The National Human Rights Commission has commenced investigations into complaints of forced evictions received from Makoko waterfront communities in Lagos with a call on both federal and state governments to adopt a rights based approach to urban development.
Speaking when he led a team of investigation officers for on-the-spot investigation in Makoko, the Commission’s Executive Secretary, Prof. Bem Angwe said “governments should take proactive measures to prevent the growth of urban slums and when they are allowed to grow, especially for many decades, careful planning, sensitization and adequate alternatives must be put in place before rebuilding such communities”.
During an interactive session with the inhabitants of Makoko, Lagos State, the Baale, Mr. Steven Aji, alleged that his people have been living in the area since 1890 but were given only 72 hrs to leave. He further alleged that at the expiration of the 3 days notice Armed Marine Police came and demolished their houses without any alternative arrangement for resettlement.
Mr. Aji said that an unspecified number of persons were rendered homeless during the exercise. He also alleged that the Deputy Baale of Makoko, Mr. Timothy Humpojonwa was killed by one of the Marine Police Personnel while 3 babies also died during the exercise. The deceased children, according to Aji, include Christy Dansu, Humer Hunge and Zansi Ayide.
In his response, Prof. Angwe, promised the victims that the Commission will fully investigate all the issues raised and meet with all government agencies concerned, in order to arrive at an informed decision on the matter. He assured the complainants that the decision of the Commission is binding on all the parties, as provided for in the NHRC Act 2010.
Prof. Angwe also observed that the poor sanitary condition and overcrowded nature of the settlement constituted health and environmental hazards and called on the Lagos State Government to immediately undertake a health audit of the area in order to forestall the outbreak of epidemic as well as determine the health needs of the people living in the area.
He said that the entire settlement was unsuitable for human habitation and a violation of the rights of the inhabitants to a clean and protected environment.
Earlier at a meeting with the Attorney General of Lagos State, Mr. Ade Ipaye, Prof. Angwe urged the Lagos State Government not to embark on any further demolitions until adequate arrangements are made for the resettlement of the affected persons. He also called for the immediate prosecution of the police officer accused of killing Mr. Humpojonwa.
Mr. Ipaye told the Executive Secretary that it has become necessary to reclaim part of the Lagoon which was taken over by illegal settlements leading to increased flooding in other parts of Lagos.
He explained that the Lagoon is a critical resource where waters drain from all over Lagos, but regretted that such an important facility was in jeopardy due to illegal fillings with garbage and erection of makeshift shelters by the ever increasing population at the waterside.
He however promised that no further demolitions will be carried out until adequate arrangements are made for compensation/resettlement of the affected persons that were earlier identified and enumerated by the government.
Prof. Bem Angwe, had earlier this week summoned the Director Development Control, FCT Abuja, in connection with the planned demolitions in Mpape village in the FCT and is due to visit waterside settlements in Port Harcourt, another community allegedly affected by recent demolition exercises across the country.