The Centre for Children’s Health Education, Orientation and Protection (CEE-HOPE), a non-governmental organisation (NGO) working for the protection of vulnerable children, has asked the Lagos State Government (LASG) to respect a recent court ruling which directed it to stop further demolition of Otodo Gbame and other impoverished waterfront communities across the state.
In a statement in Lagos, CEE-HOPE’s Executive Director, Betty Abah hailed the June 21 landmark ruling by Justice Surajudeen Onigbanjo of the Lagos High Court which held that the violent eviction of Otodo Gbame, a poor fishing community was inhuman, unconstitutional and constitutes a violation of their fundamental human right. Justice Onigbanjo also ordered that the state government stop further evictions and discuss re-settlement with the affected.
‘We are elated at the outcome of the case and this further reinforces our faith in the fact that the court continues to be the last hope of the poor and powerless of society,’ said Abah.
Between October 2016 and April 2017, Lagos State Government carried out violent demolition exercises, with the help of the police and armed thugs, mostly in the dead of night, in which houses, schools and market places at Otodo Gbame were razed down by fire and the people chased into the lagoon, ultimately forcing out the entire 32, 000 people on April 9, 2017. Several were shot, four were killed (with reports of several more including children drowned in the earlier October attack). That was despite a subsisting court injunction. The state government continued to justify the gross human rights violations under the guise of developing a mega city. The action has received condemnation from several local and international bodies including Amnesty International
In a recent documentary video, titled CRUSHED (youtu.be/sntS78jbZ0Q), CEE-HOPE also documented the excruciating impacts of the demolitions on children, showing how the evictions by the state government lead to the death of several children, those being uprooted out of school, driven into homelessness and further brinks of poverty and misery by the government.
Also, recently, the Lagos State Government, just as in the Otodo Gbame pattern, violated a court ruling and demolished Badia East, another slum settlement and typically, without adequate notice, provision of alternative housing accommodation or compensation as stipulated by local and international laws. Currently, thousands of people, including infants, are stranded amidst the debris of Badia East and at the mercy of the elements.
The organisation further called on LASG to obey the June 21 court ruling which also applies to all the waterfront communities and its 300, 000 residents across the state scheduled for forced eviction. It advised the government to follow in the steps of Brazil, Kenya and other countries which resorted to slums’ upgrade rather than clearance and work towards an inclusive, humane and progressive urban space and governance system.
According to CEE-HOPE, ‘It is a real scandal that Lagos, which should be the bastion of democracy continues to indict our common humanity before the world as a nation with its degrading and inhuman treatment of the urban poor and continues to endanger the lives and future of young people whose only crime is being born poor’.
‘Lagos must have regards for the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1992), the Nigerian Child Rights Act, 2003, the Child Rights Act of Lagos State 2007 and the recent Child Protection Policy of Lagos State (2017) all of which adequately entrust it with the care and protection of children, particularly the most at-risk as the thousands violently uprooted from Otodo-Gbame represent.
‘It is awkward that Lagos would expect citizens to be law-abiding when the state consistently violates its own court rulings and the tenets of the rule of law. If you violate with mindless impunity the rights of the vulnerable among you including children at the brink of existence whose protection should be your priority, then you send a horrendous message to the world, not only of the brutal nature of your government, but an indictment of our collective humanity as a nation,’ the statement concludes.
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