Over 30,000 people have been forcibly evicted from settlements in Lagos State in defiance of court orders. That is according to Amnesty International Nigeria.
In a new report titled, “The Human Cost of a Megacity: Forced Evictions of the Urban Poor in Lagos, Nigeria”, Amnesty International detailed repeated forced evictions of the Otodo-Gbame and Ilubirin communities carried out since March 2016.
These evictions, according to it, were carried out without consultation, adequate notice, compensation or even alternative housing for the evicted residents.
At least 11 people are said to have died and 17 others disappeared as the bulldozers moved in, backed up by police and unidentified men armed with machetes, guns and axes.
Schools and a health clinic were razed and residents were forced into canoes to flee tear gas and live bullets.
Amnesty’s country director Osai Ojigho said residents at the well-established informal settlements — most of them impoverished fisherfolk — had lost everything.
“The Lagos state authorities must halt these attacks on poor communities who are being punished for the state’s urban planning failures,” she said.
“The instability and uncertainty created by forced evictions is making their lives a misery as they are left completely destitute.”
– Growth pressures –
Nigeria, which is home to some 180 million people and is predicted to become the third-most populous nation in the world by 2050, has an unenviable record on forced evictions.
The United Nations has said at least two million people were moved to make way for development projects between 2000 and 2009.
The 30,000 forced from their homes at night and with little or no notice in Otodo-Gbame and Ilubirin are among 50,000 evicted in Lagos state in the last four years.
Lagos state has a population of more than 23 million — most of them in the megacity of the same name — and is growing at a rate of 3.2 percent a year, according to state figures.
At least 70 percent of the population or 15 million people live in densely populated informal settlements on any available land. Most of them earn less than $1 a day.
The evictions in Otodo-Gbame and Ilubirin — in defiance of a court order — were to make way for luxury waterfront housing projects.
Plots have since been seen selling for up to $500,000, according to Amnesty’s report.
– Hopeful –
Those evicted say they have not received compensation or been rehoused, while no-one can afford to rent a property via the state government’s low-cost housing scheme.
In Otodo-Gbame, former residents said rent was about 3,000 naira ($8, seven euros) a month.
On the Lagos state scheme the cheapest one-room property is nearly 16,000 naira and requires a down-payment of 75,000 naira.
The state government rejected the Amnesty report for “apparent bias, inaccuracies and exaggerations”.
It claimed Otodo-Gbame was private land and legal action had ruled in favour of the owners.
It repeated assertions that clearance was linked to security and environmental health concerns and said an investigation established it was “a temporary fishing outpost”.
“It is an illegal settlement that should not be allowed to use emotionalism and sensationalism to forcibly take over a private property,” it said in a statement.
Raymond Gold, from the Nigerian Slum and Informal Settlement Federation, said the government’s reluctance to open themselves up to scrutiny over redevelopment was not unusual.