The Cry Of  The Slum Dwellers

They came in their numbers, with many of them wearing long faces and chanting solidarity songs. Men and women, young and old, they strolled into the venue of the press conference in Yaba, that May 24 with a mission: to tell the world about the suffering they’ve been through since last year the Lagos State Government sent in bulldozers to bring down their homes in Badia, a slum settlement. As a result of that demolition, the aggrieved group, said many of them had been rendered homeless while others have lost their source of livelihood. Speaking under the aegis of the Nigerian Slum/Informal Settlement Federation, the members, made up of the likes of Bimbo Oshobe, Jerry-Osa Arabamen, Ayodeji Godswill and Kazeem Adesola, informed the journalists present that many of them have faced lots of indignities and challenges as a result of the destruction and the refusal of the Lagos State government to relocate them elsewhere. “We are deeply concerned about the plight of our brothers and sisters in Badia East and Badia West, 10,000 of whom were forcibly evicted from their homes on 18, 19 and 22 September 2015. Nine months after the eviction, hundreds of families are still homeless, living in pitiful conditions and makeshift shelters at the demolition site,” said Oshobe. She added that all attempts by the members to meet with government officials have failed to yield any positive result and that the people are disconsolate even as she insisted they will not give up the struggle for their right, as the demolitions had long been condemned as “illegal and a gross violation of human rights by the UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Shelter, Amnesty International, Justice & Empowerment Initiatives-Nigeria.” The agony isn’t just about the destruction of homes in Badia as elsewhere. The Lagos State government also barred inhabitants of Ebute Ilaje, Bariga, a waterfront community from their sand dredging business in the area allegedly for security reasons. Demolition of slums in Lagos State didn’t start with Akinwumi Ambode’s administration, however, as the immediate past government headed by Babatunde Fashola did the same thing.   Despite all resistance put up by the people in past and present times, the Lagos State government, employing all arsenal at its disposal, often end up intimidating the people, with little or no compensation paid for destroyed property. But the Nigerian slum/informal settlement federation members, some of who wore T-shirts with the inscription “Unity, Our Strength,” that day, say they will resist the injustice this time.

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