On January 21st, without much warning, unless you call an hour’s notice to vacate your home, the community you grew up in, raised children through, started a life in — sufficient notification, members of the Tarkwa Bay Community of Lagos State found themselves playing a role nothing could have prepared then for.
Homeless, overlooked inhabitants of an uncaring state.
Their exit was a production of the Nigerian Armed Forces on the direction of the state government. Background music was provided by bullet rounds.
Depending on who you’re asking, the people of Tarkwa Bay were removed for their illegal occupation of the property. This is despite their occupation being decades-long, and legally sanctioned, per the law that long possession of a property amounts to adverse ownership of property.
Ditto the fact that for “illegal occupants”, the government somehow in every election year, made sure to allocate polling units to waterfront community.
If you ask others, others who are aware of the fact that since December 24th, 2019, almost 24 communities namely Abagbo, Abule Elepa, Kopiamy, Okun Babakiti, Sankin, Sapo Otun and others have been evacuated in similar fashion. The same others who saw what happened to Otondo Gbame, they’ll tell you the Bay’s evacuation is a property play by developers looking to erect high-end properties, the likes of which the pooled income from 7 lifetimes of the average Tarkwa Bay resident can only dream to afford.
In addition to being illegal occupants, the government claims that Tarkwa’s inhabitants (numbering around 10,000), were vandalising pipelines situated around the beach and pumping illegally. Perhaps angry at this, the Lagos State leadership decided a sufficient punishment would be leaving them to their devices. Let them figure out alternative housing and community within a moment’s notice. That’ll teach them.
Contrast this with the actions of the Oyo State Government, headed by Seyi Makinde. He ensured reduced rent and alternative space for roadside traders were made available in his state by December 2019, before they were removed from the streets.
By the evening of January 21, CMS Jetty on Lagos Island was filled with desolate families of Tarkwa Bay, heaping around the only things the government permitted they leave with — their lives, more property than their arms, the only homes they owned could carry and just a whiff of the remnants of their dignity.
The government is yet to release a statement. Yet to acknowledge their loss. Yet to recognise their humanity.