Hundreds of persons forcefully evicted from Otodo Gbame, a waterfront community in the Lekki area of Lagos left the premises of Lagos High Court presided over by Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo jubilant on 21, June 2017.
The residents were happy with the ruling of the court declaring their forceful eviction from the community they had lived in and known as home for many decades by the Lagos state government as unconstitutional.
The judge had also ordered the Lagos state government to enter into consultations with the evicted residents on a resettlement plan or allow them to return to the waterfront community.
In the ruling, Justice Onigbanjo noted that the eviction, which, as he noted, was done without adequate notice and resettlement plan, was in violation of Section 34 of the 1999 constitution as amended.
After the ruling, residents of Otodo Gbame left the court singing and rejoicing, expecting the state government to begin consultation on the process of their resettlement as ordered by the court.
Little did they know that the state government would not just ignore the court ruling, but would deploy more security personnel to cordon off Otodo Gbame to ensure that they are kept out of the community.
It was reported that the Lagos government began the negotiation process, but pulled out with claim that an appeal to overturn the court order has been filed.
Before the court ruling, the Police, acting at the behest of Lagos State and the Elegushi royal family raided Otodo Gbame on five different occasions, shooting indiscriminately, demolishing and setting houses on fire as part of moves to drive out those who had resisted the initial evictions and make it difficult for others to return.
The raid led to the death of not less than 15 residents of Otodo Gbame, with many others declared missing or injured.
Eleven months after the court ruling, residents of Otodo Gbame are yet to be relocated back to either their ancestral home or a new place as ordered by the court.
Most the evicted residents of Otodo Gbame are into fishing. It was gathered that some of them now sleep in their boats in order to maintain their source of livelihood.
Some have moved to other waterfront communities in the state.
One of the affected residents revealed to SaharaReporters that the eviction has led to separation of families as parents and children have to stay in different places for survival sake.
Efforts of Otodo Gbame residents to get justice with the support of Justice and Empowerment Initiative and Amnesty International have been met with resentment and brutality on the part of the government.
One of such awful incidents was on 17th of November 2017, when police personnel fired tear gas at residents of Otodo Gbame during a peaceful protest to demand implementation of the court judgment.
This was followed by the arrest of 158 residents who were subsequently released after the intervention of right groups.
Amnesty International had called on Lagos state government to put an end to forceful evictions and demolitions of waterfront communities.
“The Lagos state authorities must halt these attacks on poor communities who are being punished for the state’s urban planning failures. The instability and uncertainty created by forced evictions is making their lives a misery as they are left completely destitute”, Amnesty said in one of its reports.
Residents of the community are also asking Governor Akinwunmi Ambode and Lagos state government to obey the court order by relocating them to another place or allowing them to move back to Otodo Gbame.
The big question remains whether justice would prevail and evicted residents of Otodo Gbame would ever be relocated.