A TaskForce from the Lagos State government last week arrived at the Oworonshoki slum communities with a demolition order from the state government. Scores of houses including some worship centres were reduced to heaps of rubbles while the caterpillars roared through the various streets. A non governmental organisation, Centre for Children’s Health Education, Orientation and Protection (CEE-HOPE), a child’s right and development NGO based in Lagos, was at the area to provide succour through relieve materials including mosquito nets, soft drinks, loaves of bread, sanitary pads, toiletries, beverages, packs of rice and garri, cash gifts of N5,000 each to several very affected citizens who now sleep on the rubbles of what used to be their homes. DAYO EMMANUEL was there and here reports.
Residents of Oworonshoki slum communities in Koshofe Local Government Area of Lagos State, woke up Wednesday 26th July to receive shocking news that their residents of several decades must go down with immediate effect courtesy of an order from the Lagos State Government.
While some lucky streets were given seven days notice, many others got no notice while an elderly man said the policemen attached to the demolition squad were magnanimous enough to give him five minutes or the building would crumble on his family.
My 35 years labour with NIPOST vanished within minutes
Septuagenarian Sunday Ajimuda said he had lived on that ground for 30 years but his tenancy came to an end within minutes of a caterpillar’s job.
“I’ve been here for 30 years, I worked at the Nigerian Postal Service (NIPOST) and retired. All my life savings and my retirement benefits I invested here and I built my house. They didn’t give us a minute notice, they just came and started demolishing,” he lamented.
Continuing, he said, “The policeman attached to the squad said he would give me five minutes and if I don’t move my family out, they would crush everything on us. They used tear gas on us, in my life, I have never experienced tear gas, not even as a young man.
“I have my grand children and my four children with me. My second son’s wife just had a baby, all of us are outside now. I am from Ilaje in Ondo State, I don’t know what next to do,” he cried.
At over 70, where do I start life?
Another Septuagenarian, Pa Segun Ategbero from Ekiti State, came to Lagos several decades ago and had worked 55 years of his life living in Oworonshoki for 30 years.
Now he is old and confused after his house was demolished during the excercise.
“I have been here for 30 years, I built in Coker area of Oworonshoki here. My home has been demolished and I have been moving round the place, I have five children, my wife is late, there is no place to go,” he cried.
Continuing his lamentations, the widower said, “No notice was given before the demolition order, it was my place the demolition started from, single thing I couldn’t pick.”
Lamenting the lack of love in Nigeria, he said, “We don’t love ourselves in this country. We ran to the seat of government in Alausa, there was no help. If it pleases God, He will fight for us, they don’t count us as human beings.”
When asked what findings he did about the land before building, he said he verified from the government office in charge of lands and was given a go-ahead to purchase.
“When I wanted to buy the place, I went to the government to verify if it was government reserved land, they said no, it was not. So before I bought it, they said it was a genuine land, now I don’t understand again. I don’t know where to start, at my age what work do I want to start doing? They have killed us, only that they have not buried us. My wife has died, I have our children with me, no where to go,” he cried.
The excercise by a Lagos State TaskForce is the recent of the many demolitions which are becoming annual rituals around Lagos and the biggest news around displacement in Nigeria’s largest population.
Abigail Nicholas is an Egbado woman from Ogun State, married to an Igbo policeman now deceased. She is also sacked by the recent demolition excercise at Oworonshoki.
My husband served the Nigerian police for 32 years and died, no benefits but demolition
“I am an Egbado woman, my late husband was Igbo and a policeman. He died eight years ago. Since then where he left us is where I have been managing with my children and when they came suddenly, they demolished the house on us,” she lamented.
She narrated further that, “There were pillars too strong for the machine to break, they brought labourers to break them manually and leveled the place. Since then we have distributed ourselves we have been scattered since Wednesday, we only trace ourselves with phones.
“On Sunday we couldn’t go to church, the church people started looking for us that they didn’t see our family in church. We parked our load to Oke Eri area, they went there too to demolish. We had to burn some of our belongings since there was no place to put them. We have no helper except God.
“Nigerians should help us. My husband worked as a policeman for 32 years, since he died, I didn’t get a dime from the police authority. People at the station he last worked at Sabo said they contributed money for him, the person collecting the money said the money got lost. There is nobody that will not die, may God help us, we sleep in the open anywhere we see,” she sobbed.
