There was unrest and confusion in pain the early hours of Thursday at the Lagos House, Alausa, Ikeja, as displaced residents of Otodo Gbame, a slum in the Lekki area of Lagos State, were allegedly attacked by operatives of the Lagos State Police Command.
It was learnt that in the ensuing confusion, some women and children sustained varying degrees of injury as the operatives, including officials of the Lagos State Task Force on Environmental and Special Offences (Enforcement) Unit, arrested 158 protesters.
It was also gathered that the group thronged the office of the state Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, on Wednesday, saying the government had yet to resettle them since their houses were demolished in 2016.
They had lamented that despite compiling a list of 30,000 residents affected by the demolition, they had yet to get any feedback from the government.
The residents, who carried placards, mats and leaves, had insisted that they would not leave the governor’s office until Ambode addressed them.
The state’s Commissioner for Special Duties and Inter-governmental Relations, Oluseye Oladejo, had appealed to the protesters, saying the state government was working on the list and would soon get back to them.
The protesters put their mats at the frontage of the governor’s office and refused to vacate the premises.
It was learnt that around 12.26am on Thursday, while the protesters had slept, the policemen swooped on them.
The community woman leader, Mrs. Bimbo Osobe, described the scene as “terrible”.
She said, “When we first got to Alausa, we were attacked by policemen who used tear gas on us. Later, we were addressed by some of the government officials. We told them we would like our governor to address us since we have got series of unfulfilled promises from government officials. They left and told us that they were going back to give the governor our message. We waited and decided to sleep.
“At about 12am, the streetlights were switched off. We sat in the darkness, singing Christian songs. At about 12.20am, policemen came in three Black Marias. They chased and beat us. They arrested both men and women. Then one of them said they should leave the women. A pregnant woman was arrested alongside five other women.
“After we were thrown out of Alausa, the policemen came after us till we got to the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and crossed to the other side of the road. We were there until it started raining around 2am. We stood inside the rain with our children as we had no alternative.”
Osobe said by 8am, she attempted to lead the women, who were over 100, back to the scene to recover some of their property, adding that they saw some policemen barricading the road.
She explained that the leader of the police team, one Ahmed, ordered that the operatives should open fire on them if they came closer.
She said, “I approached him and begged that we had only come for our children’s clothes, first aid box and cameras. He told the policemen to fire us if we came an inch closer. To avert any bloodshed, I asked the women to go back.”
Osobe said since the demolition occured, most residents had no place of abode, adding that they squatted under bridges and slept in vehicles.
A member of a non-governmental organisation, Shawn Samuel, posted photos of people who got injured during the attack on Facebook.
Samuel said some of the displaced residents were beaten by task force operatives because there was no media coverage at the time.
He said, “The Lagos State Government couldn’t do anything to these people during the day because they didn’t want to tarnish their reputation, seeing different media houses (were) covering the protest. They planned for the night when they knew everyone wasn’t watching.
“God, help the people of Otodo Gbame; all they ever wanted was their land that was unlawfully taken. They never attacked anybody; they sang and clapped in this peaceful protest; children were laughing, jumping and feeling happy. Yet, they were treated as if they weren’t human beings. Is Lagos for the rich only? We farm for you, fish for you, protect you, clothe you and you want us out?”
Samuel, who later spoke with our correspondent, said all those arrested had been taken to the State Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department, Yaba.
He said the number of those injured during the attack was unknown, adding that about 500 people were at the scene of the protest.
“The community had taken the government to court because they were not served before the demolition occurred. The court ordered in June 2017 that Otodo Gbame should be resettled. That was all they were asking for before the unfortunate attack,” he added.
Source: ( Punch Newspaper)