Thousands Displaced by Lagos Police Operations

Thousands of people in Nigeria’s Lagos state were left homeless on Sunday after police stormed an informal fishing settlement and set fire to their homes, according to rights groups and residents.

Community members of the Otodo Gbame riverine community said armed police fired bullets and tear gas indiscriminately, forcing them onto canoes in the water as their houses were leveled, Aljazeera reported.

One man was shot in the neck and later died, residents and Justice and Empowerment Initiatives, a Lagos-based group working with the community, told the news agency.

The forceful eviction followed the destruction of the homes of more than 4,700 people in the settlement in mid-March for environmental and health reasons, according to local authorities.

Lagos State Task Force officer in charge at the site told residents that police were there on the orders of the governor.

According to the Lagos State Governor’s Monitoring Team’s Twitter account, Sunday’s demolition was carried out as a “security measure in the overall interest of all Lagosians”.

It said it believes “militants” were using the community as a base, an accusation residents and rights groups deny. It also said the settlement was “illegal, without any title or appropriate government approval”.

In January, a Lagos court issued an injunction halting demolitions in such communities after an estimated 30,000 Otodo Gbame residents were evicted in November 2016 to make way for development projects, rights groups said.

JEI and Amnesty International accused the government of violating that court order on March 17 when excavators and police razed of homes of at least 4,700 Otodo Gbame residents.

Ambode said the evictions were carried out “to ensure that the waterfront area is free from environmentally injurious and unsanitary habitation, a few months after it was consumed by fire and rendered uninhabitable”.

The government has also said it was not responsible for the fire that displaced thousands in November 2016, instead blaming an “ethnic clash” between residents of different communities.

A ruling on a court case against the governor and other Lagos officials—filed by JEI and dozens of waterfront communities in Lagos—over the March demolition is expected on Wednesday.

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