Residents of Makoko community, a suburb in the Yaba Local Government Area of Lagos State have frowned at the planned reclamation project being executed by the Lagos State Government and attempts to displace all residents.
The residents demanded that the State Government should have a rethink and halt the wetland reclamation exercise which they described as anti-people, an action that would lead to the loss of livelihoods, and affect not just Makoko community but several border communities.
While speaking at a community and media engagement session organized by the Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), one of the Makoko community leaders, Evangelist Dosunga Isaac, explained that the community members have made several attempts to engage the government to halt the dredging plans, but seems the government is hell-bent to render them homeless.
When asked if Makoko residents would relocate elsewhere if the Lagos State Government should provide that, Dosunga emphasised that “nobody will remove us from Makoko. We’re not going anywhere. It is our heritage, our livelihood is woven around Makoko.”
Claudius Akintimehin, Makoko Ori-Oke community chief, who has been living in Makoko since 1963 got to Makoko in 1963, insists that the State Government must stop all dredging plans as there are no known benefits.
Akintimehin mentioned that the community members do not have access to the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the dredging exercise, which either means the government had not done it or that the government does not care about the negative impact the dredging exercise would have on Makoko.
He said, “if they fill the waterfront, they will turn it to GRA and chase us out of our land, it will also be impossible for us to fish, which is our major source of livelihood.
“We don’t want the dredging of Makoko because if it rains, water will not be able to flow easily into the lagoon, thereby causing flood in Yaba, Ori Oke, Iwaya, and Makoko communities.
“We’re not fighting the government, we’re only demanding our rights, and we are insisting that the dredging exercise must stop.”
Another community leader, Chief Ayinde Albert (aka Baale Jeje) appealed to the Lagos State to do the bidding of the people and stop the dredging exercise.
He noted that all community members are in solidarity and have spoken against the reclamation project of the state government.
Earlier in his opening remarks, Dr. Nnimmo Bassey, the Director of HOMEF, said instead of displacing the residents in the name of development, the Lagos State government should rather develop the community which would in turn boost the state’s economy.
“Makoko is a vibrant economy with most of the residents being fisher folks. Why can’t the government think of setting up water-based transportation and recreation facilities or build fish ports and support the residents,” Bassey asked.
The HOMEF Director also noted that true development can only be achieved when it benefits the people, and not at the expense of their communities, and added that “forcing individuals and communities to relocate against their will is not development, it’s a source of distress.”
Also, Betty Abah, the Executive Director of CEE-HOPE Nigeria, said Makoko residents are faced with a major existential threat as the government intends to go beyond dredging the waterfront.
“They’re not stopping at the dredging. They are involved in Public Private Partnerships and intend to build factories in the community without engaging the people.
“The government just want to render them homeless because they think they do not have a stake or a voice,” She added.
Abah who noted that governance should be about people and not about structures and facilities said the government should harness the cultural diversity, talents, and skills in Makoko as a tourism asset instead of displacing them.
Mr. Akinbode Oluwafemi, the Executive Director of CAPPA, said Makoko is a symbol of Government neglect and instead of deploying manners to take people’s lands, the government ought to address the developmental needs of the people.