…demands compensation from Lagos govt
by Prisca Sam-Duru
Occupants of the recently demolished informal housing settlement in the Opebi area of Lagos State known as Monkey Village, are still licking their wounds days after the demolition exercise.
Amongst the severely affected is a Non-Governmental Organisation, the Centre for Children’s Health Education, Orientation and Protection (CEE-HOPE) which had its ICT Centre and Youth hub destroyed alongside its library and gadgets.
According to CEE-HOPE which criticised the Lagos State Government for the demolition of the informal space, the act was a calculated attack on the poor as well as education.
The demolition which took place in the morning of December 31, 2020, was carried out by truckloads of policemen and thugs. They were said to have descended on Monkey Village with the aid of graders and bulldozers, pulling down the houses, and displacing more than 400 persons including children. Many of the residents who had gone out for the day had their homes totally demolished with their belongings inside.
The ICT Centre and youth hub built in the community by CEE-HOPE was also pulled down with several computers, library and other gadgets intact in the building.
According to the organisation, pleas by community members who had access to the Centre to allow them help retrieve the materials, were ignored. Destroyed also was CEE-HOPE’s water project in the community. Several members of the community were also brutalised by the thugs whom community sources told CEE-HOPE, were government-sponsored.
“After several denials by the Lagos State Ministry of Environment, the Lagos State Task Force office and other official quarters, the Lagos State Ministry Of Physical Planning & Urban Development, came up with a statement on Sunday January 3, 2021 accepting responsibility for the demolition exercise carried out on December 31, 2020, in Monkey Village. They gave ‘reclamation of wetland’ as the reason for the forced eviction exercise”, CEE-HOPE’s founder/Executive Director, Betty Abah explained.
Reacting to the Lagos State government’s statement, CEE-HOPE issued a statement on January 4, 2021, faulting the action of the “Lagos State Government which it described as ‘crude, autocratic and a gross violation of all known laws and guidelines guiding the handling of such matters world over’ which has not only displaced 400 persons (currently homeless) but also endangering the educational dream of more than 200 of the community’s children”.
“It is indeed a crying shame that the biggest news out of Lagos every single year would revolve around the savage treatment of the urban poor,” said Abah, adding that “From Maroko, Makoko, Badia East, Iluibirin to Otodo-Gbame, and now Monkey Village, it is the same pattern of the gross abuse of the human and shelter rights of the urban poor, when Lagos is not the only state in Nigeria and when Nigeria is not the only place where we have slum settlement or indeed where the urban poor exists. Yet, the most painful for us was the destruction of educational facilities funded by private individuals and for the most vulnerable of children, and in a country with the highest number of out-of-school children, at a time of a global pandemic and during a national recession”.
CEE-HOPE insisted that the “latest statement from the government was part of the layers of lies bandied by the Lagos State Government in the last few days to cover up the atrocity committed against the poor residents of Monkey Village. From claiming it was a take-over of a land under contest in court, to saying it was a hoodlums’ hide-out, it has now framed a wetland narrative.
“But whatever it is, how come there was no prior notice to the residents to at least take out their few belongings before they were crushed by the graders?”
Monkey Village Abah pointed out, “sits on about 10 plots of land which belongs to about seven individuals. The individuals then gave out the land to the residents pending when they are fully ready to develop the place and each land is overseen by some members of the community who are well known to the land owners”, emphasising that the people are therefore not illegal occupants neither have they ever been served any evacuation notice.
Now that an agency of the Lagos State government has finally come out to admit culpability in the entire fiasco, CEE-HOPE is therefore demanding the following: An apology to the community members for the gross violation of their rights, including the failure to follow due process by duly serving them formal notice; compensation of every one of the community members for lost personal and household belongings; a relocation of the victims of this arbitrary forced eviction as guaranteed by the UN provision on Housing Right; Compensation of CEE-HOPE for the complete destruction of its multi-million Naira ICT Centre/Youth Hub in the community and water project; and a promise by the government to end all such arbitrary actions especially with regard to the urban poor in future engagements, commit to meaningful engagement of informal housing residents rather than the usual use of brute force, commit to upgrading of such settlements as is the current practice across the world rather than forced eviction which pushes the poor into worse levels of vulnerability.
CEE-HOPE is also demanding that the Lagos State House of Assembly institute hearings into the incident, with a view towards addressing the issue and unearthing the personalities and real reasons behind this reckless, inhuman and lawless action which has been ongoing in this state unhindered, and which exacerbates the suffering of the thereby violating the state’s supposed duty as the hope of the poor and vulnerable.