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How Nigerian Navy forcefully evicted an estimated 10,000 people but Lagos has no moral authority

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On Tuesday, January 21, 2020, residents of Tarkwa Bay were evicted by the Nigerian Navy. Why is the Federal Government evicting thousands of people from their communities? 

*Mary woke up on the morning of Tuesday, January 21, 2019, without knowing that her three year stay at Tarkwa Bay was about to end. 

She tells NewsWireNGR, she was in the bathroom preparing to leave for work when the gunshots started.

In a few minutes, there was a knock at her door and the instruction from the armed officers at her doorstep was: “Madam, you have one hour to pack”.

The Naval officers made it clear: “If you don’t pack now, we will shoot you”.

In a hurry, she packed a few things and went to Waterside, where other villagers huddled with the belongings they could handle. 

But it was not enough to ask the villagers to abandon their homes in a hurry. The armed officers of the Nigerian Navy asked them to move to the jetty.

Some of the villagers resisted the move to the jetty: “The jetty is not strong enough to hold us” Mary explained to NewsWireNGR.

The officers responded to their reluctance with force. Mary witnessed an officer shoot one of the villagers in his leg. 

Yet, several residents of Tarkwa Bay had the feeling that an eviction was coming. The neighbouring village of Agbagbo was sacked a week ago. For residents of Agbagbo village, who reportedly built houses along NNPC pipeline routes, they received one week’s notice before they eviction. 

It would prompt the women of Tarkwa Bay to visit the NNPC office with their children to beg to avoid a similar eviction. They say they got assurances that they were safe, until Tuesday’s action.

Lagos State Action?

The forced eviction had some of the hallmarks of an eviction by the Lagos State government. Backlash on Social media began. The sentiment among Lagosians is understandable.

NewsWireNGR recalls that In 2017, thousands of residents of the waterside settlement, Otodo Gbame were evicted. During the evictions, security agents shot and killed one resident. 

The eviction was months after the demolition of thousands of homes of 4,700 people around the settlement for health and environmental concerns. 

Otodo Gbame is not a one-off. It is one in a series of forceful evictions of slum-dwellers as the city looks to force megacity status by rendering vulnerable residents homeless.

In 2003, the Bola Ahmed Tinubu administration evicted thousands of residents of Ijora Badia before protests forced the government to stop. 

Despite the Lagos state government’s history of evicting residents it is sworn to protest, the Nigerian Navy took credit for Tuesday’s.

Nigerian Navy: If You Don’t Report Vandalism, You’re Also A Vandal 

In a statement by Commander Thomas Otuji, a spokesman for Tuesday’s operation, the Navy acted to protect NNPC pipelines in Agbagbo and Tarkwa Bay.

“They build houses on pipelines and pump illegally. All the people in the community aren’t vandals but if you don’t report it, you are part of it.”

Yet, the Baale of Tarkway Bay and several other residents confirm that their village is several miles from the NNPC pipelines.

The Nigerian Slum/Informal settlements organisation in a press statement said the Navy began these operations in December 2019.

In December 2019, the Nigerian Federal government, through the Nigerian Navy began to carry out evictions of over two dozen peaceful island communities including Agbagbo, Abule Elepa, Abule Glass, Ajakoji, Akaraba, Bubukoji, Abule Oko, Fashola, Idi Mango, Ilaje, Inangbe/Ilado, Kompiamy, Olufemi, Oko-Kate, Okun Alfa, Okun Babakati, Okun Gbenga, Okun Ilase, Okun Kobena, Sankin, among others”

Thousands Stranded At CMS With Nowhere To Go

Hundreds of Tarkwa Bay residents are currently at CMS with nowhere to go. On Tuesday night, a few hundred people slept at the Ferry-Jetty waterfront at CMS.

According to one Tarkwa Bay resident who spoke to NewsWireNGR, others had made their way to Ajegunle while some are hanging around CMS with children in tow, selling whatever they have to try to raise transport fare to their villages.  

The situation is made worse by the fact that the 10,000 people affected by Tuesday’s evictions did not get immediate resettlement from the government.

It remains to be seen for how long the Navy’s operation will continue and if the Lagos state government, whose residents face homelessness will intervene.