By Toluwani Eniola
More than 25, 000 persons, mostly fishermen and their families, have been rendered homeless in Makoko , a sprawling slum neighborhood located in Lagos, Nigeria.
Several soldiers, police officers and officers of other paramilitary agencies, today July 16,2012, stormed the Makoko (Ilaje) water front area of Lagos, demolishing houses and shanties.
Pandemonium broke out this morning as the people were sighted running helter-skelter to avoid being shot by the armed soldiers and police officers.
The Makoko settlement consists of rows of shanties perched on stilts in the lagoon of Lagos, one of the world’s largest cities with an estimated population of roughly 250,000 people
The Lagos state government on July 12 warned Makoko residents that “their unwholesome structures on the waterfront” amounted to an “environmental nuisance”, according to AFP reports.
“Notice is hereby given to you to vacate and remove all illegal developments along the Makoko/Iwaya Waterfront within 72 hours,” said the letter from the Lagos state ministry of waterfront, infrastructure and development.
An official from the waterfront ministry who drafted the eviction notice, Akin Tijani, said he was not able to estimate the number of people affected.
Some community leaders and activists however said tens of thousands of people live in the targeted slum, visible from the bridge that connects mainland Lagos to the wealthier island districts.
The State Government claimed the action was necessary in the wake of recent flooding. Done under the guise of more averting more flooding , the demolition is part of the governments’ reclamation activities by the ocean.
The demolition has generated deep concern as no resettlement plan has been made for the residents .
“More worrisome is the plight of the residents comprising mostly of children, in the rainy season and without alternative accommodation, and no considerable notice is appalling,” Agbodemu Ishola, an activist told Newsrecue.
A source who spoke to Newsrescue said the demolition started at around 12 noon.
“This morning we when to Makoko to meet the people concerning demolition plan ,so just exactly 12 :15NOON the Lagos State demolition team commence their operation.
“The commandant that led the team are Akin Ogunlana with army, mobile police and other paramilitary security agency fully arm ,cutters and some of demolition equipment as am talking to now they are still in operations.
Historically ,Makoko was established in the 18th century primarily as a fishing village. Much of Makoko rests in structures constructed on stilts above Lagos Lagoon.Today the area is essentially self-governing with a very limited government presence in the community and local security being provided by area boys.
“Can Fashola be a bit sensitive to the poor and helpless? How do you render thousands homeless in the peak of the rainy season? How many low cost housing has the ‘able’ governor provided since his administration? Are the Makoko dwellers d cause of this floodings?” lamented an environmentalist on facebook.