Rights group demands action over Lagos state’s ‘attacks on poor communities’ living on lucrative land, which it says have killed 11 people and displaced 30,000
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Amnesty International has called on the Nigerian government to stop the violent evictions of people from waterfront communities in Lagos that have left 11 dead.
The human rights organisation says 30,000 people have been evicted and 11 have died in midnight evictions in which police have set houses on fire, shot live ammunition and teargas at residents and then sent bulldozers in to destroy their homes.
These fishing communities live on land that has become very desirable for property developers in a city where the rich mostly inhabit islands linked to mainland Lagos by long causeways.
The evictions have been carried out in defiance of court orders. Residents have told of children being killed by bulldozers.
“The children were still sleeping inside when the demolishers started tearing their house apart,” Pastor Ashegbon, a resident of Otodo Gbame, told the Guardian in May, while Pastor Mallon Agbejoye said: “We sleep in these piles of ruins. When it gets dark we make tents of mosquito nets and sleep inside them with our children. We are stranded with our family with no money and no shelter. Accommodation inside the city is expensive and we cannot afford it.”
Celestine Ahinsu, from the evicted Otodo Gbame community, told Amnesty: “After a couple of days, we started seeing the bodies floating. I saw three – a man with a backpack and a pregnant woman with a baby on her back. The community youths brought the bodies from the water. The relatives of the pregnant woman and child came to take their bodies.”
Over 19 months Amnesty interviewed 124 people and analysed photos, videos and documents, including hospital records and court rulings. Forensic experts analysed photos of corpses of evictees, bullet casings and teargas canisters found in the Otodo Gbame community.
Despite repeated evictions, hundreds of thousands of people still live in Makoko, wryly nicknamed the “Venice of Africa”, but Otodo Gbame is now just acres of white sand.
“For the residents of these deprived communities, many of whom rely on their daily fish catch to make a living, the waterfront represents home, work and survival,” Amnesty’s Osai Ojigho said. “Forced evictions mean they lose everything – their livelihoods, their possessions and in some cases their lives.
“These ruthless forced evictions are just the most recent examples of a practice that has been going on in Nigeria for over a decade, in complete defiance of international law.
“The Lagos state authorities must halt these attacks on poor communities who are being punished for the state’s urban planning failures. The instability and uncertainty created by forced evictions is making their lives a misery as they are left completely destitute.”