Lagos: Six years after, Badia evictees still homeless
Six years after the Lagos State government started a housing estate in the Ijora-Badia area of the state, the project has not been completed, while the fate of evictees who were promised allocations upon completion now hangs in the balance.
It would probably take decades for many of these evictees to forget February 23, 2013. It was the day bulldozers and armed men from the Lagos State government first descended on their community and demolished homes and businesses, as over 9, 000 inhabitants scampered for safety.
To date, the evictees still claim that the land in question was part of an ongoing litigation, which is before a Lagos State court. They added that the demolition violated the World Bank Safeguard Policy on Involuntary Resettlement, which the state government committed to follow when it accepted a $200m grant to upgrade Badia and other slums in the state.
Despite attempts by affected home owners to halt further demolition, agents of the state government on September 18, 2015 returned to demolish phases two and three of the community and the subsequent demolition left even more residents homeless.
Just like during the first exercise, families were made to put up in makeshift shelters at the demolition site at the peak of rainy season.Although the section that was first demolished was meant for a housing project, the government kept many guessing if it was expanding its HOMS Housing Scheme. The monthly mortgage payment for the least unit of the HOMS Housing Scheme is over 10 times higher than what is charged for a comparable space in Badia.
Nonetheless, six years after the first demolition and three years after the second exercise, the state government has not completed the housing project it started at that section. Nothing has been started at the part, which was subsequently demolished.
Until recently, the project was abandoned. The last time The Guardian visited the site, there was no construction work going on at a section of the site, while work is ongoing at another section, said to have been taken over by a private developer. However, government agents have routinely returned to Badia Land to chase away some evictees and others that are gradually returning to occupy the demolished Badia Land.
For many of the evictees, their experiences over the years have not been palatable, but as a result of the helpless situation that they have found themselves, they still await government’s promise to resettle them.Victoria Ayenuro still feels sore because of the indelible mental scars inflicted on her by government agents that have severally descended on Badia Land, where she has lived all her life. That she is still alive is enough consolation for her to look forward to a great future.
Unlike Ayenuro, Stella Omagbemi will never be able to recount the ordeal she went through in the hands of government agents. This is because she died on January 22, 2019, as a result of multiple injuries she sustained after being forcefully dragged off her sick bed in her room, by agents of the state during their latest demolition of structures at Badia Land.
Ayenuro, who claimed to have lived in Badia for over 40 years said her mother, like many others who had plots of land within Iganmu, where the National Theatre is located, were relocated to the Ijora-Badia area when the National Theatre was to be built in 1973.
She explained that since then, they were never troubled until 2013 when former Governor Babatunde Fashola came to the community, divided the area into three phases. Those in Phase One had their houses demolished and were compensated with the sum of N90, 000, N240, 000 and N309, 000 as the government deemed.
According to Ayenuro, those who were grouped into phase two and three were never compensated, even though an attempt was made to profile and document them. She claimed that after the compensation was paid to those in Phase One, what they saw next were bulldozers rolling into their community to demolish buildings without any notice.
After crying out to the world with support from some human rights group, the state government reached out to them, obtained their names and contacts and promised to compensate them, but since then, nothing has come out of the exercise in form of compensation or relocation, and attempts by the displaced persons to return and rebuild have been met with stiff resistance from government.
According to her, any time state officials come to carry out the demolition exercise, young boys and men in the community would be arrested and released only after parting with bribe as bail bond. Ayenuro argued that if government wants to relocate them, it should or fully compensate them to continue life elsewhere, rather than maltreating them, or treating them as foreigners in their land.
Another evictee, Mr. Emmanuel Oladele Ojuri said the last time they protested to Alausa, they were told that to resolve the issue, the Olojora of Ijora would be involved as he claimed ownership of the land. But when the meeting was eventually held, there was no discussion along that line as the state government’s representative that was at the meeting said the evictees would be given right of first refusal when the blocks of flats that would replace their structures were completed.
Ojuri said a section of the land was being sold by the Olojora, the king superintending the area, to people who have started erecting structures. One of the evictees, Bimbo Sote, who said government often claimed that some of the evictees had been compensated wondered how many of the evictees got compensated. She said what they were told was that before buildings in phases two and three would be demolished, the housing estate being built on Phase One would have been completed so that those evicted from phases two and three would be accommodated there, just like some of those evicted from the area marked Phase One.
She said many of the evictees relocated not because they were compensated, or were relocated by government, but to escape incessant harassment by government agents. Sote therefore called on the World Bank to revisit the issue of Badia relocation and the plight of evictees, as the pilot scheme did not work out well for the evictees. She also insisted that those who got paid were paid for relocation and not compensation because what they got could not even take care of rent for a decent accommodation, let alone to erect another structure as compensation for the ones demolished.
She expressed surprised that government has been feeling unperturbed about the plight of citizens that it rendered homeless. When The Guardian sought to know why the state government is yet to compensate the evictees, as well as why the housing project has stalled, there government was not forthcoming with a response.
The Public Relations Officer of the Lagos State Ministry of Housing said the officer supervising the project was not on seat when The Guardian first visited and promised to get across, but never did. Other visits also failed to yield any positive response. Just like the last attempt to get the ministry to comment on the allegations, when The Guardian visited the ministry, she said the commissioner just stepped out. She asked the reporter to write the questions the commissioner should respond to, which was complied with and she promised to get the commissioner to respond or invite the reporter over for an interview. For more than one week, she has refused to pick, if she does, she either claimed that she was not in the office or the reporter did not called at right time. Right means when the commissioner was on seat.
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