By Tayo Joseph, Lagos
The Lagos State Government acknowledges Amnesty International’s (UK) latest report but would like to reject same for its apparent bias, inaccuracies and exaggerations.
The government therefore clarifies as follows:
1. The main area of focus in the report – Ilado (which visitors to the State often refer to as Otodo Gbame) has always been a private land and subject of a law suit, which has been decided in favour of the family owners.
2. It was in November 2016 that inter-ethnic clashes led to the fire incident that got the settlement consumed and not as a result of government-sponsored demolition.
3. Otodo Gbame was one of the 39 waterfront settlements that took Lagos State to court over its plan to rid its prime waterfront areas of illegal shanties that constitute security and environmental threat to the general public. The court judgement in favour of the plaintiff has since been appealed with related applications for stay of action.
4. Lagos State Government insists that Otodo Gbame was used as a temporary fishing outpost. The fishermen had their permanent homes in Badagry, Cotonou (Benin Republic) and Lome (Togo). Indeed, many of such people have returned to their homes since the unfortunate fire incident of November 2016. The rest should be encouraged to do likewise rather than spur them on to play the victim, fight legal owners of the land or to demonise govt.
5. The Lagos State House of Assembly did carry out an independent investigation and published its findings, stating clearly that Otodo Gbame was a temporary fishing outpost on the waterways which wanted to illegally appropriate the land that welcomed them on a temporary basis. It is an illegal settlement that should not be allowed to use emotionalism and sensationalism to forcibly take over a private property.
6. Lagos State Government has no interest in the land whatsoever since it’s a private property. The interest of the State is to rid the prime waterways of shanties and illegal structures, particularly when security intelligence has shown clearly that they are either safe havens or gateways for armed robbers, kidnappers and militants.
7. Lagos State Government sees a correlation in the reduction of kidnappings through the waterways and creeks of Lagos Island, Ikorodu, Epe, Ojo and the removal of illegal shanties from our prime waterfront areas.
8. The position of Lagos State Government has been consistent. While government is demonstrably compassionate to the plight of the less privileged and the urban poor and has continued to engage them in useful talks in line with international conventions and treaties, we urge Amnesty International UK to appreciate the fact that government was elected to protect the general public and promote livable environment.