The blood on Ambode's hands
Evicting Otodo Gbame residents with guns, was always going to be a disaster. The Lagos State govt should know better.
And I’m yet to recover from that trip.
We came face to face with poverty at its most demeaning and excruciating worst.
Days earlier, the Lagos State government had deployed armed police officers and other law enforcement personnel to the swathe of shanties and shacks.
By some estimates, Otodo Gbame is a settlement of over 6,000 dwellers or more.
By midday of March 17, 2017, the community had been reduced to rubble.
When Pulse arrived, the entire place was deserted.
Some of the residents on the ground on the day, promised to continue carrying on with their daily living from Otodo Gbame; even though they had been asked by the government to evacuate their wares from the land or be damned.
And here’s where the problem lies.
The government had asked the residents of Otodo Gbame to leave that parcel of land that has been their home for years, without an alternative relocation plan in place.
The settlers were stunned by this. They adduced their sorry plight to their Ikate Elegushi neighbours who they accuse of eyeing their land just so they can sell same to rich developers.
There’s a court order asking the Lagos State government not to dislodge residents of 15 waterfront communities including Otodo Gbame.
But that didn’t stop the Lagos State government from invading Otodo Gbame last Sunday, April 9, 2017, for a second time--with more armed police officers and other paramilitary units in the bargain.
There have been reports of stray bullets ending the lives of two persons. There have been images of young men of Otodo Gbame community being lacerated with bullet wounds.
There have been images of the residents fleeing on canoes. There have been images of pregnant women forced to paddle their own canoes, while fleeing the bullets and jackboots behind them.
When Pulse visited last month, residents lamented that their only sin is that they are poor.
The Lagos State government says it is forcibly evicting the inhabitants of that waterfront slum because it wants to preserve the environment around the city's coastline.
According to the Lagos State government monitoring team, “Credible intelligence gathering shows that militants are living amongst the people in Otodo Gbame and are perfecting plans to attack Lekki and Victoria Island. Credible intelligence gathering shows that militants are living amongst the people in Otodo Gbame and are perfecting plans to attack Lekki and Victoria Island.
“The Lagos State government in collaboration with security agencies will stop at nothing to secure the State.
“The government will not succumb to emotional blackmail and will stand by this decision because it is in the best interest of all residents".
In one breath, the government says it wants to clean up the Otodo Gbame environment and in yet another, it says it wants to flush out militants.
From the Lagos State government’s logic, the solution to dealing with militants is to level up whole settlements and chase the inhabitants into the creeks.
To hear the government say it, this method should also work in the Niger Delta where militants have made bombing of oil installations, a pastime.
It’s a silly logic, really.
Sound logic says you set up a proper resettlement plan before going in with the tractors and backhoes. The Lagos State government firmly put the cart before the horse in this case.
The government’s excuse for killing the people and demolishing their shelter is untenable.
Militants and rogues abound in every corner of Lagos.
Lagos will be a wasteland if militants and 'agberos' are the trigger for raiding whole communities.
The sorry story of Otodo Gbame is that of inequality in the midst of plenty, the result of zero social security schemes for the less privileged and the drive to build a mega city in the midst of mega poverty.
Ambode now has blood on his hands.
The blood of the young men who were gunned down in Otodo Gbame last Sunday has now become his cross to carry.
In building mega cities and skyscrapers, our nation has got to first address the endemic poverty that has ravaged the land while government officials loot away the treasury.
There is no excuse for killing people because they wouldn’t leave a land they’ve called theirs for many years.
Government has got to have a human face. When government intervenes, it must do so as peaceably as possible. It must enlighten the people as much as possible. The barrel of a gun should not be resorted to.
In a few days, Lagos will roll out the drums to celebrate 50 years of existence. It will do so having just killed innocents and evicted some of its labour force unjustly.
Ambode failed with this one. The planning and execution was piss poor. The deaths and bullet wounds were pretty avoidable.
The Governor has got to carry the can for the Otodo Gbame mayhem and deaths, warts and all.
JOIN OUR PULSE COMMUNITY!
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