Just Human

July 21, 2012

Fashola takes over Makoko

Fashola takes over Makoko

*See them Packing…


Fear, anger and despair, all lumped in one, may not aptly describe the present condition of the residents of Makoko in Lagos state as the 72-hour quit notice served by the state government to the residents lapsed few days ago. This order led to the forced eviction of an estimated 250,000 people who are Ijaws, Ilajes, and Eguns from their homes of several decades built around the waterfront and power lines.

When Saturday Vanguard visited the area, residents whose pitiable condition was visible intermittently shouted, cried and wailed, asking the reporters “where do we go to? “Fashola has no human face’ this is wicked and inhumane”, they said. Others were seen removing their personal effects to God-knows-where, just as others  were carefully removing the roofs of their homes, woods, zinks, and other usable materials to possibly construct a home somewhere else.

Speaking with Saturday Vanguard, Ewajane Osoro, Secretary, Ilaje Crayfish, Fishermen Association of Nigeria, explained that:  “There are two Makoko, one is on the waterfront while the other is on the mainland. Makoko waterfront constitutes more than half of the population of the entire Makoko itself and that is where the quit notice was served.

*Trading with death

It is among the nine communities targeted by the World Bank and that is why they inaugurated Lagos state Metropolitan Developmental Project with so much money committed into it and the area is one of the beneficiaries.”

Reacting to the quit order, Apostle Paul Uwuretan Omolere, leader of the Makoko Youth Movement said: “it is a bad action and it shows that this government has no human face. The first question to ask is where do they want these displaced people to go to? They have no other place to stay than to stay on the waterfront,” he stated.

He said that government in the letter written to them had deceptively expressed concern but could not fix the displaced people. “They said they are very much concerned about the security and well-being of the people living on the lagoon and that some have built houses close to the power-line and  they would clear the houses that are close and beyond the power-line. So, we suddenly heared about the 72-hour quit notice,” he explained.

The quite notice according to him states in part that the people do not give them the benefits to make use of the waterways for developmental, economic or recreation project and that in order to meet up with the mega-city status of Lagos, they had to get rid of houses of that nature.

In 1990, when the then military government announced its intention to demolish Maroko, it gave a seven-day notice, one therefore expects that a government elected by the people should have shown more human face if it becomes expedient to carry out the demolition and at least relocate them to a better area.

In his argument, Apostle Omolere said: “They received the information with a rude shock. It is unethical to give an individual 72 hours to take all his personal effects, without alternative provision and no remedial measures for anyone who is affected. As we speak, there are so many people who are sleeping under the bridges and there are so many people who are yet to see their relatives.”

He disclosed that many people have been forcefully evicted from their thatched homes and are now hanging out under bridges in various parts of the state.

“You see, the people in the Lagoon area are about two hundred and fifty thousand, 250,000.00. And as I speak to you, about 12,000 people have been displaced while thousands of people wander in the streets, some sleep on the Lagoon shore as they don’t seem to know what next to do or where to go.”

Another resident angrily cut in saying: “Half of the fish eaten in Lagos State were smoked here. Besides, the displaced people do not have anywhere to go and most of them might go wretched. Most of them might die as a result of the effect of the eviction and I can tell you that it might be more than 20 percent of them that would survive it. No one is comfortable with the living standard here but the truth is that these people have no money to live on the mainland.”

Apostle Omolere added that most of the houses built on the waterfront have been in existence since the inception of Lagos State. “It is over 103 years that the people have been living here according to history. It is true that people should not build houses against the law of the land. The houses should not exceed the stipulated line. It is dangerous.

“But I can see that the people are ready to obey the law of the land. And that is why they are moving their belongings as requested by the government. We are only praying that their operation does not exceed the stipulated point which is the 100 metres.”

He stated that it might be difficult for them to stay away from the Lagoon because they needed to work on the water to make a living.

*See them Packing…

David Shemeden, CDA chairman Makoko House on Lagos in his own comment begged the government not to extend the demolition beyond 100 metres. “The truth is that most of the people involved have been passing through series of agony. They don’t have anywhere to go. We are all fishermen living on the Lagoon and that is why it is impossible for us to live on land. We are used to this place and we are the ones providing all the fish (both frozen and fresh) consumed in Lagos State, serving the state. We are appealing to the State government not to exceed the expected 100 metres.

He added that the 72-hour quit notice was the first warning received from the government and that they should show human face on the issue. He explained that the community had discussed the issue and were ready to relocate. “We have relayed the information to the people and they are ready but it is not polite to give people 72 hours to quit when there is no provision for them elsewhere,” he stated.

Miana Seghai, whose house was demolished fought back tears as she spoke to our reporters. She said: “We don’t have anywhere to go. Our children cannot go to school anymore. We are only sleeping in our canoes on the Lagoon. We are human beings and that is why we are pleading with the state government. All the children have been deprived of their right to go to school now. Nobody is helping us out. We are displaced,” she lamented.

Mr. John Maotin, General Secretary to Egun Community, Makoko, said home-owners in the area on July 12, received their first eviction order which stated that the community would be used for social amenities.

According to Maotin, the notice stated that “every owner, occupier, resident of Makoko, Iwaya, Sokoro waterfront and water bodies should quit within 72 hours.

“We live and work on the water, we contribute largely to the economic development of Lagos and the nation, so we plead with the government to allow us to stay here,’’ one of them pleaded.

Executive Director, Social and Economic Rights Action Centre (SERAC), Mr. Felix Morka who was in Makoko, Lagos, said the eviction notice was “wrong and in total violation of the rule of law.”

Morka said although SERAC had previously enlightened Makoko residents on the danger of building houses in unauthorised areas, giving homeowners such a short notice was unkind.

He said: “We condemn the action taken by the Lagos State Ministry of Waterfront and Infrastructure Development, it was done without proper notice.

“Giving people 72 hours to vacate their homes is difficult and shows lack of understanding.”

He, however, called for total restructuring of the community with a view to generating revenue and turning the community into a tourist centre.

“Half of the fish that is eaten in Lagos is produced in this community, so we can make Makoko a revenue-generating place by investing here and making it a place where tourists can always visit,’’ he said.