Residents of the recently demolished Monkey Village slums of Opebi, Lagos have called on the government of Lagos State to come their rescue saying they are homeless, living under the sky since 31st December 2020 when a Task Force rolled in the caterpillars that demolished their shanties.
A visit to the area on Monday revealed that despite the demolition four days earlier, life still exists in Monkey Village though at a huge cost. Over a hundred people are still stranded with no idea of where to go or how to pick the pieces of their lives together.
Mama Hassan is one of the residents of what used to be Monkey Village slums. She told National Wire on Monday that life has not remained the same after the demolition that took them unawares.
“I have been here for five years after the death of my husband. I used to live at Akute, Ogun State but when I became homeless with my grandchildren, I walked from Akute to Olusosun in Ojota area of Lagos,” she narrated.
With nothing to do and no food for the family, she started selling sachet water popularly called pure water starting with the cash gift from a good Samaritan.
“When I was looking for how to get money to feed my family, someone gave me N100 and I bought a bag of pure water. I hawked in the sun and I sold five bags that same day. As I was selling I was running home to buy food for my grandchildren from part of the gains,” she narrated.
She added that if you are not lazy in Lagos you would feed. She also narrated how she diversified her business by selling roasted groundnut. “When I got N2,000 I went to Ketu Mile 12 to buy a raw groundnut, salt, sugar, corn and started roasting, that was how I escaped hunger with my little grandchildren,” she said.
But for Mama Hassan, all her gains from her subsistent business fizzled out when a Task Force sent by Lagos State on New Year’s eve descended on Monkey Village.
Her story is not too different from other residents’ as poverty is a common denominator.
The demolition is also going to affect the education of children in the community because they attend nearby public schools which may not be possible any longer.
Meanwhile, a Non-Governmental Organisation, the Centre for Children’s Health Education, Orientation and Protection (CEE-HOPE) has criticised the Lagos State Government for the demolition of Monkey Village which has released more homeless people into the society already having housing deficit.
In a release signed by Founder and Executive Director of CEE-HOPE, Betty Abah, more than 400 persons were displaced when the community was demolished without prior notice.
“In the morning of December 31, 2020, truckloads of policemen, thugs descended on the community and with the aid of graders and bulldozers, pulled down the houses, displacing more than 400 persons including children,” it reads.
Reading further the statement said, “Many of the residents who had gone out for the day had their homes totally demolished with their belongings inside. An 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.
“Pleas by community members who had the key of the centre to retrieve the materials were ignored. CEE-HOPE’s water project in the community was also totally destroyed. Several members of the community were also brutalised by the government-sponsored thugs, according to community sources.
“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.
“But in a statement on January 4, CEE-HOPE faulted 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.
According to Abah, Monkey Village 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. She stressed that the people are therefore not illegal occupants neither have they ever been served any evacuation notice.
According to the release, the displaced persons are demanding an apology for the gross violation of their rights, including the failure to follow due process by duly serving them formal notice.
They also want 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. The residents also demand compensation for CEE-HOPE for the complete destruction of its multi-million Naira ICT Centre/Youth Hub in the community and water project.
The displaced residents also demand 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 poor and is in violation of the state’s supposed duty as the hope of the poor and vulnerable.
However on New Year day, the Lagos State Environmental and Special Offences (Enforcement) Unit (Taskforce) responded to stories making the rounds on social media about the demolition exercise.
In a release signed by Adebayo Taofiq, Head, Public Affairs Unit of the Lagos State Task Force exonerated the unit from the demolition exercise.
“The attention of the Lagos State Environmental and Special Offences (Enforcement) Unit (Taskforce) has been drawn to the above captioned story alleging that the demolition exercise was carried out by the Agency,” the statement read.
Reading further, it stated that, “It is imperative to state categorically that the Operatives of the Agency was not in any way involved in the said demolition exercise as being circulated.
“The Agency wish to make it clear that the operatives is presently enforcing the Lagos State Transport Sector Reformed Law of 2018 to enable free flow of traffic during this festive season across the State.
“It is also note worthy to mention that Officers attached to the Agency has been strategically positioned to different black spots areas in order to curb criminal activities of miscreants and hoodlums who harass innocent members of the public.”
Meanwhile, a Lagos State government agency has eventually claimed responsibility of the demolition.
According to CEE-HOPE, “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.”
The above has however confirmed the earlier observation of the residents that the Lagos State government carried out the exercise, hence the call for compensation.