At a meeting held on November 2, 2015, Spaces for Change secured the commitment of the Lagos State Government to initiate a state-facilitated alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process to resolve the multifaceted human rights and legal issues triggering the recurrent demolitions and forced evictions in Badia. Residents of Badia, an informal community in Lagos, have been locked in conflict with the Ojora Chieftaincy Family for many years because of differing interests and claims on the lands in Badia which has resulted in protracted litigation and repeated forced dislodgment of local residents.
What was supposed to be a community-wide visit to Lagos State Government Secretariat at Alausa, Ikeja, to protest against the continued intimidation and violation of the housing rights of Badia East evictees culminated into a significant meeting between Spaces for Change, state authorities and Badia evictees. The meeting which lasted for one and half hours had in attendance, Mr. Kehinde Bamigbetan, Special Adviser to the Lagos State Governor on Communication and Communities; Mr. Jafaar Smith, Permanent Secretary of Local Government Affairs; Mr. Sanusi Kamal, a director of security in the Ministry of Local Government Affairs. Also in attendance were Spaces for Change’s executive director and program officers and four representatives of Badia community.
Victoria Ohaeri, executive director of Spaces for Change briefed the newly-appointed Special Adviser to the Governor, Mr. Kehinde, on the history of landholdings in Ijora Badia, the events surrounding the September 18, 2015 demolition of Badia East, the community’s efforts to seek reprieve for the demolitions, the previous mediation efforts of the Lagos State government, the Lagos State Government’s directive for an amicable resolution within a 30-day time frame, the Ojora’s family’s continued use of police officers to intimidate and harass Badia evictees particularly on October 12, November 2&3, 2015, and the failed arrangements to successfully host a “peace” meeting between the evictees and the Ojora Family in furtherance of the state government directives.
A community representative, Mrs. Biola Ogunyemi decried what she described as “increasing infant and maternal mortality in Badia” since the September 18 demolition exercise, as a result of ill-health, loss of livelihoods, and unsanitary conditions evicted residents are forced to live under. She asked for humanitarian assistance for the women and children to help lessen hunger and disease, pending the final resolution of the legal issues.
It was at that meeting that Spaces for Change and Badia community representatives learned from the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Local Government Affairs that Ojora family had been cooperating with state departments, and had visited the ministry several times after the October 7 meeting. Community representatives were surprised to find that although the Lagos State Government’s October 7 directive mandated parties to meet and consult one another outside of the government premises, the Ojora family has instead gone ahead to meet with state authorities repeatedly while ignoring efforts the evictees had made to engage them over the contentious land issues.
Mr. Bamigbetan reaffirmed the commitment of the Lagos State Government to protect the interest of local people affected by forced evictions, whether ordered by the court or not. He promised to respond to Spaces for Change’s complaint within 24 hours, and advise the Ojora family to stay further actions on the land. Not only that, he assured that the Lagos State Government will launch a special ADR vehicle to resolve the convoluted legal issues between the evictees and the Ojora chieftaincy family.
With the hope that this ADR process will protect them from continuing homelessness, Badia evictees have great expectations that the Lagos State Government will use its significant discretion to ensure that existing housing rights protections under the statutory laws in force in Nigeria are respected. Obstacles remain, but Badia evictees will rather remain hopeful that this ADR process will march towards justice and confront the unfair practices that disempower them.