By Chinyere Ogbonna – The Lagos State Government on has appealed to displaced residents of coastal communities in Ilado popularly known as Otodo Gbame to exercise a little more patience as efforts are ongoing to verify their list submitted for resettlement.
Some residents of the affected communities had stormed Lagos House in Aausa, Ikeja to protest the delay in their resettlement, saying that the request was in line with their fundamental human rights.
Addressing the protesters, the State’s Commissioner for Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Relations, Seye Oladejo said the government was very much aware of their pains, and that concerted efforts would be made to ameliorate their sufferings.
Mr. Oladejo, who addressed the protesters alongside the State’s Commissioners for Information and Strategy, Mr. Steve Ayorinde; Home Affairs, Dr. Abdulateef Abdulhakeem; and Special Adviser on the Environment to the Governor, Mr. Babatunde Humpe, commended the peaceful manner with which the protesters conducted themselves, while saying that efforts were o going to address their concerns soon.
He however noted that though the matter was in court, the State Government, on compassionate ground, was already looking into how to address the plight of the affected residents.
According to Mr. Oladejo, “The most important duty of any government is the protection of lives and property and in Lagos State, we are irrevocably committed to that. Also, it is on the basis of consideration for human feelings and what the Otodo Gbame people might be going through that we are holding this discussion. He added. We all know clearly if a matter is in court, we ought not to be discussing it as it is subjud but because our people are involved and some people are facing the brunt as a result of that development, as a government on compassionate ground, we are discussing this, that is number one”.
“Secondly, we must be able to differentiate between compensation and provision of assistance. They are two different things. When a government agrees to compensate, the government is admitting responsibilities for whatever happens. If the government is thinking towards the direction of providing assistance, that is basically compassionate.
“Thirdly, we held a meeting where we agreed that there should be a list of people who were supposedly displaced as a result of that development. That list, you will agree with me, took several months before it was compiled. When you compile a list of people running into thousands, and the list has their names, addresses, phone numbers and the rest of it, and we are talking about providing assistance, the government also owes it as a responsibility to verify this list. If it took you several months to compile, you will not expect that it should take the government just a few days to verify. You voted that government into power and the government has a duty to judiciously manage the resources of the State.”
He said the State Governor, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode was already aware of the list, and that after verification, government would do the needful on compassionate ground.
“The list is receiving attention as it were and the Governor is already aware of the list but there has to be a process. This is a government and not a private business that you can just decide on top of your head to do as you like.
“So, it is receiving attention. We are in the process of verifying this list and to determine what the government could do to assist the people that were supposedly displaced as a result of the incident. So, I just want to appeal that people of Otodo Gbame should exercise a little more of patience while this process is going on and we will get back in due course in no distant time. I recall not too long ago, we still discussed this issue. That is our position on this; we have not forgotten about you; we feel your pain and we will do our utmost best to see what we can do to ameliorate this pain,” Mr. Oladejo said.
Meanwhile, the seat of power in Lagos state situated at Alausa in Ikeja, southwest Nigeria now appears as theatre of war following the number of armed security personnel deployed to curtail any form of protest.
Dozens of policemen and over twenty patrol vans and armoured personnel carriers were visible at all the entry and exit roads to the Lagos House and the State Assembly Complex.
Scores of displaced residents of Otodo-Gbame community yesterday stormed Alausa, to once again protest their forced eviction from their riverine community.
The protesters, demanded justice over a whole range of injustice including the government’s refusal to honour a court judgement, as well as loss of their loved ones and property. They blocked all entrances and exit points leading to the governor’s office, saying nothing but an address by the governor himself would make them budge.
Some of the protesters who spoke with Shout-Africa correspondent, explained that a year after the first phase of the forced eviction of over thirty thousand (30,000) people from the community, the Lagos State Government was yet to implement any relief or resettlement in line with its promises.