Sunday, August 18, 2013

Agonies of Badia-East residents: Homeless on their land

Ayodele Samuel and Gabriel Johnson, in this report capture the mood of Oke Ilu-Eri, Badia-East residents who stormed the venue of the launching of an Amnesty International Report on their eviction early this year.
Arriving in their numbers, depressed from the February 28th demolition of their homes, life has since been difficult for affected residents of Oke Ilu-Eri, Badia-East community in Apapa-Iganmu local council development area of Lagos state.
Mrs. Bimbo Omowole Osobe is among the displaced people of Badia-East, popularly called Ijora Badia or Iganmu Alawo, and her life has not returned to normalcy months after the demolition of her home.
Osobe did not only lose her home, her shops were also demolished. She now lives under a mosquito net and has had to send her children away to stay with family members. They have had to stop their schooling as Bimbo does not have money for school fees anymore."I happen to be one of the evictees; life has not been easy for me since the incident, it is not only me; other people's house were also demolished", she lamented, adding that "many children cannot go to school because of the eviction; we don't have water or access to health services because we are homeless and displaced on our land.
"Each time I look at what is happening around me I get the boldness to make sure that we get our homes back; I am jobless and homeless, we want our children to be like their own children, we want to give our children education; some of us are doing dirty jobs just to survive.Give us our homesso that we can give our children a future; we want our children to have a mega future," she said.

Mrs. Ibidun Adewoyin also has a nasty experience. She lost her house, shop and all her wares. According to her, "Since they demolished our house we have been sleeping outside, as am talking to you, my only daughter is laying down sick because of the exposure to wild wind. She can't even go to school because her school was also demolished and I can't afford to enroll her to a new school because my shop and all my goods were lost to the demolition; how will I start a new life when I am not under a roof".
Secretary of the Badia-East Community Youths Association, Samson Enigbokan said, "If the government want to develop our community they should first develop our minds, develop our capacity; they should have trained us in skills that would make our life better.
"Many of the youth don't have a house, our brain can't function well and we becoming a problem to the society. The government demolished our houses without giving us an alternative; we don't have jobs, we don't have water to drink; how do they want us to be responsible citizens in this mega city?" he queried.
Babatunde Williams claims that is father was the first settler of Ajeromi community in Badia-East, "My forefathers are the original settler of the present day National Art Theater; they settled down there due to fishing expedition in 1919 and the Federal Government moved us from that place to Badia in 1973. We have been there for 40 years, but in the morning of 23rdof February we saw the greatest injustice to Lagosians, because the people that are living in Badia are all indigenes of Lagos state.
"Two people died due to the forceful eviction and many are living in difficulties; as I am talking to you, so many families have scattered because they have to share their children to family and friends. People are dying of malaria and other sickness," he said.
Both Amnesty International and the Social and Economic Rights Action Centre (SERAC) reported that 9,000 Lagosians who lived in the self-built shanty homes on the settlement have been homeless since bulldozers wrecked through the community and warned that about 150,000 people in total are at risk of being evicted.
The government has stated that the 23 February eviction was the first phase of its plans to clear out the whole of Badia East in order to "redevelop" the area.
Amnesty International's Nigeria researcher, Oluwatosin Popoola said, "The effects of February's forced eviction have been devastating for the Badia-East community where dozens are still sleeping out in the open or under a nearby bridge and exposed to rain, mosquitos with the risk of physical attack."
The report highlights the devastating impact of the forced evictions on the residents' lives. It said many women whose small businesses were demolished described how they are now dependent on family and friends for basic necessities. Some said that they are suffering from malaria or typhoid after living in the open but can no longer afford to pay for medicines and treatment.
The report also accused the Lagos state government officials of accepting a $200 million loan from the World Bank-funded Lagos Metropolitan Development and Governance Project (LMDGP), which was meant for "slum upgrade" activities across the state but rather destroyed the slums all together.
SERAC executive director, Felix Morka said the government must immediately provide effective remedies for the violations it has committed and provide all those affected with adequate alternative housing and compensation.
"We went to court five days after the demolition on behalf of the people, because the state government violated its own law. The Lagos Tenancy Law spells out clearly how a tenant must be evicted, the government violated the law in the case of Badia; the government cannot authorize the demolition because the land belongs to the Federal Government. The Federal Government moved the people there in order to build National Art Theatre on their land and the Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) is with the government and not the residents.
The state government however maintainsthat Badia is one of the numerous densely-populated slums across the state and many did not own a C of O to build there. The Commissioner for Justice and Attorney-General, Ade Ipaye said that while government was in the process of organizing assistance for the affected persons on humanitarian grounds, the public should be reminded that rights come with responsibilities and that it should not be assumed that anyone could set up residence anywhere without necessary approval and compliance with planning and public health laws.
"Illegal settlements, unapproved buildings and poor sanitary conditions cannot be justified as these may end up in painful evictions or demolitions. The particular area which was the subject of Amnesty International report is a part of the Badia settlement, which was earlier cleared of all structures in 2003. It was in fact, a swampy strip and the least built up of the entire community.
"Unfortunately, government was unable to immediately re-develop the area. It was subsequently filled up with refuse, having been used as a refuse dump since it was cleared. A few plank and shanty structures were put up there which grew gradually into a small community characterized by all the negative features of urban slum settlement, including unstructured shelter arrangements, regular flooding, unhealthy environment, insecurity and people engaging in all sorts of nefarious activities," Ipaye explained.
He added that government had to retake possession of the land to build an estate of 1,800, saying that before the retaining of possession of the slum, government had held several meetings with stakeholders in the area and that it was agreed that the illegality in the area must not be allowed to continue.
Ipaye said government was currently in the process of ascertaining the persons actually affected by this project with a view to assisting them, stressing that while such effort was on-going, "we need to stress that we have a limitation, in that we cannot make that a standard procedure.
"Because of limited means and various competing interests, government does not have the resources to guarantee payment to any person that puts up an unapproved building on land to which he or she is not entitled.
"While we are mindful of the need to discourage such practices, obviously, once government begins to pay for illegal developments, it will have to do so in all other cases. As a responsive government, we will continue to make and implement policies that positively affect the lives of our citizens and fulfill our electoral promises while managing the impact on persons who may be adversely affected by the process", he stated.
But the people of Badia are still waiting to see if their land would be returned to them.

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