I’m a widow with grandchildren, we all now sleep in the open
Another victim of the demolition, Shade Ogundipe has three children and three grandchildren all in the cold and she is worried about the little ones.
“I am from Ijebu in Ogun State. I have three children and three grand children, we sleep outside now. They got to the place we kept our load and still demolished the place, we just came to sit down here, I have no husband,” she said.
Stating further, she said, “I am a widow, we have been on our land now for 25 years, my husband died two months ago. The government came suddenly and demolished our house, I didn’t pick anything from the house. I have four children, two of them have married and gone, only two of them are with me now,” she lamented.
Our home of 25 years is gone
Mrs. Yusuf is from Osun State and has lived at Oworonshoki for 25 years.
“Our house has been demolished. We didn’t see anybody to run to and we are in the hand of God now, we have nothing left. I am from Iwo in Osun State, we bought this land 25 years ago and we have been living here since then,” she said.
Policeman collected N10,000 and still demolished our church, home
A female cleric, Rev. Mother Gbadamosi Adeola is also among the victims of the demolition at Oworonshoki who is now homeless, living in the streets.
“I now live on the street with my children and church members. When it happened, I wasn’t at home, I was at Agelu after Iseyin, Oyo State. We go there annually for our yearly program, I was in the program when I was called by church members. I returned immediately, I have one and half plot at Folorunsho street.
“They asked us to leave, I went to meet one of the policemen, I said they should at least leave the room I am sleeping so we can stay there if they have to demolish the rest. He took N10,000 from me, I don’t know his name. On Wednesday he took the money and on Thursday they still demolished our buildings.
“Two months time it would be a year I lost my husband, so I’m a widow, I have four children. We live outside in the rain. I call for mercy because I built that place in hunger, I deprived myself to develop the place. I took steps when we heard about the demolition, our community leaders tried a lot and may God help them.
“Many of us are widows and none of us has shelter again. I am known as Holy Mary here at Oworo, I am from Ondo town in Ondo State, I call for mercy!” She exclaimed.
They demolished our church during worship
Another female cleric, Senior Prophetes Olayinka Digo of El-Bethel Church, Oworonshoki is also a victim of the latest demolition in Lagos State.
“I am from Ijebu land in Ogun State, they have demolished my house and our church. My husband traveled and I’m only home with three children and my church members, three other children have gone, they are married,” she said.
Narrating further, she said, “We were in service when they came suddenly and they demolished everything, I have been here for ten years. Ile Anu street was where we lived before they scattered our residence.”
A family lost a newborn baby during demolition
Meanwhile, as the demolition excercise continue, some of the displaced persons said the land is being advertised for sale at the Lekki tollgate.
“What we heard this morning is that they have started advertising the land at Lekki tollgate presently,” a victim, Comrade Oluwatosin said.
He stated that there were casualties as a result of the demolition. “There is a man here whose baby died in his hands in that rain when they were demolishing the houses.”
Indigene of Ogun State, Oluwatosin, a commercial driver, said, “I have lost all my property, no where to go, I’m a commercial driver, I am from Ogun State. There is no place to go and I can’t work, I don’t know what to do right now, we are outside in this rain. I have been here for 20 years and suddenly everything I have worked for is gone,” he lamented.
I’ve lived here for 50 years, now homeless
One of the oldest settlers in the area who was in pains when reporters got to the scene said she had lived at Oworonshoki for over 50years.
“I am form Ilaje in Ondo State and I have been affected by the demolition. They demolished our house and I have been here over 50 years,” she said.
Narrating how she got to the site, she said, “I came with Baba Lone who was the first settler here, he gave us the place we are staying. Then Lawyer Coker came, he sold the land to us, now we are surprised, we didn’t see any notice, they demolished all the houses.
“We called on the government, all of them are pushing us in different directions, we don’t know what to do. I am a widow, I’m here with my children and grandchildren, I’m crying the government should come to our rescue,” she sobbed.
I was among the first settlers 15 years before Biafra war
Another old settler who arrived with Baba Lone who arrived first to the area, Esther Lone Mosafejo said she was among the first settlers while the area was waterlogged.
” I don’t know date at all but I remember we had lived here for 15 years before the civil war, that we call Biafra War broke. It was in the forest, the Baba that first settled here kept calling people to come because he was the only one.
