Scores of protesters from Badia East, Ijora, defied the afternoon rain on Monday as they gathered at the Office of the Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, in Alausa, to ask him to stop the Ojora family of Lagos from demolishing and forcefully evicting over 15, 000 people from their homes.
The Lagos State government had demolished part of the community in 2013 but was forced to stop halfway following widespread local and international condemnation.
The state government later secured a World Bank loan to develop the demolished section of the community for the benefit of those whose properties were destroyed.
Now, the area that was spared during the 2013 demolition is being pulled down.
The residents claimed that 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. They said the people pasted a notice which stated that their properties were now that of the Ojora Chieftaincy Family.
The residents said the next day, Friday, bulldozers arrived and started destroying houses at about 2 a.m 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 community members said the bulldozers stopped pulling down their houses on Saturday but feared that the demolition would continue on Monday and may spread to other neighbouring communities such as Badia West, and Apataaro.
One of the leaders of the community, Godwin Ilawole, told PREMIUM TIMES that the demolition crew were led by soldiers, police officers, naval officers and members of vigilante group, the Oodua Peoples Congress.
He said the demolition took them by surprise because the Lagos State government had assured them that they would not be evicted until the section demolished in 2013 had been completely developed and they are settled into their new abode.
“The reason we are here to protest is because the former governor of the state, Babatunde Fashola, promised that the community will 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,” said Jerry Arabame, a resident of the community.
Bimbo Oshobe, another resident of the community, said they Lagos State government had reneged on its promise not to demolish the community by allowing the Ojora family to forcefully evict them from their houses.
Megan Chapman, the co-executive director of a community humanitarian organisation, Justice and Empowerment Initiative, said the Lagos State government is merely using the Ojora family to achieve what it could not in 2013.
“The Lagos state government is saying it is not part of it. They are claiming it is the Ojora chieftaincy family that is behind the demolition. We believe it is the state government. It is waiting for the Ojora family to do whatever they are doing and take over the land. So the people have come here to beg the government to intervene to stop the unlawful eviction that is happening right now.
“The main appeal today is a humanitarian appeal for the government to come and stop what they are doing right now because we suspected if the Ojora finish what they are doing right now, 15,000 people will be displaced from their homes. It is not the way that things should be done. People are left outside, no alternative housing, no proper notice whatsoever and if you go there now you will see people sleeping outside,” Ms. Chapman said.
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 judgement. The judgement was delivered in March 2014 by Justice Alogba. So we are executing our judgement,” he said.
He also denied that the community were only notified on Thursday.
“Ask them, last year we placed a notice last year that they should come and regularise their papers they didn’t turn up. After a year, we decided to take over our land,” he said.
“He said the place is a den of criminals. That was where two suspected Boko Haram members were arrested. You can come there and see things yourself. We want to clear the place of criminals. It is our property which the court has given to us,” he said.
When contacted, the spokesperson to the Lagos State governor, Habib Haruna, said over the phone the government was aware of the situation and was already trying to resolve the matter.
“The relevant agency and ministry have addressed it and I am sure it will be resolved to the satisfaction of all the parties involved,” he said.