The untold story of Badia as 40,000 displaced persons groan in pain
By Ebun Sessou
Govt’s action is unlawful—Morka
Ayinke Stephen, a 38-year-old woman, living with HIV/AIDS, one of the 40, 000 displaced persons in Badia East Community, Lagos, was not bothered by her health condition but truamatised by having to be displaced along with her baby as a result of the demolition exercise carried by the State government recently.
While many of them wore mournful looks, others trying to conceal the trauma managed to acknowledge cheers just as devastating expression on the faces of others who have been rendered homeless were enough to tell their stories.
The people were seen packing the remains of their destroyed properties. Some of them used wheelbarrows to pack their bags and baggages.
But still determined to express their anger, hundreds of residents, including women, men, youths and children last Monday, marched to Government House, Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos, protesting what they termed as cruel and unfair treatment meted out on them.
The protesters chanted songs carrying placards with various inscriptions such as: “Demolition is not Democracy”, “Remember voting is not a taboo”, “No where to go,” “We are poor, give us our rights,” amongst others.
And for five hours, the people were at the gate of the State House, without anyone to address them on their grievances. Respite came at the close of work when some officials at the secretariat told them to form a small group that would represent them, but that did not change their situation.
Narrating their ordeal, Ayinke who joined hundreds of other displaced persons in the protest described the development as cruel, sad and dehumanising. According to her, “I was sitting in-front of my house that early morning when I noticed a caterpillar and bulldozer crushing down everywhere including my home.
“I approached the drivers and initially, they claimed that the caterpillar was faulty and since it was ususal sanitation exercise, they would have to wait until after the exercise. But five minutes later, we spotted a Black-Maria and thousands of Policemen holding sticks and guns advancing forward to chase people away. We went and informed our elders in the community but before we knew what was happening, bulldozers had pulled down our houses.”
Recalling similar issue in 1985 and 86 when government invaded the community with caterpillars, she said, “more than fifty aged people in the community were afflicted with stroke and are yet to be free from the shock.
“I am suffering the same pain as a person living with HIV. The truth is that since the inception of this present administration, people living with HIV/AIDS in Badia East community have been suffering neglect, pain and stigmatisation by the State government. “We marched to the Governor’s office for help but we were neglected. We slept at the gate of Governor Fashola’s office but no one listened to us. Unfortunately, we have a Governor that is not responsive to the yearnings of the people. And that is why it does not take the government anything to render us homeless.
“Since the demolition exercise, we have been going through pains and untold hardships. My child’s education has stopped.”
Asked, how people living with HIV/AIDS have been fairing in the community, she said, “Since 2004, when the Society for Family Health and other organisations including Salvation Army came to our community to sensitise the people on the use of condom and how to live healthy and safe, we were left with no option than to seek help which was the reason the organisation was established to take care of the vulnerable.”
Olayinka Ogunyemi, a Prophetess of the Christ Alive Church also explained that the incident had not only devastated them by short notice but they have also been numbed to the reality that government only align itself with the rich and not the poor. “Nobody informed us that our houses would be demolished some day. The only thing, I saw was that bulldozers came to the community and before we could figure out what was going on, all our properties have been destroyed.
“Right now, there is no food to eat, no cloth to wear and all what we have laboured for are gone just because we found an abode in Badia. They can’t provide a shelter for us, yet they came to destroy our homes without notice.” she cried.
The 67-year-old woman said she had been living in the area for the past 40 years. “There is nowhere to go. I have been living in Badia East since 1973, I have not witnessed such a cruel action as this.”
Giving an account of how it happened, she said, “I was inside the bathroom when I heard a voice that, “We want to demolish this place.
“I pleaded but instead of getting their favour, it was fury and anger I got in return. They put my children in a Black Maria. They didn’t release them until the intervention of some elders in the community.”
Another petty trader who have been living in the area for 35 years said the demolition exercise took about 12 hours. “They came around 6am before anyone could wake up and they didn’t leave until 6pm. We have been rendered homeless. Now, we wander about homeless,” she stated.
The story is the same with Omorodion Asemota, who claimed he has been living in the area since 2005. He said: “If the situation is not resolved, I’d have to go back to my hometown in Benin city,” adding that what befell Makoko and Badia could also happened to Oyingbo and other low-income residential areas.
“I learnt that the same exercise would be carried out in Oyingbo which is where my friend suggested that I should come and stay for a while. So, if the situation cannot be controlled, I would have to go back to my village”, he said.
One of the sons of the said settlers of Badia East, said, the settlers, “Anjola Ilawole” are from Ilaje.
The relationship between the Ilawole and the Ojora families only existed when our fathers paid unspecified sums of money to Olooto.
Asked if the Federal government acquired the land from the Ojoras, he said, they had all the documents securing their true occupants of the place. “This was amicably resolved between the Ojoras and the Ilawoles that the Federal Government acquired the place.”
