The Otodo Gbame community was a picture of helplessness, sheer agony and pains yesterday following the invasion of the Lagos State Government on their land, which has so far claimed two lives and left over 4,698 displaced.
The invasion by the state government saw operatives of the Lagos State Police Command, Marine Police and the Lagos State Task Force, brutally evict the residents from their homes, before torching it with fire.
The action was despite a standing court order by Justice SA Onigbanjo, who ruled that demolitions on short notice without providing alternative shelter for persons evicted constitutes cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in violation of Section 34 of the 1999 Constitution, and ordered the parties to attempt mediation through the Lagos State Multi-Door Court House.
The eviction would have been swept under the carpet save for the singular tweet by Justice and Empowerment Initiatives (JEI), a human rights organisation that empowers poor and marginalised communities, at 10.53am.
The group led by Megan Chapman had taken to social media to share not just pictures but a blow by blow account of the eviction process.
Tweets from @JEI said, “Refugees in boats at #OtodoGbame with nowhere to go. Police in blue speedboat tell them to leave. Where are they supposed to go?
“A pregnant woman poles a boat with all material possessions, shots heard in background #OtodoGbame. Where do you want them to go?”
It was during the eviction that 20-year-old David Aya, was first shot in the neck but he later died despite the first aid treatment given to him by neighbours.
Another victim, was one Monday Idowu, who had bullet wounds lodged in his chest from the sporadic police shooting.
This is coming on the heels of another death on Saturday, one Elijah Avonda, aged 42, who was also shot dead, leaving his wife and one-year-old son to mourn him.
Although the Taskforce had begun preliminary work on Saturday evening, it became a full scale demolition yesterday with the help of the marine police and the state police command.
The morning raid had over 100 policemen storm the community and while singing set people’s houses ablaze, just as the residents clambered on their boats to flee to safety.
Whilst on their boats floating in the lagoon, the community helplessly watched as their homes were set ablaze with kerosene.
While the eviction was going on, the rains came and the community, including children and women, were left unprotected as the rains beat them mercilessly in their open boats
Still not done, the Taskforce boarded marine boats and still gave chase to the displaced persons, thus forcing them deeper and deeper into lagoon towards the end of sandfill by Orange Island.
The Marine Police who were stationed at one end of the lagoon, were also firing shots at the displaced person to force them not to go back, while the mobile policemen used teargas on the hapless residents.
As expected, outrage greeted the inhumane act meted out to the community by the Taskforce and the policemen.
Already, the hashtag #OtodoGbame has been trending since morning and has been retweeted over 20,000 times on Twitter, with some Nigerians even taking the hashtag to other social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram.
Amnesty International (AI), in a series of tweets flayed the inhumane act by the Lagos State Government, describing it as a bold step in impunity.
The tweets read, “#OtodoGbame is a fishing community who found themselves in slum because of the failure of govt to handle rapid urban development. #Lagos.
“The violent attacks on #OtodoGbame today are another bold step in impunity and violation of poor people who apparently have no protection.
“#OtodoGbame is a waterfront fishing community that politicians visited with smiles during elections. In return, they got homelessness.
“#OtodoGbame forced eviction is a record setting and violates right to housing, right to life and dignity of #Nigerians. @AkinwunmiAmbode
“This is the right time for all Nigerians to stand up to this injustice. Now its #OtodoGbame. We may not know who will be next?
“Experience of India and Brazil shows forced eviction creates only more prblms. Best option is slum upgrade or proper alternatives. #OtodoGbame.
“Violence still goes on at #OtodoGbame. Lives lost. Houses set on fire. Residents stranded on rickety boats on the sea. @AkinwunmiAmbode.
“Lagos government has no concrete housing plan but it has a budget for brutal eviction of water front communities.
“#OtodoGbame will soon become seaside luxury home to the rich, investment for property tycoons & homelessness for the residents.
“Dear @AkinwunmiAmbode, note that the cries of the innocent Women and children will never go unpunished. #OtodoGbame
“Politicians were at #OtodoGbame during campaigns. They made promises. And now? @AkinwunmiAmbode is giving them life long hardship.
“Residents of #OtodoGbame experienced gross injustice and brutal violations that cost them lives. Is it a crime to be poor in #Nigeria?
“#OtodoGbame has nothing to do with development. It is all about land grabbing: from the poor to rich property tycoons. Poverty is not a crime.
“After defying court order and using brutal force and thugs several times at #OtodoGbame now the world watches bloody use of force again.”
The issue also generated flak from Nigerian like
Yomi Akintomide who wrote, “Someone was killed in #OtodoGbame yesterday. Let us not forget that.”
Omolara Oriye also said, “Dear Nigerians, we have known for a while now that the government doesn’t care about us, now is the time to demand that they do! #OtodoGbame.”
Michael Omosoki wrote, “If you need to evict people from a particular settlement they have been for over 70years, create an alternative for them!!
Editi Effiong who posted aerial shots of the community said, “The political leaders of Lagos have invested in billion dollar “island” developments. The slums are getting in the way #OtodoGbame.”
Also, one Oke Umuhorwho, who tweeted at the governor wrote, “Dear @AkinwunmiAmbode, note that the cries of the innocent women and children will never go unpunished. #OtodoGbame.”
When contacted, the Taskforce and the police feigned ignorance of their actions.