When Adamu (not real name), a JSS 3 student of a school at Victoria Island, woke up on the morning of February 10, he did not know that he would not have a house to return to from school.
NO MORE SCHOOL… LIFE TO CONTINUE UNDER THE BRIDGE
The 19-year-old Adamawa State indigene, who self-sponsors his education, lost everything when about 150 police officers from Alausa, Ikeja, accompanied by officers from Maroko, invaded Foreshore, a shanty settlement opposite the Lekki Toll gate and on the street leading to Oriental hotel.
“I have two options now: return to Adamawa or live under a bridge. But I am definitely stopping school,” Adamu said.
Before the demolition, he washed motorcycles and did other menial jobs after school. When FIJ met him, he had only his school uniform on.
“When I asked people whether they helped me to pick any of my things, they ignored me. I have nothing now. Even my second school uniform, I can’t find it.”
THE PRESS IS TO BLAME
The eviction began with policemen storming the settlement at 8am and for three hours, destroying properties with a bulldozer. Some residents were still sleeping while others had gone to work when the officers arrived and surrounded the area. Witnesses told the FIJ that the invasion confused many residents. Some of them sustained injuries as they fled. They lamented that they were not given prior notice of the eviction.
“We ran and later returned when they told us to pack our things. But we couldn’t pick much because the bulldozer had started demolishing properties. I don’t even know where to go from here,” a woman surrounded by a few belongings, including a mattress and some clothes, told me as she held on to her two children who just returned from school.
While some were able to salvage some things, others were not. The evictees who are in a state of despair, would not allow pictures of them to be taken.
“The press is one of the reasons we are experiencing this,” one man told this reporter, warning that no recording should be done. Some residents, however, allowed pictures of their leftover properties to be taken.
‘ALL MY CLOTHES, ALL MY MONEY ARE GONE’
John (not real name), a construction worker, said that he rushed home when he heard that an eviction was taking place. When he arrived, he found nothing.
“All my clothes, all my shoes and the money I kept inside my bed; everything was burnt,” he said. “They demolished our things, gathered them in a place and burnt them.”
Residents said the police came yesterday to confiscate bikes and tell all the settlers to leave the area.
“It was not on the road that they confiscated those bikes; they came and entered peoples’ rooms, looking for motorcycles. They took away six bikes. They didn’t tell us how much time they gave us,” a lady said.
Furious and confused, they went through the rubbles, hoping to find something they could salvage. They fought with metal scrap collectors who stormed the area looking for what to pick and sell.
‘WHY NOT EVICT THE RICH PEOPLE WHO SPONSORED THE PROTEST’?
On October 20, 2020, a protest against brutality by a now disbanded police unit called Special Anti-Robbery Squad, was abruptly ended after soldiers laid siege to the toll gate, killing and injuring many protesters. An investigation by FIJ in December, traced at least 20 deaths and exposed the plot to cover up what happened that night.
Residents of Foreshore ghetto said that the policemen who evicted them told them that they were suffering the consequences of supporting End SARS protesters and revealing to the press what happened on the night of the Lekki massacre.
“We were not part of the protest. The rich people who sponsored the protest live inside Lekki Phase. Why didn’t they go and evict them?” one man asked.
His question triggered expressions of agreement from people who gathered as he talked to this reporter.
‘MAROKO POLICE DPO THREATENED TO THROW US INTO THE LAGOON’
With many made homeless and their belongings either stolen or burnt, they alleged that the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) of Maroko told his men to shoot anyone who “proves stubborn; government will not ask them”.
When FIJ arrived at the scene, residents hurried to pack the few things they had left. They said Raji Ganiyu, the DPO of Maroko Police Station, told them to leave the area before 6pm or they would be “shot and thrown into the lagoon”.
FIJ contacted Muyiwa Adejobi, spokesman of the Police in Lagos, for comments but several calls to him were not answered. A text message sent to his line was also not responded to.
FIJ also contacted the DPO of Marko Police Station but his umber was unreachable, while text to the line was not replied.
‘WE NEVER STOLE FROM THEM’
Joy (not real name) said that in addition to the police being annoyed that they talked to the press about the killing of protesters on October 20, they were evicted because the toll gate would soon reopen. She also said that the settlers were accused of stealing from the toll gate facility by the Lekki Concession Company, operators of the toll gate.
“It is not true; we are even the ones who protect their facility. When touts come at night, they are not afraid of the security men. We chase them away,” she said.
A graduate of Catering and an indigene of Plateau State, Joy said that she came to Lagos to work when she couldn’t find a job in her home state.
“We don’t like staying on water. We can’t afford block house; that is why we stay here and work in this area. The Nigerian government and the rich people do not want to see poor people on the street.”
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