Remembering Daniel Aya | #OtodoGbame #SaveOurWaterfronts


By Megan S. Chapman, Co-Founder and Co-Director, Justice & Empowerment Initiatives – Nigeria

The footage you see at the beginning of the promo clip for “The Legend of the Vagabond Queen of Lagos” showing thousands of people in wooden fishing boats on the Lagos Lagoon watching their homes being burned by the government was taken almost a year ago to the day by my husband. He was with the evictees while tear gas and live bullets were being shot in their general direction to keep them from returning to land.

The man in the second clip whose head was lolling back was Daniel Aya, a young man and Federation member who was hit by one of those bullets in the neck and whose community members were trying to pole him to another boat that could try to take him to get urgent treatment across the Lagoon. I met that boat when it landed 45 minutes later carrying his dead body. A few minutes later, another boat arrived with a young man shot in the chest whose life we were able to save.

The Otodo Gbame community including 30,000 people was violently and forcibly evicted so their land could be turned into a luxury real estate development. It was destroyed violently and ruthlessly despite peaceful protests by thousands of Federation members from the Lagos waterfronts. Despite a court injunction restraining the government from carrying out the eviction of Otodo Gbame and 39 other communities who remain at risk of eviction up to today despite a court judgement in their favour.

This project is born out of the need for alternative ways to get the message out and change these lived realities of the urban poor in Lagos, in Nigeria, and around the globe. There is urgency in the struggle. It is personal to me and to hundreds of thousands of Lagos urban poor who are leading the struggle for dramatic change.

We believe deeply in co-creative processes. These are the key to alternatives we are pushing for the government to take to pursue win-win solutions with the poor instead of violent land grab. But co-creation is messy, is labour intensive and takes time to be done well and be truly co-creative and pluralistic. I both recognize the “essentialness” of this approach and struggle to be patient for the end-product (or mid-stream) tools that will advance the struggle — and hopefully transform it into something that will change the conversation and lived realities of the people with whom my daily life is intertwined.


Legends of Lagos: KYC.TV Youth Produce Web Documentaries as Research for Feature Film


By James Tayler, SDI

Legends of Lagos is an online documentary series in production by SDI’s youth media programme, Know Your City TV, which seeks to reveal the invisible legends that hold the waterfront communities of Lagos together by collecting stories of resilience and hope from informal settlements.

The documentary series serves another function as research material for a fictional narrative feature film to be produced by KYC.TV titled “The Legend of the Vagabond Queen of Lagos.”

The inspiration for this story comes from news reports that have surfaced in Nigeria about million dollar caches of paper money, hidden away by corrupt politicians and officials, that have been discovered in graves and other unlikely places. We wondered: “What if a grass roots community activist happened to discover one of these million dollar hoards and, instead of using the cash to enrich herself, set out to transform her community?”

Why are these stories necessary?

Lagos is undergoing a face-lift; plans are in action to turn this congested mega-city into Africa’s Singapore. But the slum dwellers living in the waterfront townships create a major problem for city officials: they are now an inconvenient eyesore that does not fit into this grandiose vision.

The Lagos State Government’s response has been brutal, swift and unjust – tens of thousands of people have been displaced and made homeless overnight in illegal evictions. Thugs and police in the employ of wealthy landowners forcibly drive people from their homes and possessions. Communities that have existed for decades – or over 100 years as in the case of Otodo Gbame – are barely given warning before the bulldozers and hoodlums armed with machetes and gasoline move in to hurt and burn. People have been killed, families ripped apart, and lives upended but hardly anyone in Nigeria or the international community knows about it. When the evictions are covered in the news, the stories are often met with a fatalistic shrug.

These stories, told and produced by slum dweller youth, are going to help change that. We will show that these communities are sites of resilience, innovation and practical solutions to very real problems. With this feature film and documentary series we want to show that true progress and innovation means that every citizen, no mater how poor, has something to contribute.

There is an emergency – lives and livelihoods are at risk. We need to swing public opinion, mobilize communities and forge new partnerships with other global citizens.

Please watch this space – we will take you on a journey through the waterways and alleys of Lagos slums where you will hear whispers of the Legend of the Vagabond Queen of Lagos. A fabled kingdom where corruption and self-serving leadership is not welcome, a place of resilience and innovation built on water and hope.

