Thousands of Makoko/Iwaya waterfront residents, a waterfront slum settlement in Nigeria’s commercial capital, Lagos have been rendered homeless due to demolition of their homes by a Lagos State Government Joint Taskforce comprising the Police, Military and officials of the Kick Against Indiscipline, KAI.
The demolition exercise follows the expiration of a three day quite notice given to the residents by the state government. The notice which was signed by the head of the operation of KAI, Mr Akin Tijani warned the residents “to vacate and remove all illegal developments along the Makoko/Iwaya Waterfront within 72 hours”.
According to Mr Akin Tijani, the demolition exercise became necessary as structures on the waterfront contravene the power-line rule which makes it illegal to build a house within 100 metres of a high tension electricity power line.
He said a number of the water front structures were within a 100m of the Power Line zone thereby, constituting a risk to the residents.
The exercise which began on Monday, July 16 and still ongoing at the time of this report according to human rights experts could leave about one hundred thousand people homeless and further driven into extreme poverty in a nation where about 70 percent of the 160 million population are living below the poverty line.
Speaking to ecojournalism.org at the demolition site, the Executive Director of a rights based Non Governmental Organisation in Nigeria, Social and Economic Rights Action Centre, SERAC, Mr. Felix C. Morka expressed displeasure at the approach taken by the Lagos State Government.
“ The illegal structures being demolished by the Government no doubt pose a threat to public safety, however, the 72 hour notice given to the people affected is short, unrealistic and unreasonable as it does not give the affected persons enough time to evacuate their belongings” he said.
According to him “it is imperative for the government to resettle and compensate people affected by the exercise”.
He cautioned that any effort by the government to extend the demolition to houses outside the power line would be illegal and would be resisted by the human rights community”
One of the affected residents John Adetule told ecojournalism.org that the demolition caught him unaware and he is yet to figure out what his next action would be.
“I have lived in this area for the past 12 years and my whole world including my business is located here. Now in just one day I have lost everything I worked for in over ten years. I am homeless, confused and don’t know where to start from”
Adetule expressed fear that the demolition was a ploy by the government to reclaim the land and then offer it to private estate developers.