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‘They ate my smoked fish’ — residents of Lekki tollgate slum lament demolition

‘They ate my smoked fish’ — residents of Lekki tollgate slum lament demolition
February 13
07:49 2021

It was a sad Wednesday for residents of Foreshore community, a slum beside Lekki tollgate, when officials of the Lagos state environmental task force accompanied by police officers demolished and burnt their makeshift houses.

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When TheCable visited the community on Thursday, the residents were found in a state of hopelessness.

The community is separated by an iron barricade and a fenced structure covering residents from direct view of the Lekki tollgate, one of the rallying points of the #EndSARS movement in October 2020, and a scene where soldiers shot at unarmed protesters.

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Prior to the demolition exercise, over 300 people were said to have been staying in makeshift structures in the community, mostly built with wood and nylon coverings — but the demolition has led to the displacement of many of them, who are now sleeping in uncompleted buildings and on overhead bridges around the Lekki axis.

Some of the residents said they were unable to rescue their properties during the demolition, claiming that officers attached to Maroko police station set them on fire.

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One of the residents, a mother of two who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told TheCable that the task force officials and policemen did not allow residents to pack their properties. She, however, admitted that the officials had earlier visited the community on Tuesday to issue a vacation order.

“They burnt some of my sister’s things, her school results from primary to university and our clothes,” she said in a dejected manner.

“I do not have where to stay now but I have relatives that I think I can stay with. They brought police and mopol with bulldozer.”

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The mother of four is among residents who believe that the community was destroyed as a result of the allegation that they harboured #EndSARS protesters and also participated in the protests.

She added in Pidgin: “Even this #EndSARS protests, we in this community no dey join dem, some of us just dey look, we no know why dem destroy our house because of protest.”

Samaila, a young man from Adamawa state, is greatly troubled by the situation. He was away at work during the demolition exercise. When TheCable approached him — sitting with his sister and four children, surrendered by bags of clothes and mattresses — he appeared frustrated.

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While speaking, he dipped his hand into his pocket and brought out his permanent voter card, and shouted angrily: “I voted for this government, see my PVC. I usually go to Olosan to vote, inside the sun and I do not believe that we will be treated like animals.”

Samaila said he was not aware of the 24-hour notice to vacate the community, adding that he does not know where to go after the eviction, as Lagos is not his state of origin.

“I was at work when they came. Before I came back, all my properties had been burnt. We are just managing ourselves here. The owners of the land know our situation, they know we are staying here and how we are managing here,” he said.

“It is not the owner of the land that said we should leave, it is our own government that said they did not want to see us and we are citizens and we are the ones who elected them.”

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It was a different scenario for a middle-aged fish seller, who is popularly called Iya Egun in the community. She accused some of the officials of eating her smoked fish even while she pleaded profusely.

She said: “If you want to give someone notice, one week or one month is good, not one day.”

“They ate my smoked fish and still went ahead to demolish our makeshift.”

Iya Egun told TheCable that she is a widow with six children and that it was through the fish business that she was able to sponsor one of the children to the university.

“It is this fish business I’m doing to cater for my children. Since yesterday, I have been thinking of what to do after this place was demolished. I have not even eaten, because I do not know where to go,” she said.

“When the officials came I was smoking my fish here (pointing at a demolished structure), I told them to allow me pack my properties, that I will leave this place. They did not answer, they threw away some of my properties, while some of the officials were eating my fishes.”

Efforts to get the police to comment on allegations of burning belongings of residents proved futile, as Muyiwa Adejobi, spokesperson of the Lagos state police command, did not answer his calls or respond to messages put across to him.

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