Demolition of waterfront communities in Lagos inhuman, violation of right to dignity, says court
A Lagos High Court sitting at Igbosere has held that the demolition of Otodo Gbame, a Lagos waterfront community by officials of Lagos State Government was an inhuman and degrading treatment .
Delivering a ruling last Thursday in a fundamental rights enforcement suit brought in October 2016 by the communities against the government, Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo also held that the action violated the right to dignity as enshrined in Section 34 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Article 5 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
But balancing his responsibility to protect the fundamental rights of citizens against the duties of the State Government, Justice Onigbanjo ordered the parties to attempt mediation through the Lagos State Multi-Door Courthouse and report back to his court in one month’s time.
Speaking after the verdict, Megan Chapman, Co-Founder and Director of Justice & Empowerment Initiatives Nigeria, alongside Akinrolabu Samuel, Bimbo Oshobe and Sani Mohammed of Nigerian Slum/Informal Settlement Federation expressed joy that Justice Onigbanjo has aligned himself with such established jurisprudence to find that such evictions constitute inhuman and degrading treatment.
“We welcome the opportunity for the threatened waterfront communities to enter into dialogue with the State Government to explore amicable settlement to find win-win solutions to any legitimate concerns the State has that can be settled through alternatives to eviction.
“We firmly believe that partnership and collaboration between communities, civil society, and the Government is the best way of solving social and developmental problems that face the city. Just as firmly, we know that demolition and forced eviction are not the answer to any social problems.
“As we approach the court-ordered mediation, we fervently hope that the Lagos State Government and the Lagos State Command of the Nigerian
Police Force will distance themselves from the recent smear campaign that has attempted to misrepresent waterfront residents as criminals and spread lies that waterfront communities are full of “Boko Haram,” “Niger Delta militants,” and “kidnappers.”
“As members of these communities and civil society organisations working in the waterfronts on a daily basis, we decry these false allegations and condemn those who stoop to spreading such falsehoods in order to try to justify land grab and furtherance of selfish interests”, they added.
It will be recalled that the threat to the Lagos waterfronts began when Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode announced on October 9, 2016, Government’s intention to “start demolishing all shanties on waterfronts across the State within sevendays,” citing recent kidnapping incidents as the purported justification.
Accordingly, more than 20 member communities of the Federation joined together to write to Governor Ambode calling for retraction of the threat and requesting for dialogue to explore alternatives to eviction.