•Want poor, rich accommodated in mega city project
By Victor Ahiuma-Young & Gabriel Olawale
STAKEHOLDERS have called on Lagos State government to find alternative accommodation and means of livelihood to victims of demolitions of slums, shanties, road side stores, among other dislocated residents by the government in its drive towards mega city project.
The stakeholders, comprising trade unionists, activists, diplomats, academics, market men and women as well community leaders weekend in Lagos, at a programme organised by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, FES, titled “The Poor Must Also Live-Demolitions of Markets and Workplaces”, challenged the state government to find ways of accommodating everybody; the the poor, the middle class and the rich in the mega city project. Among the participants were the German Consular General to Nigeria, M. Ingo Herbert, FES Country Resident Representative, Nigeria Office, Mr. Ulrich Thum, Professor Taibat Lawanson of University of Lagos, UNILAG, General Secretary of Federation of Informal Workers of Nigeria, FIWON, Mr. Gbenga Komolafe, and Director of International Press Centre, IPC, Mr. Lanre Arogundade.
Sharing their experiences with Vanguard Homes & Property, the victims of various demolitions across the state lamented over what they described as agonising life. According to Mr. Olukoya Sunday, a waste picker in Igando area of Lagos State who recalled how the state waste management agency forced him out of the dump site after several years of extortion, pointing out that this led to his children dropping out of school and opportunity to cater for his family.
“The Lagos State Waste Management Authority, LAWMA said they will be collecting N300,000 monthly from all of us who were operating at dump sites which we all complied. In December 2015, they announced that we should come and register our dump sites with 25,000 which will cover us for duration of one year and we did. But in April, the ministry of environment came and said they have sold the dump site where we were picking waste to somebody and the certificate they gave us four months ago has expired. So, they decided to send us out of the dump site.”
He explained that since January this year, all his children could no longer continue their education, pointing out that they were formerly attending private school, stressing that all efforts to enroll them into public school have proved abortive. “When I attempted to register them in public school, I was told to go and bring NASRA certificate and my tax clearance. Where will I get that when they have stopped me from working? What the state government is doing to informal sector is not good. We are only relevant during election.”
Speaking in the same vein, Mrs. Christiana Favour, a resident of Otodo Gbame, a waterfront slum on the Lagos lagoon, recounted how their house was bulldozed at midnight. “Towards the end of last year in the midnight, while I was sleeping, the noise of bulldozers, escorted by policemen, was heard demolishing homes in our community. Some residents, who were scared and confused, ran out of their homes. Some jumped into the surrounding waters and ended up drowning in the lagoon.”
She recalled that by day break, about 30,000 people had been rendered homeless and 15 of their neighbours were dead.
Director, Rural and Urban Development Initiative, Mr. Agbodemu Musbau said that looking at the way and manner in which the Lagos state government goes about demolitions in the state, there is need to ask whose interest they are representing and whether they are sensitive to people’s plight.
Musbau said that after series of letters to the state government about the need for deliberation as regards slum communities in the state without response, they decided to form a group of Lagos Marginalized Community Forum.
He hinted that in 2006, they were advised to key into the programme of ministry of rural development and they registered 42 slum communities under the ministry, pointing out that but today, 26 out of the 42 registered communities have been demolished by the state government.
On his part, the Chairman Nigeria Automobile Technician Association, Lagos State chapter, Mr. Asiwaju Omonide lamented that most of the viable markets in the state have been demolished in which some of these markets women are the ones financing their homes.
According to him, “The market will be demolished and there will be no alternative. Last year some mechanic villages were demolished and government upgraded them to modern shops, but two percent of those shops have not been occupied. They are still vacant because people could not afford them.
“Government needs to recognize our roles. Some of the boys that would have become thugs or armed rubbers today, we trained them as technicians and they have become independent”, he noted.
General Secretary of Federation of Informal Workers Organisation of Nigeria, Gbenga Komolafe said that some of the markets that have been demolished by the state government are already well planned before turning them into ultra modern markets that poor people cannot afford.
“The new market in Oyingbo which was built few years ago has not been occupied because it was too expensive. About 17 markets were recently demolished by state government and the space were left vacant forcing traders to trade on the streets.
“And to worsen their situation the state government enacted a law that criminalized street trading, subjecting traders to harassment and extortion on daily basis and those who cannot afford that get imprisoned”, Komolafe said
Associate Professor of Urban Planning at University of Lagos, Taibat Lawanson identified the complexity between the vision of the state government for the city and the reality of peoples live, saying “The vision of government is to become African model mega city which is a good thing but they must be able to make sure that in doing that, the lives of people in Lagos reflect the image. Lagos wants to be ranked high but a lot of our communities are not developed because the required amenities are not there.
She advised the government to provide those amenities that will make those communities livable rather than demolition. “The government has good intention but the approach in carrying it out is not right.
There is need for engagement between government and people. The question should be how we can accommodate these people within the structure of the mega city”, she reasoned.