Justice Surajudeen Onigbanjo of the Lagos State High Court, Igbosere, on Wednesday ordered the Lagos State government to refrain from carrying out further eviction of the settlers at the Otodogbame waterfront, describing the government’s previous actions as unconstitutional.
Mr. Onigbanjo had twice postponed giving judgment on the matter, citing issues of jurisdiction raised by the respondents as reasons for the deferment.
He later ruled that the court had the jurisdiction to address the matter.
On Wednesday, hundreds of Otodogbame residents filled the Lagos court premises as they waited anxiously for the judge’s decision.
In delivering his judgment, Mr. Onigbanjo observed that the gulf between both parties wasn’t insurmountable as they made it appear.
According to the judge, “the land occupied by the applicants is under the control and the management of the executive governor of the state.
“From the affidavit evidence made available to me, the applicants never claimed ownership of the land, but have over the years settled on the land. It will be wrong for them to be forcefully evicted from a land they have been for several years,” said Mr. Onigbanjo.
Mr. Onigbanjo, in his judgement emphatically stated that “the respondents’ failure to provide alternative settlement before embarking on the forceful eviction of the applicants is unconstitutional.
“That both parties are hereby ordered to carry out proper consultation on how to resolve the relocation of the applicants.
“That the respondents are hereby restrained from further carrying out evictions of the applicants from the settlements, if alternative settlements are not made available,” the judge ordered.
In an earlier statement released by the commissioner of information and strategy, Steve Ayorinde, the government had said officials of the state’s ministry of environment demolished the houses to prevent “an environmental disaster and another round of deadly skirmishes” that led to the razing of the community in November.
Over 30,000 thousand residents of Otodogbame, Ilubirin and Ebute Ikate waterfront communities in Lagos State were forcibly evicted by Lagos State authorities on November 9 and 10, 2016 respectively, an Amnesty International, a human rights group statement said.
The organisation had condemned the evictions of residents of waterfront communities by the Lagos State government.