“Baba Lone Mosafejo brought a lot of us to join him in the bush here then. we are from Ondo and Baba came here from Ondo. All these areas were water, Baba Lone didn’t meet anybody here, Coker came to meet us here. Baba told him about his displacement at different places he settled earlier, he said ‘mo sa f’ejo’ (I ran away from trouble) that is why the place is called Mosafejo today. His tomb is still here with us.
“They have not demolished my own house, I am praying they don’t demolish it,” she hoped.
No prior notice before setting our homes ablaze and demolishing, they are terrorists
Comrade Segun Olanrewaju is a community leader in the affected area whose house also went down.
“A new born baby died during the demolition,” he lamented, stating that, “They came without prior notice. A lot of our animals including goats and dogs died in the process as well.
“They would put fire and once people run out, they would start demolishing the houses. Nobody fought them, we told the people in the community that they are government officials and nobody should fight them, we said let us dialogue, there are old people and children, we are Nigerians.
“We have very sick people, everybody affected is sick psychologycally as well. I am just controlling myself as a man. I have three children, one is at Obafemi Awolowo University, one is at Lagos State University and the third one is at the University of Ilorin.
“Do they think we are animals that they are treating us as if we are not Nigerians? The law of the land says anywhere you are for ten years you are a citizen, it means this government, to say the real fact they are terrorists because they have terrorised us. We have Ilajes, Ekitis, Ijaws, people from Ogun, Ondo, Cross River, Hausas, Oyo State, eastern states etc are here, so the whole Nigerians have been here for over 50 years.
“If this message can be taken to Sanwo-Olu, this government is 419, if they had good intention, why didn’t they tell us they would demolish the place after election?” He queried.
Talking about compensation, he said, “If they want to compensate us here, at least each family must be given N10m to be able to go and resettle somewhere else. A new born baby died in this demolition, many goats, many dogs died and they didn’t allow anybody to video them,” he said.
I lost two buildings, finished
Another elderly man, Godwin Omojuwa from Ondo State is still in shock, fighting tears while lamenting the demolition squad is still operating in the area.
“They are still there as we speak, they threw all our loads outside, they have demolished my two houses and I have no place to sleep,” he spoke in pains.
CEE-HOPE condemns inhuman action
Meanwhile, the Executive Director of CEE-HOPE Nigeria, Betty Abah has condemned the act of the Lagos State TaskForce that demolished the communities.
“We condemn without reservations this continued assault on the urban poor by the Lagos State Government. It is quite clear that forced evictions which have seen thousands of the have-nots driven into the harsh streets annually and their lands handed over to the super-rich, politicians and their cronies, is the highest achievements of the Lagos State Government every year and the highest news-making item,” she said.
Continuing, she said, “It is not the building of super highways, super bridges or the construction of underground railways considering that it is a state flush with so much funds and resources to achieve all these and make life comfortable for the masses many of whom are scammed into voting them into office every four years with the promise of a better life, a promise which only ends in destitution and despoliation for the urban poor voters each time these politicians get into office.
“Lagos has an acute housing deficit problem but rather than build low income houses for the poor to try and meet this needs, Lagos’ response to the problem is sending the poor into the high streets and this time at the height of the rainy season.
“I challenge the Lagos State Government to show the world where they have built any low income housing, a policy which distinguishes the Jakande era good governance practice and which has never been rivalled forty years on.
“As in previous cases, the recent demolition of Oworonshoki was in gross violation of the human and housing rights of the residents. Not enough notice was given as stipulated by law, besides, after demolishing the area that was given a very short notice, the armed demolition squad went on to demolish more communities that never received any notice and residents allegedly paid money to be able to retrieve their properties.
“Many of the houses were burnt down with household items intact. Some of the residents and sympathisers were also beaten and arrested when they decided to take videos and photos of the exercise for documentation purpose.
“The law provides for compensation if a land is to be used for other purposes by a government (in this case, a jetty and an elite estate) yet nothing of such was given to the people, neither any hint nor provision of relocation.
“The government must be reminded that the urban poor also count as human beings and as Nigerian citizens for whom they have taken an oath to protect and whose welfare is meant to be their priority. Ideally, the Lagos State Government should be ashamed of itself. History is watching with keen lenses,” she said.