*Accuses Lagos Govt of Attempting To Cover Up Killings
*Urges the Lagos Govt to compensate victims and give them alternative houses
*Urges National Human Rights Commission to investigate the situation
A human rights organization, Spaces for Change (S4C), has condemned the demolition of Aboki Estate and Gedegede community located directly adjacent to the Lekki Toll Gate whose residents witnessed the October 20 shooting of #ENDSARS protesters by Nigerian soldiers.
S4C, in a statement titled “END THE REPRISAL ATTACKS ON #ENDSARS PROTESTERS AND WITNESSES!” made available to ASKLEGALPALACE signed by its Executive Director, Victoria Ibezim-Ohaeri, says the recent demolitions have earmarks of a reprisal attack on communities for providing eye-witness accounts that countered the official denials and cover-ups for the shooting, injuring and killing of many protesters. They also described it as “cruel and vindictive measures targeting witnesses to a crime the state appears desperate to hide and avoid accountability.”
The Group expressed concern that the residents, who are low income earners, have been rendered homeless and pushed to deeper poverty.
They said they visited the community and were made to understand that prior to the demolition, a police officer on February 9 ordered the community members to vacate the community without stating timeline adding that just few hours after the announcement, an unknown agency began to tear down their homes.
S4C said its decade-long monitoring of housing rights practices in Lagos State reveals a systematic pattern of urban development that adopts the pretext of urban renewal, drainage cleanups, road construction and combating crime to gentrify blighted neighborhoods
“Predominantly inhabited by low-wage informal workers and petty traders, who live in shacks and clusters of makeshift homes overlooking the highbrow neighborhoods in the Lekki peninsula, the recent demolitions have rendered hundreds of families homeless and pushed them deeper into poverty at a time COVID-19 is having a crippling effect on the national economy. Locals came on the land through a license granted by the indigenous land owner, Taiwo Ayoku. For several years, they have lived peacefully in the area, built familial ties and community support networks on which they depend on for their sustenance.
“When SPACES FOR CHANGE | S4C visited the community, displaced residents were seen hanging around the ruins of their former homes, trying to salvage what was left of their properties. A Gedegede community leader told S4C that an officer of the Nigerian Police Force, accompanied by officials of the Lagos State Environmental Task Force, visited the community on Tuesday, February 9, ordering them to move out of the area, without stating any timeline. Aboki Estate residents received no visits nor prior warnings. To their chagrin, a team of demolition officials stormed both communities hours later and began to tear down their homes. Residents were largely unaware of the specific agency responsible for the demolitions. Conflicting eye-witness accounts suggest that the demolitions were executed by the National Inland Water Ways Authority or the Lagos State Environmental Tasks Force, or both.
“Whereas certain media reports suggest that the community was demolished for blocking the canal that connects the Lagoon, S4C’s decade-long monitoring of housing rights practices in Lagos State reveals a systematic pattern of urban development that adopts the pretext of urban renewal, drainage cleanups, road construction and combating crime to gentrify blighted neighborhoods. From Badia to Maroko, to Ilubirin to Otodogbame to Makoko, too many low-income communities have been pushed away from the city and the dispossessed lands replaced with more affluent districts.” the group said
S4C therefore called on Lagos State government to stop the evictions and demolitions pending the outcome of the Judicial Panel of Inquiry
They urged the government to compensate owners of the demolished properties and alternative housing to the residents.
They also called on the National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, to investigate the situation
The statement reads in part, “Locals are still in shock, fearing future reprisal attacks. SPACES FOR CHANGE is urging the Lagos State government to immediately halt all forced evictions and demolitions in the area, especially when the Lagos Judicial Panel has not concluded its investigations into the October 20 Lekki shootings. We particularly demand the Lagos State government to pay compensation to owners of properties already destroyed and provide relief in the form of alternative housing and/or fair compensation to all residents evicted at a time health protocols require citizens to stay at home and maintain social distancing. We specifically call on the National Human Rights Commission to investigate the latest demolitions and all other reprisals targeted at ENDSARS protesters.”