Residents of Okun Glass village, a riverine community located in Oriade LCDA of Lagos State, have cried out to President Mohammadu Buhari and the Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, urging them to urgently come to their aide. They accused the Nigerian Navy of unlawfully demolishing their homes without any provocation.
The residents stated this during a press conference organised by them recently at the scene of the demolition in Okun Glass, which once stood as a bustling and peaceful community.
Addressing the media on behalf of the community, Musa Lateef, stated that it was wrong for the Nigerian Navy to evict them and destroy their homes and property without any lawful reason. He narrated that in the early hours of January 3, 2020, a team of heavily-armed naval personnel stormed their village and forcefully evicted them, and also demolished their homes without any justifications.
According to him, “in the early hours of Friday, January 3, 2020, two gunboats carrying heavily-armed Nigerian Naval personnel, accompanied by bulldozers stormed our serene and peaceful community. Before anyone could figure out what was the problem, the fiercely armed men led siege to the community and ordered everyone to vacate their homes immediately. There was commotion everywhere, as the elderly and the young people who dared to ask questions on the goings-on, were thoroughly beaten up and dragged out of their houses. In the midst of the confusion, mothers, children and everyone ran halter skater for their lives, while military bulldozers destroyed our homes and property. Not only that, we were rendered homeless in a twinkle of eyes; we were unlawfully forced out of the land of our birth.’
“We all here are indigenes of this community which was founded by our forefathers over 300 years ago. We are neither foreigners nor strangers in this place. This place is our ancestral home, and the only place we have as our birthplace. Lagos is our State and we are citizens of Nigeria.
“My father, who recently passed on to the eternal glory at 84 years was a Lagos State recognised Bale for this community until his death, and both he and our departed ancestors were all buried here.”
Lateef stated that since the destruction of their homes, the displaced villagers were now taking refuge in neighbouring communities within the riverine area, oblivious of how to regain their ancestral land. He further made a passionate plea to President Muhammadu Buhari and the Lagos State governor, Mr Sanwo-Olu, to assist them to rebuild their homes to enable their families who were now scattered across the riverine area, to return to their ancestral home.
With tears flowing freely from his eyes, Kayode, a resident of Abule-Elepa community, also alleged that his home was also demolished by the Navy, bemoaning that “they came with heavy force, beating and injuring many of us without recourse to human feelings and forcefully evicted us from our ancestral homes. What have we done wrong that should lead to such an unlawful demolition of our homes by security forces who are supposed to protect lives and property?”
In his reaction, Hon. Oghene Emma Egoh, member House of Representatives, representing Amuwo Odofin Federal Constituency, condemned the alleged action of the Nigerian Navy, saying, “the demolition of Okun Glass community and other riverine communities located in Amuwo Odofin Federal Constituency of Lagos State, allegedly by men of the Nigerian Navy is very shocking and highly regrettable. This action by the military against peaceful Nigerian citizens under a democratic era must be condemned by well-meaning Nigerians.”
Oghene, who spoke in a telephone interview with our correspondent stated that it was wrong and unconstitutional for the Navy to forcefully evict the residents from their ancestral homes where their forefathers had lived for over 300 years. According to him, “there was no justification for the military to demolish these communities and render the residents homeless. The mere suspicion of illegal activities in those areas cannot be enough reason to justify the sack of the entire communities, and reduce many families to refugees, even when there is no armed conflict or war going on.”
He posited that it was wrong and unlawful to label everybody in the communities as criminals, and go ahead to destroy their homes and take over their land, even as he regretted the plight being faced by the people.
The lawmaker further called on the Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, to come to the aid of the helpless communities to enable them rebuild their homes and return to their communities.
In his response, the information officer, Western Naval Command, Navy Commander Otuji stated that the operations of the command within the Atlas Cove (in Lagos State) and Mosimi (in Ogun State) axis was aimed at flushing out pipeline vandals whose activities grossly affected the operations of NNPC in the area.
He noted that given the scourge of pipe-line vandalism and oil-thefts within the Atlas Cove – Mosimi Oil Depot area spanning about 72 km, and also the huge losses of oil revenues to the criminal activities, the NNPC had complained severally to the Federal Government which mandated the Nigeria Navy to deploy its Operation Kuronbe to flush out and end the menace of the economic saboteurs in the area.
According to him, “it is unfortunate that some people in these areas constructed shanties on NNPC pipelines in order to illegally siphon petroleum products. About 300,000 empty jerry cans, 30,000 jerry cans filled with petroleum products were recovered by the Nigerian Navy at Atlas Cove and its environs. We have also made number of arrests, and it would interest you to know that most of these vandals are from the neighbouring countries, and are working together with their Nigerian collaborators.”
Some of the communities affected by the demolition operations of Nigerian Navy included Katy Beach village, Idimango, Bobkoji, Kopiammeh, Abule-Elepa, Abule- Kamoru, Abule-Afa, Fashola and Kobena.