A Non governmental Organisation, NGO known as the Centre for Children Health Education Orientation and Protection, CEE-HOPE, which launched its ICT centres in five states across the country in 2020, one of which was located at Monkey Village, an informal housing settlement in the Opebi area of the state.
While launching the centres last year, Betty Abah, the founder of CEE-HOPE said that she came up with the centres to better the lot of the children, especially during the pandemic. She also called on government for quality education intervention. Abah made the call while commissioning the ICT centres along with borehole in Monkey Village.
She said: “One of the ways to keep children busy is to keep them learning, especially at this time of COVID-19 when they are not in school.
“The presentation of the ICT centre is very symbolic. We are doing this in five different locations across the country – Lagos, Kaduna, Plateau, Benue and Imo.
“Three of those are orphanages with close to 200 children orphaned as a result of Boko Haram, herdsmen killings across the Middle Belt, etc.
“Without quality education and computer training, its double tragedy for the children, and because many of them saw their parent being killed, many of them have inbuilt anger against society already. Without being computer literate, they can’t have a firm grasp of ICT skills.”
To her surprise, on December 31, an agency with Lagos state government with truckloads of policemen descended on the community and with the aid of graders and bulldozers, pulled down houses, displacing about 500 families. The ICT Centre and youth hub, with several computers, library, and other gadgets, built in the community by CEE-HOPE was also pulled down. Pleas by community members who had the key to the centre to retrieve the materials were ignored. CEE-HOPE’s water project in the community was also destroyed. Several members of the community were also brutalised by people who claimed they were carrying out government order, according to community sources.
Abah said government demolished her NGO`s facilities without prior notice.
Initially, government denied it, but now, the Lagos State Ministry of Environment, the Lagos State Task Force office and other official quarters, the Lagos State Ministry of Physical Planning & Urban Development came up with a statement on Sunday, January 3, claiming responsibility for the demolition exercise carried out on December 31, 2020, in Monkey Village. They gave “reclamation of wetland” as the reason for the forced eviction exercise.
CEE-HOPE on January 4, in its reaction signed by Betty Abah, faulted the action of the Lagos State Government which it described as “crude, autocratic and a gross violation of all known laws and guidelines guiding the handling of such matters world over” which has not only displaced 400 persons (currently homeless) but also endangered the educational dream of more than 200 of the community’s children.
She lamented that, “It is indeed a crying shame that the biggest news out of Lagos every single year would revolve around the savage treatment of the urban poor,”
Stating the history of demolition in the state, Abbah said, “From Maroko, Makoko, Badia East, Iluibirin to Otodo-Gbame, and now Monkey Village, it is the same pattern of the gross abuse of the human and shelter rights of the urban poor, when Lagos is not the only state in Nigeria and when Nigeria is not the only place where we have slum settlement or indeed where the urban poor exists.”
According to CEE-HOPE, the latest statement from the government was part of the layers of lies bandied by the Lagos State Government in the last few days to cover up the atrocity committed against the poor residents of Monkey Village. From claiming it was a take-over of a land under contest in court, to saying it was a hideout for hoodlums, it has now framed a wetland narrative.
“But whatever it is, how come there was no prior notice to the residents to at least take out their few belongings before they were crushed by the graders?” the statement noted.
According to Abah, Monkey Village sits on about 10 plots of land, which belongs to about seven individuals. The individuals then gave out the land to the residents pending when they are fully ready to develop the place and each land is overseen by some members of the community who are well known to the landowners. She stressed that the people are therefore not illegal occupants neither have they ever been served any evacuation notice.
Now that an agency of the Lagos State government has finally come out to admit culpability in the entire fiasco, CEE-HOPE is therefore demanding the following:
An apology to the community members for the gross violation of their rights, including the failure to follow due process by duly serving them formal notice.
Compensation of every one of the community members for lost personal and household belongings.
Relocation of the victims of this arbitrary forced eviction as guaranteed by the UN provision on Housing Right.
Compensation of CEE-HOPE for the destruction of its multi-million Naira ICT Centre/Youth Hub and water project in the community.
A promise by the government to end all such arbitrary actions especially with regards to the urban poor in future engagements, commit to meaningful engagement of informal housing residents rather than the usual use of brute force, commit to upgrading of such settlements as is the current practice across the world rather than forced eviction which pushes the poor into worse levels of vulnerability.
That the Lagos State House of Assembly institute hearings into the incident, with a view to addressing the issue and unearthing the personalities and real reasons behind this reckless, inhuman and lawless action which has been ongoing in this state unhindered, and which exacerbates the suffering of the poor and is in violation of the state’s supposed duty as the hope of the poor and vulnerable.