Thousands of people fled Nigeria’s largest informal fishing settlement on Friday as security forces used gunfire and tear gas to make way for demolitions in defiance of a recent court order, rights groups said, describing it as a “violation of human rights”.
The homes of nearly 4,700 people in the Otodo-Gbame community in Lagos State were destroyed on Friday, despite a previous court order that halted such evictions, according to Amnesty International and Lagos-based group, Justice and Empowerment Initiatives (JEI). Speaking to Al Jazeera by phone, Otodo-Gbame residents said they had no warning their homes were going to be demolished.
“We were so surprised. We didn’t know where they came from,” Paul Kunnu said. “They pulled down everything.”
Another resident, Ahisu Celestine, said he and other community members woke up to the presence of Nigerian authorities and bulldozers on Friday.
“We tried to block the way,” and “they started shooting tear gas,” he added, saying there were dozens of police present.
Megan Chapman, co-director of JEI, who arrived at the community shortly after the demolitions began, told Al Jazeera that police used live bullets to disperse the crowds.
“Residents don’t really have any options. It’s an ancestral community. Many of the people in the settlements are fishermen and fisherwomen. They are among Lagos’ urban poor and there isn’t an alternative for them to move some place else.”
[Sunday Alamba/AP Images]
Both Kunnu and Celestine told Al Jazeera they will remain in Otodo-Gbame.
“We have to rebuild because we don’t have anywhere else to go and this is our home,” Kunnu said.
Celestine also called on the international community for help.
“We want international communities to help us, the poor,” he said. “It is a not a crime for poor people to live where rich men are.”
Authorities were not available for comment on the incident.
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies