Nigeria Police Force Sacks Badagry Community, Residents Call For Governor Ambode’s Intervention

Dwellers of Mowo Phase II, Araromi Ale, and Atiporome in Badagry, Lagos State have for the umpteenth time stormed the State Government House in Alausa, Ikeja, to detest the forceful eviction and demolition of their homes by the Nigeria Police Force to construct a housing scheme for serving police officers.

The residents said the demolition was carried out by men of the Lagos State Enforcement Team in December 2013, and illegally pulled down about a 1,500 houses while rendering thousands homeless.

Lagos State Government had apportioned some portion of land in the Badagry axis to the Nigeria Police to construct their housing scheme. According to the document and Certificate Of Occupancy issued to the Nigeria Police, the state government apportioned to them Age Mowo and Age Lado community but the Police rather went to Mowo Phase II, Araromi Ale and Atipomore to construct their project.

Afolabi Kehinde, one of the victims of the demolition exercise who spoke with RuralReporters said he has been residing in Mowo Phase II community as early as 2006. He mentioned further that the settlers do pay their Land Use Charge bills, utility bill and other bills that come from the government. Afolabi however said the community were put to total surprise when in December 2013, they saw bulldozers and caterpillars with men of the state’s enforcement team pulling down their structures without prior notice.

“This is a community that has over 1,500 houses and over a thousand residents. Ever since our buildings were pulled down, the government is yet to say a word on the demolition. We heard that former Governor, Babatunde Fashola signed the Certificate of Occupancy and allotted the portion of land to them.

“Though the allocation and C of O spelt Age Mowo and Age Ilado, but the Nigeria Police came to demolish houses in three communities- Mowo Phase II, Araromi Ale, and Atiporome. Since the illegal demolition exercise by men of the Nigeria Police, our people have been rendered homeless. Some now sleep in churches, mosque while some sleep wherever the dark meets them,” Afolabi said.

The homeless settler, in solidarity with other dwellers said they have come to meet with the state Governor, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode to demand justice. He said the Police who are meant to enforce law are doing otherwise knowing fully well that there is an interlocutory injunction granted by Justice Adesanya of Badagry High Court. The injunction granted by the court had halted any further erection of structures on the land.

However, despite the injunction, the Nigeria Police is still construction structures on the land. If the Police could not obey court injunction, dwellers belief they can prevail on Governor Ambode to speak with the State Commissioner of Police, Mr Umar Manko, to order his men to return to the land allotted to them as stated in the document given by the Lagos State Government and put an end to the impunity going on in their community.

Attempts to inquire why the Nigeria Police forcefully lay siege on Mowo Phase II, Araromi Ale and Atipomore, it was revealed that the Age Mowo and Age Lado is a swampy area which may not look appealing to the Nigeria Police.

Lawyer to the dwellers, Megan Chapman, Co-Executive Director, Justice and Empowerment Initiative which is a Lagos based human right organization told RuralReporters that what felt more touching is that at the time of demolition, that case was actually already pending in court between the settlers and the Lagos State Government.

She said whenever a matter is in court, the parties to that proceeding are supposed to maintain the status quo and not disrupt the subject matter of the litigation.

Her words: “One of our main concern in this case is the impunity with which the Lagos State Government and the Police came to demolish people’s homes,  push people out on the street under the rain without any respect for the matter pending in court and they needed to allow time for justice to run its cause.

“There was no compensation; there wasn’t even adequate notice, no resettlement. I understand they had some papers in about two days in advance, but two days to do what? To pack your house when a matter is pending in court since 2008? It is not a way it should be done.

“After that, the community quickly went to the Federal High Court to try to enforce their fundamental right saying that this demolition was contrary and a serious violation of their fundamental right. The Federal High Court declined jurisdiction, saying that because the matter bothers on lands they should go to the State High Court; the same State High Court that has failed to protect their right prior to that while the matter is still on going.

“They took that decision; the Lagos State High Court in turn said ‘this is not a matter of fundamental human right. We don’t see any violation to right to property, fair hearing, dignity and so many other rights that are enshrined in the constitution.’  And they pushed them back to that same case that is already pending in court.”

Chapman said the organization is watching brief in solidarity with the community and it’s also taking it very seriously because it is a dangerous precedent that is being set by the lower court decision. She said the lower court is refusing to allow people impose their fundamental human right and the State High Court is doing nothing to stop the Nigeria Police Force to stop the demolishing of buildings despite the matter is pending in court.

The State High Court of Badagry had issued an injunction, halting further building of structures on the land by the Nigeria Police Force but their contravention to the injunction issued by the High Court is a disregard to the rule of law and because of that, there is a bench warrant out from the High Court for the Inspector General of Police, Mr Solomon Arase, to appear at the next sitting which is believed to hold on November 2 or 3 2015.

Comrade Agbodemu Musibau, Executive Director, Rural and Urban Development Initiative, who came alongside the dwellers, spoke against the forceful eviction and illegal demolition of poor people’s home in the community.

Musibau expressed dissatisfaction on government responses to the issue claiming they have come different times to lay their complaints against Police impunity in their community but no one from the State House deemed it fit to neither address them nor pen down their demands.

He also corroborated the claim that the document given to Nigeria Police from the state government spelt Age Mowo, Age Ilado. Effort to make them (Nigeria Police) reason with the community that the community they have come to occupy is different proved abortive as the next action they saw from the police was demolition of their homes.

RuralReporters inquired if the former governor, Babatunde Fashola was duly informed of the misconduct, Musibau explained there was a meeting between the representatives of the community which he is among and the state government.

“We met with the Police Area K Command in Badagry, and met with the immediate past Governor Babatunde Fashola. Fashola referred us to the Ministry of Physical Planning and ordered they visit the community to ascertain true cause, and take necessary action. But despite all these moves, the Nigeria Police went ahead to demolish peoples abodes. And up till this moment, we are still on it. No compensation, no resettlement and no due course of law were allowed to prevail.

“With Governor Ambode now in office, we believe the government is continuity. Lagos state remains a state however, the arrangement and plans continue. That is why we resolved to come here to meet and listen to the new governor on how he can help the poor masses out,” Musibau said.

On which court injunction the community want the government to abide with, Musibau said they expect the Badagry High Court to interpret that the forceful eviction is inhumane and unconstitutional.

His words: “What we are saying is that they (Nigeria Police) have infringed on our fundamental human right by virtue of demolition of our property. Second, the land in question is not what appears in their document. Let us see how we can hold a roundtable discussion to see what is needed to procure as land document.”

Responding to the dwellers demand, representative of the Governor, Mrs Sade Jaji, Lagos State Head of Service, and Mr Hakeem Muri-Okunola, Permanent Secretary, Lands Bureau assured the settlers that the matter will be look into and justice will be done.

Jaji, in her words to the community dwellers outside the State House premises said, “What is paramount in the heart of the new Governor Ambode is to do things that will make Lagosians happy and he is a man of his words. I implore you to give us time to look into this and we will make sure that justice is delivered.

“From the human point of view he will do something. We are sorry for whatever might have happened. We will sit to look at what is on our record, what is it that happened that cost the injustice that you are talking about. We want to have solutions to our problems and God willing, we will have solutions. Let us be patience and peaceful and wait on government to deliver.”

Ibrahim Olalekan is a media writer and specialist. His enormous task as journalist has earned him media space in some leading online newspapers. Aside being a seasoned journalist, Olalekan has keen interest in advocacy, rural development and politics. Olalekan is a graduate of Mass Communication from the University of Lagos, and can be reach via: ibrahimolalekan001@yahoo.com or +2348101988313 and @lekanpaul

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