#BounceExclusive: Otodo Gbame - “Some Of Us Now Live In Open Boats”
“They burnt our houses and clothes, we had no clothes except for the ones on our back, some went to Ajah while some went to Oriental, right now some of our people sleep inside their boats, and rain falls on them”.
This is according to Sunday Azin. He used to be a resident in Otodo Gbame community. He also worked as a master dredger at the water front.
On Sunday March 9, just before sunrise, the homes came under siege from the Lagos state government.
Residents of the community say policemen and thugs who escorted the wrecking team, shot 4 people, killing 2 and injuring others in the process of the forced eviction.
16 year old Monday Idowu says he was sleeping, when the taskforce came. “People began to shout, dem don come oh, they don come oh! My Papa don go fishing and my mama no dey around, so I try to save her market, I come throw am inside boat ask my friend Daniel Aya make him help me pack the load” he said.
According to Monday who was a barber in Otodo Gbame, a policeman opened fire, and shot at them. The bullet struck him in the stomach, while 27-year-old, Daniel Aya was hit on the face and chest.
Monday Idowu survived the incident, but Daniel Aya died. Also, killed that day allegedly by bullets from a thugs’ gun was Elijah Avonda.
Both men were married with children.
On May 3, 2017, the Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO), Justice Empowerment Initiatives(JEI) and the Nigerian slum/Informal settlement Federation organized a burial for the deceased.
Before they headed out to Badagry, some affected residents who were also mourning spoke to Bounce News in Yaba.
These groups also used the gathering as an opportunity to protest the forced eviction of the residents.
At the burial, some of the ejected residents and supporters shared their concerns and hopes.
Kunle Paul used to be a teacher at Otodo Gbame before the destruction, now he is a para-legal fighting for himself and his people.
“It is illegal, because, there was no notice from the government, it just happened suddenly. 2 people lost their lives and others were wounded by gunshot.
“It’s the community I was born and brought up. Based on the law, we have the deed of right of occupancy, based on the law of limitation, based on the number of years the community has been in existence.
“No one can take it away from us, we have other documents like the survey plan of the land that was done in 2015, after the first attack in 2014, where the Elegushi family were claiming the land, and 2 people lost their lives in that attack." Kunle Paul said.
“We now filed suit against the royal family, the suit was pending and they still went ahead to destroy our homes, they are telling us that the law does not have power.”
We could see the tears and pain in Sunday Azin’s eyes, as he pleaded for justice.
“I have nothing, and I am doing nothing. I was a dredge master that dredged the waters at Otodo Gbame, I want Ambode to give us our land back, our children don’t go to school, because we don’t have money to send them to school.”
A volunteer and member of Nigerian slum/Informal settlement Federation, Raymond Gold has been following the Otodo Gbame incident since it began.
“We have records that over 30,000 people lived in Otodo Gbame and now 5,000 people have no were to go, there were some living in water in their boats.
“A humanitarian crisis was created because of the orders given by the Lagos state government.
“Today our leaders are talking about a resilient smart city, a smart city should be a city were the poor are also accommodated.
"You can’t build a mega city on the blood of the poor. You can’t kill the poor, make them homeless, make them jobless, increasing the rate of school dropouts.
"There are many available options than forced eviction, and we have suggested it to the state government, but our leaders seem to be low in creative thinking, and are more interested in forced eviction, it’s so disheartening.”
While they plead with the government and judicial authorities for a fair hearing; it remains to be seen whether or not the state will resettle these people whose lives have been put on hold or if they would have to rely solely on the courts for justice.