petitions before the commission are from Ijora Badiya, Tarkwa-Bay, Ilubirin, Oju-Okun, Ajelogo Market, Maroko and Iwaya waterfront.

The inquiry into human right abuses, demolition and forceful ejection, will also hold in Abuja, Enugu, and Kano and the commission is to submit its report by March 2014.

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