The residents of Makoko, Oko-Agbon, and Sogunro have resisted the planned demolition of their communities.
The communities, represented by their counsel, Ayo Ademiluyi ESQ., rejected alleged plans by FBT Coral Estate Limited to displace them.
A copy of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the developer and the three communities, detailed plans on how to displace the residents and develop the land.
Our correspondent received a copy of the agreement from one of the community representatives as they agitated against it, saying that they never consented to the plans in the first place.
Ademiluyi, who represented the community and addressed the press, said that what is set to happen to Makoko is similar to what occurred in Otodo Gbame. In 2017, thousands of people were left homeless after the police invaded a riverine community, Otodo Gbame, setting fire to their homes which were suspended on the water.
According to the legal counsel, what remains of that demolition is a fancy estate known as Periwinkle Estate. He said, “The purpose of this press briefing is to highlight the state of the Makoko community. Sometimes about four years ago, the Lagos State Government came out with a similar plan like this and acted through private developers. In the real sense, what we discovered is that these private developers don’t want to develop these communities. Their motive is to help drive away the residents of these communities and turn them to an abode for the rich. We saw that in Otodo Gbame. Otodo Gbame was a community of the poor; eventually, the Lagos State Government, aided by the then governor, Mr Akinwumi Ambode, along with the Nigerian Police Force and the Nigerian Army demolished that community. We are very sure their plan is to repeat what they did there in Makoko.”
The legal counsel said that the residents of the community would put up the heaviest resistance against anyone signing their homes away. He revealed that across the ocean, exactly at the third mainland bridge, lies a dredging machine with the intent to evict the Makoko people while putting their lives at risk.
He described the Otodo Gbame forced eviction as a prelude to the Lekki Massacre. He stressed that the residents had a right to refuse a developer to build on their land. He argued that despite Lagos State’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of N11 trillion yearly, they have failed to turn the poor community around. He noted that if the Lagos State Government cannot help to reconstruct the facilities involved, they have no right to sand-fill the community or evict its residents, adding that the state’s N11trn IGR is more than the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of five neighbouring West African countries.
A fisherman and preacher, Avlessi Innocent, in an interview with The ICIR said that he had been in the community during the Biafra war. He said, “When I was growing up, all these places were filled with bush. No one lived therein. Our fathers were the ones who sand-filled here. We are Tofin people. We are not farmers, fishing is our own farming. If they sand-filled this place (Makoko), that means our occupation would be destroyed. If you discover anything you think we can develop, tell us so we can develop it. We are fishermen and we can only be close to fishing ports. We, the community, say no to forced eviction. The only help is if the government wants to develop anything, they should tell us. You cannot take our community. Where should we go if you take it from us? If you are to kill us on it, then we would still live here.”
The preacher noted that what happened in Otodo Gbame where the residents were deceived and the island later sand-filled, is what is about to happen now and that they would not let that happen.
Similarly, another resident, Akoyon Jackson said the authorities had been wanting to demolish their community for so long.
“For over 35 years, they have been wanting to demolish our community. We are a peaceful community and not involved in evil. Remove the dredger, we don’t want any authoritarian in our community. We are not beggars.”
The residents noted that the threat over their community would spread to other communities like Onike, Sabo and Mushin if not checked. They also charged a presidential aspirant for the 2023 general elections, Bola Tinubu, to wade into the matter if he needed their support ahead of the polls.