Makoko community rejects planned demolition of waterfront by Lagos State govt
Citing alleged displacement, residents of Makoko community in Lagos State have rejected the planned dredging and demolition of waterfront in their settlement, saying the exercise would entrench poverty and deprive them of their livelihoods as fishermen and women.
Indigenes of the bordering community with Yaba and University of Lagos (UNILAG), made up of community and traditional leaders of Ilaje, Egun and Yoruba stock, as well as representatives of Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs), made the appeal during a meeting with civil society groups, tagged: “Reclamation, Displacement and Loss of Livelihoods in Makoko: A Community and Media Engagement,” organised by Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) at the weekend in Lagos.
In his opening remarks, HOMEF Executive Director, Nnimmo Bassey, regretted that most Nigerian cities were developing autonomously and spontaneously without approved master plans, adding that result of such development was growth of informal settlements across the federation.
He deplored a situation where governments dislocate people without notice and encourage clustering of rich persons under the guise of Government Reserved Areas (GRAs), while those occupied by poor citizens are termed slums.
His words: “Makoko, a predominantly fishing settlement with its rich cultural heritage and socio-economic activities, but with absence of services, including potable water, electricity, sanitation and schools, has proved to be a positive example of how to build a resilient city with an eye on tackling challenges of climate change.”
“Rather than plan to dredge, demolish and displace residents of the community, the Lagos State Government should support and assist them by providing their development needs to make Makoko a thriving and creative economic hub.
“Clearly, dredging and displacing residents of Makoko is not the answer, but government should encourage the fisher folks, processors and market women by making the community a fish port and market with storage facilities for inhabitants. With all attractions, Makoko community has potentials of a tourist destination and as such, Lagos State government must not create the impression of a city that eats up its people.”
Also speaking, Executive Director of Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), Akinbode Oluwafemi, told the gathering that when the state government created the Ministry of Waterfronts, residents thought it was for positive developmental purposes, but unfortunately, it had been turned into a “ministry for forceful acquisition and eviction of residents of waterfronts.”
He commended the residents for opposing the alleged plan by government to “forcefully evict” them from their ancestral home, insisting that Lagos State and relevant stakeholders must listen to yearnings of the people, who have maintained that they have nowhere else to go, as the Makoko waterfront adjourning Yaba, Somolu, Bariga and Oworonshoki, where they depend on their fishing trade, remains their permanent abode, economic mainstay and means of livelihood.
An employee of HOMEF, Steven Oduware, who moderated the programme, warned authorities against a repeat of the Maroko episode of 1990, December 21, 2020 demolition of Monkey Village without notice, Bundu Ama displacement in Port Harcourt, Rivers State and Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, among others nationwide.
He harped on the need for engagements and consent in the execution of any project capable of affecting the people negatively either in the short, medium or long-term, maintaining that before embarking on any project, government should engage the people and share the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) with communities with a view to ensuring fairness.
Representatives of the community, who spoke at the meeting, including Baale Jeje Ayinde of Egun Makoko Waterfront, Baale Steven Aji, Elder Claudius Akintimehin, Evangelist Dosuga Isaac and Chairman of Ori-Oke Community Development Area (CDA), Olasele Oluwatobi, pleaded with the state government to permanently shelve the idea of “displacing” residents of Makoko waterfront through dredging and reclamation.
“We reject dredging, demolition and reclamation of Makoko, not only because it will cause us untold hardship, but it will also constitute serious problems for residents of the upland areas during the rainy season. We, therefore, appeal to the Lagos State government to stop the dredging of Makoko.
“There are no fewer than seven canals in Makoko area that empty rain and flood waters into the Lagoon and if the government insists on dredging Makoko waterfront, it will spell doom for the entire vicinity. Dredging the waterfront will create serious erosion in the entire state,” they said.
Specifically, Baale Ayinde restated that residents, who have transcended several generations, were majorly fishermen and have been living in the area for several decades, stating: “We are fishermen. In 2012, under former Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola administration, the Lagos State government gave us 72 hours to quit the waterfront. But our lawyers sued the government, which stopped the process. However, it seems the state government, under Babajide Sanwo-Olu, is bent on carrying out its plan to evict us from the waterfront, but we plead with the government to intervene and stop the move, as we have no where else to go. Since the dredging project commenced, we have noticed that all species of fish have migrated further into the sea to the extent that in the last eight years, we have to go further than five hours into the Lagoon to catch some fish, which was not the case in the past when the Makoko waterfront had not be tampered with,” he lamented.
On his part, Oluwatobi, urged stakeholders to act fast to nip government’s planned ‘displacement’ of locals in the bud, maintaining that the state government only suspended the project due to election exigencies, alleging that it had concluded arrangements to displace the community to pave way for building of a Chinese Estate in the area.
The HOMEF boss concluded by urging representatives of Makoko to continue engagements and dialogue with stakeholders, since “talking is never too much,” while Betty Abah of Centre for Children’s Education and Protection (CEE-HOPE) expressed concern that the state government was not aiming to stop at merely dredging the waterfront, but was also targeting extension of the project to building factories under a Public Private Participation (PPP) arrangement with the displacement of the over 200,000 residents.
Finalising, Director of Programmes at CAPPA, Philip Jakpor, urged residents to forge a common front, would always attempt to create division among them in their struggle for a just and fair society with citizens’ rights to life, shelter, potable water, sanitation, socio-economic freedom and legitimate means of livelihood.