•Group lauds govt for demolishing shanties at Lagos waterfronts
By Tope Adeboboye
To many Nigerians and millions of other people from across West Africa, Lagos is the veritable land of opportunities.
From all parts of the country and beyond, a large number of skilled and unskilled people daily move into the state, each seeking new avenues for survival. Many of the immigrants from other countries find a natural home in the many waterfront communities scattered across Lagos. Some others just create a new settlement from the swamps, build fresh shanties and commence a new life. Most of such people are not documented.
In the past months, residents of Lagos have alleged that some of the criminals, terrorising the state actually live in these remote communities on the waterfronts.
“Some of the kidnappers and Niger Delta militants, terrorising the state actually live in some of these illegal settlements. From there, they launch attacks on innocent citizens and return to the slums. Also, it is believed that some fleeing Boko Haram suspects might be hiding in some of the communities. The Department of State Services (DSS) recently said it arrested four fleeing Boko Haram suspects in Lagos,” a concerned resident said.
For long, a non-governmental organisation, Safe Habitat, has raised the alarm that criminal elements have populated the illegal settlements in the state, constituting environmental menace and launching attacks on lawful residents. The group has intensified its campaigns against the dwellers of illegal communities, calling on the state government and other stakeholders to take a decisive action against such elements.
Recently, the Lagos State government moved its bulldozers to Ebute Ikate, otherwise known as Otodo Gbame, a coastal community in the state. Hundreds of makeshift homes and shanties in the community were destroyed by officials of the Ministry of the Environment and operatives of the Lagos State Task Force on Environment and Special Offences.
Commissioner for Information, Steve Ayorinde, explained that the action was taken to forestall an environmental disaster and another round of deadly skirmishes that led to the razing of Otodo Gbame in November last year. The commissioner said the action of the government was informed by the “overriding public interest to ensure that the waterfront area is free from environmentally injurious and unsanitary habitation few months after it was consumed by fire and rendered uninhabitable.”
Earlier, the state had cleared illegal shanties in Ikoyi and Victoria Island.
Some civil society groups have risen in support of the displaced slum dwellers, arguing that the government should have relocated the residents to other climes before destroying the shanties in which they dwelled.
But Safe Habitat has insisted that the government’s action at Otodo Gbame couldn’t have been timelier. The group, a civil society organisation with focus on environmental safety, said it was pleased that the state government was gradually doing the needful on the issue of illegal settlements in some coastal communities in Lagos.
On January 7, Safe Habitat had expressed concern that illegal aliens from neighbouring countries as well as criminals from other parts of Nigeria were creating illegal settlements in some riverine communities in the state. A statement by the group’s Executive Director, Mr. Ade Williams, said there was information that suspected criminals fleeing from the law in other states and neighbouring countries were creating illegal settlements in some waterfront communities, especially in Eti-Osa Local Government Area of the state. From such shanties, the suspects were also launching attacks on residents of Lekki, Ikoyi, Victoria Island and others, Williams informed.
He urged the Akinwunmi Ambode administration to take a decisive action against such settlements and shanties for the safety of the environment and lawful residents, even as he commended the government for taking similar action last year to rid Ikoyi and Victoria Island of such environmental nuisance.
He recalled that the last administration in Lagos had dislodged illegal settlers erecting shanties at the Kuramo Beach.
“We recall that some concerned residents of Eti Osa had complained of the incessant harassment, nuisance and robbery perpetrated by the occupants of the shanties at Ebute-Ikate, Elegushi. Following that, the Ikate Elegushi Residents Association also wrote another petition to the Lagos State Task Force, Alausa, Ikeja, to further complain about the unwholesome activities of the occupants of the shanties in the same community.
“In September 2014, a fight reportedly broke out at the shanties at Ebute Ikate, Ikateland between rival groups of Delta/Eastern extraction on the one hand and their Egun counterparts on the other, as a result of which one Ogosu, the Egun cult leader, allegedly killed one Daniel Edet, who belonged to the rival group. But due to the timely intervention of policemen from Ilasan Police Station, the clash was prevented from escalating into a full-fledged internecine, tribal war.
“It will be in the interest of everyone if the state government and the relevant stakeholders will be pro-active now and save residents and the environment of further nuisance by removing these shanties and dislodging their illegal occupants,” the statement added.
A day after issuing the statement, Safe Habitat informed that the state government and other stakeholders had started taking steps to remove the shanties in Ebute Ikate Elegushi. The group commended Governor Ambode, the Elegushi Royal Family and the Ikate Elegushi Residents Association for their renewed efforts to dislodge illegal settlers from the area.
“We are aware that the prompt response by the state and the relevant stakeholders is to disallow fleeing Boko Haram insurgents dislodged from the North East, Niger Delta militants and other criminal elements from neighbouring countries from having a foothold in Eti-Osa and indeed Lagos State. We indeed commend this and urge all stakeholders to mobilise support for the effort.
“We are indeed glad that the state government and the relevant stakeholders are now taking the bull by the horn to save residents and the environment of further nuisance by removing these shanties and dislodging their illegal occupants,” a statement by the Executive Director of Safe Habitat, Ade Williams noted.