Release Otodo-Gbame protesters, Amnesty International tells Lagos govt

Residents of Otodo-Gbame community on Wednesday besieged the Moshood Abiola Gardens, Ojota, Lagos to protest their forced eviction from the Lagos riverine community.

Amnesty International on Thursday called for the immediate release of 158 evicted residents of Otodo-Gbame and other informal settlements across Lagos who were detained as they peacefully protested outside the Lagos Governor’s office on Wednesday.

A statement signed by Isa Sanusi, Media Manager, Amnesty International Nigeria, said photos seen by Amnesty International show injuries sustained by several protesters, including children.

PREMIUM TIMES reported how about 500 evicted residents of the Lagos riverine community staged a protest at the front of the Lagos State Governor’s office in Alausa on Wednesday.

The residents were demanding that the governor speaks with them about a series of forced evictions that have made more than 30,000 people homeless, as documented in Amnesty International’s report ‘The Human Cost of a Mega City: Forced Evictions of the Urban Poor in Lagos, Nigeria’, and the threat to forcibly evict more of them.

Our correspondent gathered that on Thursday morning, officials of the Lagos Police besieged the protest ground and arrested many of the protesters. Some of them were allegedly brutalised and injured in the process while the 158 arrested men and women are being held in Panti police station.

“We call for the immediate and unconditional release of all arrested protestors and for an independent and impartial investigation into allegations of excessive use of force,” said Osai Ojigho of Amnesty International on Thursday.

Amnesty International’s report details repeated forced evictions of the Otodo-Gbame and Ilubirin communities carried out since March 2016 without any consultation, adequate notice, compensation or alternative housing being offered to those affected. The report further documents how the police, military, Lagos State Task Force officers and unidentified armed men, set fire to homes and shot live ammunition and tear gas at residents of Ilubirin and Otodo-Gbame waterfront communities. Eleven people were killed and 17 have gone missing.

The Lagos government in a response released on 14 November denied responsibility for the forced evictions.

It, however, has chosen to remain silent on the 11 unlawful killings, 17 missing people, as well as the fact that those forcibly evicted by its agents, in violation of court orders, remain homeless till today.

Amnesty International said in its statement Thursday that the Lagos state government’s position is full of errors and omissions.

“For example, contrary to the Lagos government’s assertion that the question of ownership of the Otodo-Gbame land has been settled by the courts, the case Humpe Dansu & Ors v. Oba Saheed Elegushi & Ors, initiated by the Otodo Gbame community in November 2015, is still pending before the Lagos State High Court.

“The statement also wrongly alleges that the destruction of the community was the result of an “unfortunate fire incidence” in November 2016, while ignoring the roles played by state authorities in November 2016, March and April 2017 to forcibly evict residents and demolish the entire community with fires and bulldozers.”

The human rights monitoring agency affirmed that regardless of the various reasons offered by the government, none of them justify the mass forced evictions and other human rights violations that have occurred.

“Forced evictions are prohibited under international law binding on Nigeria and can never be justified,” the statement said.

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