National News

Lagos’ Demolition of Monkey Village, Opebi, an Attack on the Poor, Children’s Education—CEE-HOPE

… We remove shanties to maintain physical planning standards, says LASG

By Amidu Arije

A Non-Governmental Organisation, the Centre for Children’s Health Education, Orientation and Protection (CEE-HOPE) has criticised the Lagos State Government for the demolition of Monkey Village, an informal housing settlement in the Opebi area of the state.

In the morning of December 31, 2020, truckloads of policemen, thugs descended on the community and with the aid of graders and bulldozers, pulled down the houses, displacing more than 400 persons including children. Many of the residents who had gone out for the day had their homes totally demolished with their belongings inside. An ICT Centre and youth hub built in the community by CEE-HOPE was also pulled down with several computers, library and other gadgets intact in the building destroyed. Pleas by community members who had the key of the centre to retrieve the materials were ignored. CEE-HOPE’s water project in the community was also totally destroyed. Several members of the community were also brutalised by the government-sponsored thugs, according to community sources.

After several denials by the Lagos State Ministry of Environment, the Lagos State Task Force office and other official quarters, the Lagos State Ministry Of Physical Planning and Urban Development: came up with a statement on Sunday January 3, 2021 accepting responsibility for the demolition exercise carried out on December 31, 2020, in Monkey Village. They gave ‘reclamation of wetland’ as the reason for the forced eviction exercise.

CEE-HOPE computer centre after demolition

But in a statement on January 4, CEE-HOPE faulted the action of the Lagos State Government which it described as ‘crude, autocratic and a gross violation of all known laws and guidelines guiding the handling of such matters world over’ which has not only displaced 400 persons (currently homeless) but also endangering the educational dream of more than 200 of the community’s children.

‘It is indeed a crying shame that the biggest news out of Lagos every single year would revolve around the savage treatment of the urban poor,’ said CEE-HOPE’s founder/Executive Director, Betty Abah. ‘From Maroko, Makoko, Badia East, Iluibirin to Otodo-Gbame, and now Monkey Village, it is the same pattern of the gross abuse of the human and shelter rights of the urban poor, when Lagos is not the only state in Nigeria and when Nigeria is not the only place where we have slum settlement or indeed where the urban poor exists. Yet, the most painful for us was the destruction of educational facilities funded by private individuals and for the most vulnerable of children, and in a country with the highest number of out-of-school children, at a time of a global pandemic and during a national recession,’ she added.

According to CEE-HOPE, the latest statement from the government was part of the layers of lies bandied by the Lagos State Government in the last few days to cover up the atrocity committed against the poor residents of Monkey Village. From claiming it was a take-over of a land under contest in court, to saying it was a hoodlums’ hide-out, it has now framed a wetland narrative.

‘But whatever it is, how come there was no prior notice to the residents to at least take out their few belongings before they were crushed by the graders?

A woman on the demolished shanties

According to Abah, Monkey Village sits on about 10 plots of land which belongs to about seven individuals. The individuals then gave out the land to the residents pending when they are fully ready to develop the place and each land is overseen by some members of the community who are well known to the land owners. She stressed that the people are therefore not illegal occupants neither have they ever been served any evacuation notice.

Now that an agency of the Lagos State government has finally come out to admit culpability in the entire fiasco, CEE-HOPE is therefore demanding the following:

  1. An apology to the community members for the gross violation of their rights, including the failure to follow due process by duly serving them formal notice.
  2. Compensation of every one of the community members for lost personal and household belongings.
  3. A relocation of the victims of this arbitrary forced eviction as guaranteed by the UN provision on Housing Right.
  4. Compensation of CEE-HOPE for the complete destruction of its multi-million Naira ICT Centre/Youth Hub in the community and water project.
  5. A promise by the government to end all such arbitrary actions especially with regards to the urban poor in future engagements, commit to meaningful engagement of informal housing residents rather than the usual use of brute force, commit to upgrading of such settlements as is the current practice across the world rather than forced eviction which pushes the poor into worse levels of vulnerability.
  6. That the Lagos State House of Assembly institute hearings into the incident, with a view towards addressing the issue and unearthing the personalities and real reasons behind this reckless, inhuman and lawless action which has been ongoing in this state unhindered, and which exacerbates the suffering of the poor and is in violation of the state’s supposed duty as the hope of the poor and vulnerable.

Meanwhile, the Lagos State Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development, has said it demolished the shanties in a bid to protect the masterplan of the state and restore orderliness to the axis.

The Honourable Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Dr. Idris Salako made this known in a reaction to the social media post by a Lagos Lawyer, M.O. Ubani, alleging complicity with the intent to grab the land.

He said that the property, rather than being developed in line with the Operative Development Plans of the State and the subsisting Approval Order of the area, had defaced the otherwise serene and organised neighbourhood with illegal mechanic workshops and over 200 shanties that were abodes to criminal elements terrorising the area.

Salako stated that the demolition exercise was the aftermath of a petition to the Lagos State Special Taskforce on Land Grabbers and the approval of the Ministry of Justice.

The commissioner said, the state goverment acted within the ambit of the Lagos State Urban and Regional Planning and Development Law 2019 (as amended) was purposeful and in response to the yearnings of the law-abiding residents of the area, who abhorred the nuisance and menace that the presence of the multitude of shanties and mechanic workshops had created for them over the years.

Salako reiterated that no effort would be spared in achieving the Greater Lagos vision, particularly towards the achievement of an orderly, organised, livable and sustainable physical environment, in line with the T.H.E.M.E.S. Agenda of State Government.

He said, “I am indeed elated by the fact that people in the neighbourhood have received the clearing of the menace positively with palpable happiness”.

“We believe that many well-meaning Lagosians are daily appreciating the impact of a well-planned physical environment on their socio-economic wellbeing and are rising in support of efforts to ensure that Planning is internalised by all, ” he said.

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