Right from the colonial era where Lagos was known as the slave trade center to the time when it was a capital for Nigeria, and to its current state, Lagos continue to live up and beyond its recognition as West Africa’s commercial hub. As such, subsequent governments continue to embark on various modernization schemes to turn Lagos into a modern mega city with experts revealing the country’s waterfronts as prime locations for investors.
Unfortunately, these areas are where much of the mega city urban poor are located, plying their fishing trade and surviving against all odds. Efforts to making it a modern mega city to envy have seen these people constantly been displaced, turn homeless and rendered jobless, thereby relinquishing Lagos as a “no man’s land” to a place for the “wealthy few”.
Some weeks ago, residents of Otondo Gbame, a fishing community, few meters away from the affluent Lekki area of the state, lost their homes as they were forcefully ejected by policemen on the orders of the Lagos State Government at about 2am. The Ambode-led administration had earlier announced plans to demolish ‘shanties’ and slums along water creeks in the state citing issues of health and kidnapping.
This is not the first time this is happening as subsequent Lagos governments have long records of demolition exercises as in 2012, Makoko; a popular shanty community was demolished on the excuse of moving beyond the 100 meter mark specified by the state government. Almost 3000 people were displaced but today, it has become the affluent Lekki Peninsula which houses sprawling exquisite estates for the super elites.
In another event of 2013, another slum community; Pura was also demolished and residents displaced without any notice. Today, the site can be said to have been handed over to the rich in a Lagos mega project under construction, now known as the Eko Atlantic City.
In September 2015, Badia community, another named shanty area in Lagos was demolished on a wrongly-executed court order but today, several houses are already springing up in the same land.
In November 2016, over 2000 shanties were demolished in Ejigbo area of the state. The said shanties and makeshift shops were allegedly said to be defacing Jakande Estate. The action resulted in the displacement of several people while others rendered jobless. The residents said the government rendered them homeless for beautification purposes with the most obvious knowledge on the developmental plans of the Lagos government that, when such slums and shanties are rebuilt, the place becomes unaffordable for those evicted for the purpose.
Punch, a foremost newspaper recently also reports that with the latest displaced Otondo Gbame settlers, eviction fever is spreading to residents of other waterfront communities in the state such as Tomaro, Otumara, Orisunmibare, Oko Agbon, Itun Atan, Sogunro, the Ikorodu communities of Ofin, Bayeku and Olufunke Majidun and the Bariga communities of Ago Egun and Ebute-Ilaje.
Although several people acknowledged that such places were illegal but insisted that the different levels of government keep collecting various dues (LASAA, PHCN, etc.) from the residents and so, accused the government of not been a saint in the issue. Other people chided the government of continuously embarking on demolition exercises in order to convert such places into affluent neighborhoods for the few elite.