We, the undersigned members of civil society, condemn the forced eviction of Otodo Gbame community on 17 March 2017 by the Lagos State Government, acting in brazen disregard for a subsisting order of court prohibiting the eviction of Otodo Gbame and other waterfronts.
On 26 January 2017, Honourable Justice Onigbanjo delivered a landmarkruling in the case brought by waterfront residents, including those from Otodo Gbame. Relying on the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules, 2009. His Lordship found that demolitions on short notice without provision of alternative shelter constitute cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in violation of the right to dignity 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.
Rather then entering final judgment, Justice Onigbanjo then ordered the parties to attempt mediation through the Lagos State Multi-Door Courthouse and ordered them to maintain the status quo – refraining from any evictions – during the pendency of the mediation and the suit.
It was just a week after the waterfront communities, including Otodo Gbame, were sitting in a mediation session with the government to try to discuss alternatives to eviction that the Government came into Otodo Gbame to begin demolishing once again on 17 March 2017.
We condemn such impunity and brazen disregard for the rule of law, which is incongruous with a democratic society and Lagos’s aspiration to be a center of excellence and a world-class megacity. Lagos is a megacity by virtue of its population and it will only be a world-class megacity if it refocuses its energies on serving the needs of the people, especially the poor and vulnerable.
We are shocked by the State Government’s attempts to justify the forced eviction of nearly 4,700 people based on protection of the environment and to deny that it was violating a court order. The purpose of preserving the environment is for the wellbeing of mankind and, therefore, environmental protection measures must also respect and protect fundamental human rights.
An order that parties should maintain the status quo, indeed, refers to the status quo ante bellum. Under the circumstances, the status quo ante bellum refers to the situation before the conflict began, i.e. when all the communities that fell under the Governor’s 9 October 2016 attack were still intact since this is the situation the communities sought to preserve by approaching the court.
Further, there can be no question but that the forced eviction of nearly 4,700 people from their homes without any notice and without any alternative shelter constitutes yet another unconstitutional violation of the right to dignity, among others, already condemned by the court.
Megan S. Chapman, Justice & Empowerment Initiatives, www.justempower.org
Akinrolabu Samuel & Bimbo Oshobe, Nigerian Slum/Informal Settlement Federation, www.facebook.com/NigerianFederation.net
Okechukwu Nwanguma, Network on Police Reform in Nigeria, http://www.noprin.org
Yemi Adamolekun, Enough Is Enough, www.eie.ng
Betty Abah, Centre for Children’s Health, Education,and Orientation and Protection, www.cee-hope.org
Maurice Fangnon, Center for Defense of Human Rights Democracy in Africa, http://www.chrda.org
Ngozi Iwere, Community Life Project, http://communitylifeproject.org
Adaobi Egboka, Legal Defense and Assistance Project, ledapnigeria.org