Thursday, July 19, 2012

‘Brigadier-General Raji Fashola’ Mows Down Makoko

A baby boy rendered homeless by Fashola.

The Lagos State Government under Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola, (a lawyer), in its anti-people and highly elitist policies commenced the latest of its onslaught against the urban poor by demolishing Makoko, a waterfront settlement in Yaba Local Government Area of Lagos, recently.
Trouble started for the fishing community of about 100,000 people with the arrival of a quit notice from the state government giving them 72 hours to move out of the community in which most of the inhabitants have lived all their lives.
The notice dated July 12, 2012 and signed by Mr. Akin Tijani, Head of Operations, Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI), the state government said the shanties violated the designs of its megacity project and that the residents have continued to occupy and develop shanties and unwholesome structures on the waterfront without authority, thereby constituting environmental nuisance, security risks, impediments to economic and gainful utilisation of the waterfront such as navigation, entertainment, recreation among others.
Continuing, it said: “Therefore, notice is hereby given to you to vacate and remove all illegal developments along the Makoko/Iwaya Waterfront within 72 hours of receipt of this notice.”
Barely two days later, KAI officials with a combination of soldiers and mobile police moved into the settlement and mowed down over 400 houses. The demolition exercises continues as at press time, July 19 with the consequent wide-scale displacement.
A visit to Makoko will draw tears from the most hardened person’s eyes as many children are stranded and shelterless with many putting up in boats.
Below are some of the comments from affected residents:
Chief Mesu James Abraham, the Baale (chief) of Sogunro-Pedro
 Where do they want us to go, with our wives and children? We have lived here all our lives. They said we are not indigenes of this place and that constitute a nuisance, but election time they come here to take our votes. They allayed our fears of demolition at the last election and promised us infrastructure, but now they are visiting us with evacuation
Abraham said a delegation of the community elders have gone to plead with the Commissioner for Waterfront Infrastructure Development to limit the demolition to 100-metre distance from a power line which the state government said the locals encroached on, as destroying the entire community will lead to a major displacement and untold suffering.
Right now I have nowhere to go. I am putting up with a family inside the community. If government can relocate us, we wouldn’t mind, said Biereji Ayefoji, a 60-year old widow and trader who was seen hawking her wares on the water to keep body and soul together with nowhere to go after her house came down under the hammer of the KAI brigade’s demolition a few days earlier.  
Chief Wasiu Yonlonfun, the Baale (chief) of Oko-Agbon;
They gave us only 72 hours; where do they expect us to go? We are Nigerians; we are from Badagry. Is it that we have wronged them to have warranted all this suffering? We are begging them for forgiveness,’ he said, tearfully. We are fishermen and our lives revolve around the water. If they relocate us, what else can we do? We are the main suppliers of fish to the entire people of Yaba Local Government. By this they not only render us homeless, they are driving us into hunger and starvation.’
However, Nnimmo Bassey, executive director of the environmental justice group, Environmental Rights Action, criticised the action of the Lagos State Government as inhuman, undemocratic and unthinkable and unacceptable in a democracy.
He said not only is the 72 hours’ notice and commencement of demolition of the Makoko waterfront a violation of the rights of the people to shelter as guaranteed by the Nigerian Constitution, plans to use the site for the Megacity project indicated that the exercise is a “calculated attempt to seize the space for the convenience of the mega rich at the expense of the urban poor”
“It is sad and in bitter taste, that in a democracy the Lagos government would become a nemesis of the poor rather than alleviate their suffering. We totally oppose the forced eviction and demolition of the structures without an alternative accommodation provided or plans to replace the loss of livelihoods that will follow. This is an unacceptable tradition,” said ERA/FoEN Executive Director, Nnimmo Bassey.
“This exercise is a reminder of the Maroko forced eviction exercise in 1990 under the Raji Rasaki administration which uprooted thousands of people who had lived all their lives and earned their living in the community. Many lost their lives in that illegal action which is about playing out again in Makoko.  Then it was Maroko under the military, now it is Makoko in a democracy. We are opposed to this unnecessarily urban displacement and a further worsening of the delicate economic state of citizens.”
It is noteworthy that residents of Makoko are made up of mostly Egun people of Badagry, Ilajes of Ondo State and a large number of Republic of Benin and Togolese settlers.
Bassey called on the state government to seek better ways of enriching Lagosians under the Mega City Project in which guise unnecessary pains are being inflicted on the poor and powerless. Bassey called on the state government to seek better ways of enriching Lagosians under the Mega City Project in which guise unnecessary pains are being inflicted on the poor and powerless.
Mr. Godwin Ojo, ERA’s Director of Programmes and Administration also criticised the action: ‘We reiterate our opposition to actions that will create internal refugees in the country. If a government cannot carry out its fundamental role of providing economic haven and advancement of its citizens, and in this case, the urban poor, it should not necessarily worsen their states. The on-going demolition should be promptly halted and a dialogue with the people initiated to fashion an amicable solution to the waterfront challenge. Nothing else is acceptable’, he insisted.  
 Victoria Ibezim-Ohaeri, executive director of Spaces for Chnage, another ngo described the action as unthinkable. She said it was unbelievable that the state government would drive out women and children out of their homes at the height of the rainy season for whatever reason.

Chief Mesu James Abraham, the Baale of Sogunro-Pedro

Displaced inhabitants of Makoko, by the civilian dictator called Fashola.

No comments:

Post a Comment