Its Demolition Galore in Lagos State!

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Flooding caused by heavy rains has been described as “the most devastating so far this year, especially in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital[1]”. Particularly following the infamous Sunday, July 10, 2011, rainfall that saw many parts of Lagos totally submerged in water, the Babatunde Raji Fashola-led government of Lagos State hastily responded to the flooding by ordering the demolition of buildings and structurees alleged to have been built on drainage channels. The decision to strictly enforce a demolition policy in the state was  based on the Governor’s casual visit to the flood-affected areas 3 days after the Sunday rainfall. In his view, demolition constituted the only appropriate response to the flooding.  

While the Sunday, July 10, 2011 heaviest downpour lasted,  no state agency or department carried out any form of rescue operation nor provided temporary shelter and emergency medical assistance to people living in the flood-affected areas. Beyond sending random text messages to members of the public urging them to remain indoors, not one state agency carried out any surveillance to identify those in critical need or evacuate vulnerable sections of the population such as the sick, elderly, children, pregnant women, or extremely poor families living in disadvantaged or inaccessible neighbourhoods. Consequently, the death toll soared, thousands were rendered homeless while valuable properties were destroyed.
Less than a month after the demolition announcement was made, many settlements across the state, especially areas predominantly inhabited by poor people, have either been demolished, or marked for demolition. These settlements, most often located in the lower-lying, more flood-prone sections of the city, are home to large numbers of the city’s population. Not only that, most of these areas either lack drainages and canals or had existing ones blocked by mounds of uncleared debris.
More than 2000 households, comprising mainly women and young children living in Ilaje-Bariga, Egun-Bariga, Agege, Orile, Shomolu, Ebutte Metta and Iwaya communities have been forcibly evicted and their homes and businesses cruelly demolished by officials of the Lagos State Environmental and Special Offences (Enforcement) Unit (LSESOEU). The demolition exercises were accomplished by a vast array of bulldozers, and trucks ably supported by fully armed security personnel ostensibly mobilized to suppress any resistance to the demolition. All of these demolitions and evictions happened without sufficient notice, the opportunity to be heard or to appeal, and without the provision of adequate compensation or alternative housing.
As a direct result of the demolitions, many families have been physically separated, just as extended families and local communities have been fragmented and still unable to reunite for weeks or even months. Most of the evicted families sought refuge under bridges, in churchyards, open fields and other undignifying corners that subjected them to severe health hazards, psychological and emotional trauma. Apart from the human and material losses that remain incalculable and heart-rending, the evictions occasioned massive breakdown of social and solidarity networks essential to the survival of local people; disrupted school children’s education; and stripped families of their sources of income and livelihood. The demolitions also forced evictees into far-flung areas that made commuting to their old jobs or serving their old customer bases practically impossible.

By Victoria Ibezim-Ohaeri

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