Thousands of residents of Makoko/Iwaya Waterfront community who had built shanties close to a powerline situated on the lagoon, lost their homes on Monday after a joint taskforce comprising policemen, soldiers and officials of Kick Against Indiscipline, demolished their structures.
PUNCH Metro learnt that the Lagos State Government had given the residents three-day notice, which lapsed on Sunday to quit the area.
In the notice dated July 12 and signed by Mr. Akin Tijani, Head of Operations, KAI on behalf of the Commissioner of Waterfront Infrastructure Development, the government said the shanties was not in tandem with its megacity project.
He said, “You have continued to occupy and develop shanties and unwholesome structures on the waterfront without authority thereby constituting environmental nuisance, security risks, impediments to economic and gainful utilisation of the waterfront such as navigation, entertainment, recreation etc.
“The state government is desirous of restoring the amenity and value of waterfront, protect lives and property, promote legitimate economic activities on the waterfront, restore security, improve water transportation and beautify the Lagos waterfront/coastline to underline the megacity status of Lagos State and has decided to clear all illegal and unauthorised development on its waterfront and water bodies.
“Therefore, notice is hereby given to you to vacate and remove all illegal developments along the Makoko/Iwaya Waterfront within 72 hours of receipt of this notice.”
But the residents said the notice was too short and did not go round.
One of the victims of Monday’s exercise, Mrs. Janet Alamon, told our correspondent that she and her children would be sleeping in a boat until they found a home.
She said, “I have three children and we’ve been living in this community for over 15 years. We’ve been hearing rumours that the state government would one day come to evict us but because no official statement was made to that effect, we paid no attention to it.
“I have a boat. So, I’ll sleep in it with my children under the Third Mainland Bridge so that we won’t be affected in case it rains. I only wish the government had provided an alternative for us.”
Various human rights groups such as United Action for Democracy; Social and Economic Rights Action Centre; held a meeting with some of the displaced persons, and assured them that they were holding meetings with the government.
Chairman UAD, Mr. Biodun Olofinnade, said at one of such meetings, the government said only shanties built near the power line would be demolished.
“I spoke to KAI officials and they told me that anything under the powerline or nearby would be demolished because in the event of an electric malfunction, many of the residents could electrocuted,” he said
The residents, who did not seem convinced, said they had never enjoyed dividends of democracy.
One of them, Mr. Ewajene Osowo, who is the secretary Ilaje Crayfish Fishermen Association of Nigeria, said, “We understand the concern of the state government as regards safety of citizens but we appeal to them not to chase us away because we have nowhere else to go.
“Most of us were born here and have never benefitted from the government. It’s not as if we like to defecate in the water or we wouldn’t like our children to go to school but the government has neither provided sewage nor schools.
“I urge the government not to demolish all the structures but only the ones built 100 metres or closer to the powerline. In developed countries like Italy, there are cities built on water and maintained by the state government. Why can’t the government do the same here? There are no low cost houses anymore. I wonder where they want us to go.”
When our correspondent left the community at 3pm, security agents were seen patrolling the waterway in boats while many of the displaced residents sat gloomy on a small island as KAI officials continued to demolish their homes.