Following the forced eviction of over 10,000 people at Tarkwa Bay, Cynthia Njoku and Kehinde Adegboyega visited the community through the Jetty Park in CMS to assess the situation. They spoke with a representative of Justice and Empowerment Initiative, JEI, an international NGO, which has been in the forefront of advocating for the rights of victims of Forced Evictions in Nigeria.
What is the situation in Tarkwa Bay?
Everyone has been evicted but not everything has been demolished yet that’s the distinction.
The navy is making sure everyone is leaving the Island but all the structures have not been demolished yet but we know what is going to happen.
So the part of the Island, Tarkwa is on the wide part but still going in, the Island starts to narrow but on this island, more than 20 communities have been destroyed since mid-December as we speak today, and all because of pipeline vandalism and all done by military people like the bodies doing the eviction and demolition
Now Takwa right now is being evicted which means navy entered the community and said you have one hour to leave the community.
An hour? On a school day?
Quite surprising too. Yesterday I was at CMS and I was next to a woman who was in absolute distress, she was carrying one child on her back and she was shouting that she went to CMS to do some stuff and left one child at a school in the Island, now she was stuck at CMS not knowing what was happening to her older child at the school inside Tarkwa Bay.
She has been unable to find the child, can you atleast just imagine that you leave your home, you put your children at school thinking everything is normal that they are safe, you go to Lagos Island because you have some stuff to do there. And then you get to hear that everyone has to leave the Island, that you don’t know where your child is and that the island is no longer accessible. Can you imagine the amount of distress that this woman is going through?
The panic is beyond imagination.
So now as we are speaking, the bulldozers are in Okun Island which is a community neighboring Tarkwa Bay. It’s very probable that they are going to keep towing the path till they get to Tarkwa Bay.
Can you give an estimate of the population of people evicted?
From Tarkwa bay and the neighboring community we are speaking about like 4,500 person approximately, if we do all the communities that have been demolished we are reaching 10,000 persons (children and adult).
So again if we are talking about pipeline vandalism, If your argument is pipeline vandalism, I am wondering how a 3year old or 2 months old be can be doing this, so what kind of system is that. I’m not denying pipeline vandalism happening, I don’t know, it is probable, but what I am saying is that, even if this is true, and even if there is evidence, this is in no way the answer to our problems.
Do you know if there is any plan for the evicted?
None, they didn’t even give notice to people, that means there was no plan on ground
Pipeline vandalism is not enough reason to evict people but even if we have a situation where the eviction is justified, you have to give notice to people and we are not speaking about one day or three days, it is like a month. You should be in charge of relocating the people. If tomorrow someone comes and says “hey, your house, you cannot live there because there is going to be a new project” or “it is no longer safe for you”, you are not the one to be responsible for your new house, the body that is carrying out this project should draw up a plan saying “ in this and this location we have provided housing for you” and if you are not getting relocated you should be compensated because it is also very highly that your job is attached to where you live.
They have been staying here for decades; They do not have electricity; They vote; There is the King families that were also not aware of the actions; Even the Traditional ruler and his family was evicted
Otodo-Gbame was a community in Lekki with house for 30,000 people that got demolished in 2017 and we are actually suing Lagos state government for this because they were the ones that did the eviction at the time it was not navy and we actually won the case that ruled that it is true that the people should be relocated. Lagos State government made an appeal of the case and yesterday we were in the court of appeal supposed to be to get the first hearing where the court of appeal should agree if we can proceed with this appeal and this hearing has been postponed to the 28th of June 2021. Which means nothing is going to happened on this case for a year and half. Those people who have been evicted from Otodo-Gbame are now scattered in 16 different locations around Lagos and very far from Lekki, some people live near Ikorodu, some people live near Ajah, some people live around Makoko others live on this Island and now being evicted again a second time, it is like a double sentence.
JEI just got letter of consent to be the legal representative of the community and we are trying to get the court to put a stop to this.