Monday Idowu was shot by the same bullet that killed his friend in slum attack

 abc.net.au  9/16/2017 8:08:24 PM   Declan Cooley

Posted September 17, 2017 06:08:24

Residents of Nigeria's Otodo Gbame fled for their lives when their shanty town was set ablaze to make way for redevelopment.

Apprentice barber Monday Idowu and his childhood friend Daniel Aya were shot with the same bullet one morning in April.

As police and armed thugs, allegedly loyal to the royal Elegushi family, laid siege to Otodo Gbame, the slum they called home, residents had no choice but to run.

Amid chaos, tear gas, bullets, flames and rain, Monday and Daniel had weaved their way through the shanties of Otodo Gbame, a slum on Lagos' waterfront, to Monday's mother's shop to save what they could before the slum was set ablaze.

Monday was shot in the chest, he says, by a police officer, one of many who had been ordered by Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode to tear down the slum where the pair had grown up.

The bullet skirted his lungs, exited his chest and smacked into the neck of his friend Daniel Aya, who slumped to the ground dead.

Monday said he shouted for help before trying to carry Daniel to the murky shores of Lagos Lagoon where 5,000 residents were trying to flee across the water in wooden boats.

"When he shot me and Daniel was hit I tried to carry his dead body away," Monday said.

"I started shouting for help and when the policeman saw the number of people coming to help he ran away."

Fisherman Torsihun Pascal said he had spotted marine police at 3:30am that morning circling the slum but had thought nothing of it, until they returned at 5am.

"It was like war … they started shooting and we were afraid because we had nothing to fight back with and so people ran to the water to escape."

A city fit for a king

Jobless and sitting on a plastic chair in the middle of another waterfront slum in Lagos, Mr Pascal said he was under no allusions as to why his community had been kicked out of Otodo Gbame.

"Land sold in Lekki these days is worth millions and millions," he said.

"In their eyes our land was like gold."

Situated on a muddy sliver of land on the increasingly affluent Lekki Peninsula, members of the Otodo Gbame community occupied prized land.

Under the guise of boosting housing stock to accommodate a bulging Lagos population, the Eleguhsi family revealed last year its intention to build the Imperial International Business City right on top of the slum.

The residential and commercial project has been touted as a mini Dubai, with dredging already underway to create 150 hectares of land that will supposedly house up to 3.2 million people.

"The development is an exclusive island off the headland of Lekki Phase 1," a confidential document read.

"The aim of the project is to create the first self-sustaining eco-friendly smart business city in Africa as intended by His Royal Majesty."

The document continued to say the project, which was being undertaken by the Elegushi family and its partner Channeldrill Resources Limited, was expected to cost 44 billion naira ($152 million). However, a separate figure of US$300 million for the cost of the project was posted on Channeldrill's website.

The document stated it would cost $130,000 to buy 650 square metres of land, putting it well and truly out of reach of anybody who used to live in Otodo Gbame.

Ms Chapman said since the evictions the government "brought in gunboats" to guard a dredging company that had started sand filling the water around the former slum.

Tied to the land

Like all the Otodo Gbame residents the ABC spoke to, Mr Pascal, 53, said he was born and bred in the slum.

Although the exact date of settlement is unclear, Mr Pascal said his family moved to the area in 1902 from Badagry, a town located in the west of Lagos state.

Before the community was broken up, about 40,000 fisherman and small traders from the Egun ethnic minority called it home.

But Mr Pascal said he was only made aware of the Elegushi family's claim over the land in 2014 when, he said, men attacked the slum.

The matter was taken to court but between November 9 and 10 last year, the state government and the police forcibly evicted 30,000 people from Otodo Gbame. After a brief lull in hostilities demolitions started back up in March.

The "last phase" of the Otodo Gbame evictions was "complete brutality", according to Megan Chapman, co-founder of Justice & Empowerment Initiatives Nigeria (JEI), a not-for-profit group that fights for the land rights of Lagos' poor.

She says it was nothing short of a "violent state-sponsored land grab".

A police investigation into Daniel's death was opened but so far little has been done to find his killer, Ms Chapman says.

Victory in the courthouse

Lagos State Commissioner for Information Steve Ayorinde said the demolition of Otodo Gbame was justified because the community was "unsanitary" and provided a safe haven for criminals.

But in a court case brought against the government by JEI, Justice S A Onigbanjo's declared the April eviction cruel, inhumane, without adequate notice and resettlement, and in violation of the right to dignity enshrined in the Nigerian constitution.

After the ruling Mr Ayorinde said the government had lodged an appeal, however Ms Chapman said they haven't done anything to stay the execution of the judgment.

"We're still pushing them to go ahead and resettle Otodo Gbame people because the order of the court is still there and the order was for them to immediately start resettling," Ms Chapman said.

Mr Ayorinde did not respond to questions put to him by the ABC about whether the government would resettle Otodo Gbame residents.

A royal response

A representative of the Elegushi family, Prince Oyekan Elegushi, told the ABC the Imperial International Business City project was "making progress" despite another court case pending between the family and Otodo Gbame residents over land ownership.

The Prince denied his family's involvement in the April eviction.

"You can't expect to live on a land forever, knowing it belongs to someone else," the Prince said.

"The people of Otodo Gbame are only seeking public sympathy.

"Due notice was given to them but obviously [they] had nowhere to go."

The Prince said the government should have resettled Otodo Gbame residents, providing them with a "permanent place to live".

Waiting for resettlement

JEI has traced Otodo Gbame residents to at least 16 different slums scattered across Lagos, including about 200 people who have squeezed into one-bedroom shacks and boats at another waterfront slum, Sogunro community.

Despite their predicament residents said they were buoyed by the recent court ruling and remained optimistic about going home.

Mr Pascal now lives with his wife and six children in a cramped shanty overlooking a canal thick with mosquitos and rubbish. He lost everything in the eviction.

"Growing up in Otodo Gbame was as if I was born into a rich family even though we are poor," he said.

"It's hard because Otodo Gbame is where I grew up and put all of my hope there."

Monday lives in Sogunro community, separated from his family. He is unemployed and still in pain from the shooting and the loss of his close friend.

Daniel Aya's mother, Philomenu, said she would like to move back to Otodo Gbame but "still feared the Elegushis would come back and attack again".

She said Daniel's father was out of work and that the family, including Daniel's two young baby girls, had "no food and no water".

Amusu Raymond, 55, said he had spent the past few months separated from his wife and children after shifting around different slums across Lagos.

"Since we knew their forefathers we tried to settle but they said they didn't have time for us," he said.

"When they came on that Sunday I was so scared I thought I could be killed next so I ran away and they burnt down my whole house.

"How could another human being like me treat us like there is no tomorrow?"

Topics: urban-development-and-planning, world-politics, poverty, nigeria

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