One year on from Lagos’ Otodo Gbame evictions, evictees still seek justice

SDI demands no forced evictions and no relocations without negotiated alternatives! But what happens when anti-poor governments refuse to negotiate? This continues to be the case in Nigeria. When this happens SDI affiliates are compelled to take to the streets and the courts. While that plays itself out, often with tragic consequences, SDI calls on the international community to help us talk sense to power. As these poignant stories from Lagos demonstrate evictions and armed force cause irreparable damage to the lives of poor people. Eventually it does the same to the cities in which they happen and to the Governments that cause them and sanction them with silence and with violence.
On the date of a protest by Otodo Gbame evictees, the Nigeria Slum / Informal Settlement Federation issued a press release, marking one year since the violent and unconstitutional evictions in their community began.
On Wednesday 15 November 2017, more than 600 evictees and other members of the Nigerian Slum / Informal Settlement Federation gathered at Ojota and marched to the office of the Lagos State Governor to demand justice in line with the Government’s own promises and the orders of the Lagos State High Court that evictees should be resettled.
After some time, a delegation from the Lagos State Government led by the Commissioner of Home Affairs and the Commissioner of Special Duties came out to address them. These two commissioners are part of an ad hoc committee set up in April 2017 that had met with evictees and promised relief and shelter. Since evictees submitted a list of persons affected, however, there has been no response whatsoever from the Government to several follow-up communications.
As such, when the commissioners again asked evictees to “exercise patience” today, evictees decided to stand their ground and wait at the Lagos State Government’s office until the Governor deems fit to address them and ensure his Government will make good on their promises. We are informed that the peaceful protesters are prepared to sleep outside the Governor’s office as they wait.
The day has been marked by heavy police presence and use of violence and tear gas against peaceful protesters, including the elderly, women, and children.
Justice & Empowerment Initiatives – Nigeria (JEI) stands in solidarity with evictees from Otodo Gbame and with the Nigerian Slum / Informal Settlement Federation as they press their demands for justice and an end to forced evictions.
Below are a few photos, and a timeline that explains the forced eviction in Otodo Gbame and efforts to achieve justice up to date. More photos and updates will be forthcoming as the story evolves.
Thank you for your solidarity and coverage of these important events.
Timeline of Otodo Gbame Evictions
The SDI Secretariat received the below update from our Nigerian affiliate at 3:25am on Thursday 16 November 2017.
Our apologies for the late message. This is to update all media, foreign missions, and other civil society partners on some deeply concerning updates from the peaceful protest by Otodo Gbame evictees and the Nigerian Slum / Informal Settlement Federation.
Nearly five hundred peaceful protesters remained on the protest ground outside the office of the Lagos State Governor as night fell. They sang and danced, they prayed collectively, and they settled in to spend the night in hopes the Governor would address them in the morning. Attached are some pictures taken by photographer Omoregie Osakpolor of the evening hours of the protest. Please be sure to attribute if making use of them.
Just after midnight, the Lagos State Task Force (a specialized police force) stormed the protest ground and began beating the peaceful demonstrators. They brought three “Black Maria” mobile detention vehicles and arrested many of the protesters, especially men. We have reports from inside that one vehicle was packed with 46 demonstrators. We believe the others contain similar numbers. They were taken first to the Task Force office at Oshodi in Lagos and then to the State Criminal Investigations Division of the police at Panti, Yaba in Lagos, where they are now. Those arrested include a number of leaders of the Nigerian Slum / Informal Settlement Federation and JEI community paralegals.
The remaining protesters, mainly women and children, were chased away from the Governor’s office and had to hide themselves along the roads in the surrounding area. We are tracing groups who are in different locations trying to hide and remain safe. We understand they are trying to regroup so as to return to the protest ground in the morning, a sign of their incredible resilience and courage.
Justice & Empowerment Initiatives (JEI) condemns in the strongest possible terms the use of force and unlawful arrest of peaceful protesters who have come out to demand justice and an end to forced evictions that plague the urban poor. We will be with the evictees of Otodo Gbame and all those arrested as they seek their liberty and continue their struggle to its logical conclusion.
All supportive actions will be welcomed. The evictees of Otodo Gbame need your support and coverage now more than ever.
Omoregie Osakpolor IMG_5240
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