Asked of their expectation, he said, “We want the Federal and State governments to settle us in this place. We are not going anywhere.
“Over 40,000 people are living in this place. When our fore-fathers relocated to this place, they were given certain documents which guaranteed our stay and those documents still protect us here.
“If there is going to be any eviction by government, it should be the Federal Government and not State government. All of us live as brothers. We don’t have money to live in urban areas and that is why we are content with what we have. We are not against development but everything must follow the rule of law. We must be carried along in whatever plans government has for us because we are humans.”
Govt’s action is unlawful—Morka
Felix Morka is Executive Director of Social and Economic Rights Action Centre, SERAC. In this interview, he explains that the action taken by the State government was unlawful.
What is the situation presently?
Presently, over 10,000 people have been evicted and 500 houses have been demolished. The federal government acquired the land for the purpose of Nigerian Railway Station. They claimed the land through the federal government that relocated them there. The relevant government agencies are fully aware of the existence of the people in the State.
Under the land use act, there is right for federal government to allocate land for its own use. At the moment, no relief material has been provided by the State Government. It is wrong for any democratically elected government to unlawfully force its people especially the poor out of their homes.
Badia East is an upwardly mobile informal settlement in Ijora Badia at the heart of Lagos despite a long history shaped by forced evictions. It is home to over 50,000 residents primarily Yorubas and Ilajes. The federal government of Nigeria acquired the land in 1929 for the benefits of the Nigeria Railway Corporation. In the early 1970s, residents displaced by the nearby National Theatre construction were relocated to Badia by the Federal Government and have lived on the land since.
Ironically, Badia is one of the nine host communities for “urban upgrading” activities under the $200 million World Bank fund through Lagos Metropolitan Development and Government Project, LMDGP. As in other host communities such as Makoko, Iwaya and Agege, the Lagos State Government has once again forcefully evicted the intended beneficiaries of the LMDGP. Indeed, Badia East suffered forced eviction in March 2012, when the Lagos State Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI) brigade set ablaze and demolished over 300 houses to clear way for LMDGP activities abuses for which the project has just recently paid compensation.
The on-going demolition and forced eviction of the Badia East community illustrates sadly that nothing has changed in Lagos since the days of military dictatorship. The elected Lagos State government under the leadership of Governor Fashola carried out a mass forced evictions in flagrant contravention of its own laws, international law and fundamental rights guaranteed by the Nigerian Constitution; so long as those people are poor and hopeless citizens.
Seeing no alternative, SERAC has petitioned the World Bank Independent Inspection Panel urging it to freeze further funding and implementation of the LMDGP and investigate the Lagos State Government’s repeated failure to abide by the specific terms of applicable World Bank policies that mandated it to minimize involuntary resettlement and when displacement is absolutely unavoidable, ensure prior consultation, adequate notice, compensation and resettlement to those displaced persons.
SERAC has gone to the Lagos State Court to seek an immediate injunction preventing further demolition of Badia East and restraining the Government from making use of the land. Badia is one of the target communities of the World Bank Project. For the areas that have been demolished, there is a new road that has been constructed, new canal and primary school have been completed. With all the money from the World Bank, they are not making the place better, they are conniving with others to chase them away in order to build their own estate. This is totally unjust and unacceptable.
Would you say the people were not notified?
The only warning or information which was largely undocumented was a visit by the Commissioner for Agriculture who came to the community on Wednesday, three days before the incident. He came and told the traditional ruler that government would destroy their community and that they should find a place to go. We made enquiries and got the Special Adviser to the Governor on Thursday who confirmed that the Governor was going to demolish the place to build some real estates and I met with the Commissioner for Housing, Mr. Bosun Jeje and the Special Adviser to other directors and they confirmed same.
The housing they intend to build, the present people living in Badia East might not be able to afford it. And there is no plan to compensate them which is a thing of concern. There is no resettlement plan either. We feel this is wrong. The land did not belong to Lagos State Government. It was acquired by the Federal Government in 1929 and the people were re-settled by the Federal Government. Their houses were destroyed in 1973 when the government took over their land to build the National Theartre in order to host Festac and moved the people to Ijora Badia.
Right now, the State Government is going around demolishing those homes without due process. And that is why the people are expressing their grievances and telling the governor that it is a terrible thing he has done and that he needs to deal with this and take care of the needs of the people. This is one of the many steps we have taken. As we speak, we are going to court and we are sending petition to the World Bank. With our fact at hand, we have been informed that the people might not be able to afford the housing project processed by the State government.
Do you think the people acquired the land legally?
These are communities that have existed since 1978. The government is deceiving people by talking about CofO. I recommend to every journalist in the country to read the land use act. There is no where in the land use act that states that it is mandatory to get CofO. This only happens when government wants to deceive and confuse people. You only require a CofO when you are selling to them and going to get consent. They are not selling their houses and therefore, there is no point taking about CofO.