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Lagos faults Amnesty International’s report on Otodo Gbame

…Says report inaccurate, exaggerated

The Lagos State government has faulted the recent report by Amnesty International (UK), alleging that it forcibly evicted residents of Ilado community, popularly called Otodo Gbame and set fire to demolished the homes with bulldozer among other allegations, describing the report as full of apparent bias, inaccuracies and exaggerations.

In a statement signed by the state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Steve Ayorinde, the state government said that there is the need to clarify issues as it concern the community, saying that “Ilado (which visitors to the State often refer to as Otodo Gbame) has always been a private land and subject of a law suit, which has been decided in favour of the family owners.

The commissioner further disclosed that, “It was in November 2016 that inter-ethnic clashes led to the fire incident that got the settlement consumed and not as a result of government-sponsored demolition.

“Otodo Gbame was one of the 39 waterfront settlements that took Lagos State to court over its plan to rid its prime waterfront areas of illegal shanties that constitute security and environmental threat to the general public. The court judgement in favour of the plaintiff has since been appealed with related applications for stay of action.

“Lagos State government insists that Otodo Gbame was used as a temporary fishing outpost. The fishermen had their permanent homes in Badagry, Cotonou (Benin Republic) and Lome (Togo). Indeed, many of such people have returned to their homes since the unfortunate fire incident of November 2016. The rest should be encouraged to do likewise rather than spur them on to play the victim, fight legal owners of the land or to demonise government,”.

According to him, even “the Lagos State House of Assembly did carry out an independent investigation and published its findings, stating clearly that Otodo Gbame was a temporary fishing outpost on the waterways which wanted to illegally appropriate the land that welcomed them on a temporary basis. It is an illegal settlement that should not be allowed to use emotionalism and sensationalism to forcibly take over a private property.

“Lagos State government has no interest in the land whatsoever since it’s a private property. The interest of the state is to rid the prime waterways of shanties and illegal structures, particularly when security intelligence has shown clearly that they are either safe havens or gateways for armed robbers, kidnappers and militants.

“Lagos State government sees a correlation in the reduction of kidnappings through the waterways and creeks of Lagos Island, Ikorodu, Epe, Ojo and the removal of illegal shanties from our prime waterfront areas.

“The position of Lagos State government has been consistent. While government is demonstrably compassionate to the plight of the less privileged and the urban poor and has continued to engage them in useful talks in line with international conventions and treaties, we urge Amnesty International UK to appreciate the fact that government was elected to protect the general public and promote livable environment,” Ayorinde added.

In its latest report, Amnesty International’s (UK) had said that the forceful eviction of residents of Otodo Gbame forms part of the forced evictions of thousands of people from their homes impacting on a range of their rights which it said occurred in at least two states and in the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja.

According to the international body, “in February, a Tribunal of Inquiry set up by the Lagos State government found that the government had failed to genuinely and adequately consult, compensate and provide promised resettlement to agricultural communities who were forcibly evicted from their homes and farmlands between 2006 and January 2016.”

It also alleged that, “On 15 October, hundreds of residents in Ilubirin waterfront community were forcibly evicted from their homes. Between 9 and 10 November, over 30,000 residents of Otodo Gbame, a waterfront community in Lagos State, were forcibly evicted when state authorities set fire to and demolished their homes with a bulldozer. On 11 November, hundreds of residents were forcibly evicted from another nearby waterfront community, Ebute Ikate, in Lagos State.”

Patrick Okohue, Lagos

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