Press Release: Over 30,000 Homeless After Police Use Demolition by Fire and Bulldozer Working in Dead of Night Destroy Otodo Gbame Community Despite Subsisting Injunction


10 November 2016

One month after the
Governor of Lagos State went to the media announcing the Lagos State
Government’s intention to demolish “shanties” along waterfronts across the
state – and just days after the Lagos State High Court issued an injunction
restraining the same – the Nigerian Police Force and Lagos State Government
have moved into Otodo Gbame community in full force.

In the early morning
hours of 9 October 2016, a gang of boys with reported ties to the powerful
Elegushi Chieftaincy Family, entered Otodo Gbame community – a peaceful fishing
settlement on the edge of the Lagos Lagoon in Lekki Phase I, made up
predominantly of Eguns and other ethnic minorities in Lagos – and began setting
fire to houses in the community.

When police arrived on
the scene shortly thereafter, according to eyewitness reports, they began to
lend assistance to the spreading of the fire. They shot into the community and
chased away persons bringing water to quench the fire. They helped to set more
structures on fire. Four persons – two women, one man, and one child –
reportedly drowned as they rushed into water.

It was only when help
from other Egun communities around Lagos Lagoon such as Makoko and Oke Ira Nla
arrived that residents began succeeding to put out the fire and police turned

By the time JEI
arrived in the Otodo Gbame, about a third of the community – an estimated 800
structures – had been razed to the ground and fires were still smoldering
across the community. An estimated 10,000 people rendered homeless in a matter
of hours tried to recover what properties they could and dozens of people
huddled in boats off the shore of the community.

At least 15 police
vehicles were on ground and, around 1:30pm, the Commissioner of Police Fatai
Owoseni arrived on the scene in person for “inspection” and to order the
community sealed.0

Interviews with
affected residents throughout the day confirmed the complicity of the police in
the spreading of the fire and loss of life in the early part of the day. They
also indicate that police are working in tandem with those that initiated the
fire to serve private interests of Otodo Gbame’s wealthier and more powerful
neighbors. Residents pointed fingers at the Elegushi Chieftaincy Family and to
the neighboring International Children’s School.

On 7 November 2016 –
just two days before – Hon Justice Onigbanjo of the Lagos State High Court
issues an injunction restraining the Lagos State Government and the Lagos State
Commissioner of Police from demolishing waterfront communities – including Otodo
Gbame – or evicting residents therefrom or otherwise giving effect to the 9
October 2016 eviction threat.

As evening fell in
Otodo Gbame, tens of thousands of residents – some newly homeless and some
terrified but lucky to still have their homes – tried to get some rest after
the wearying day. JEI-trained paralegals had delivered a copy of the subsisting
injunction to the local Ilasan Divisional Police Station to ensure their
awareness and pasted the order around the community.

Shortly after midnight
on 10 November 2016, however, JEI received reports from numerous residents of
Otodo Gbame that a bulldozer with an escort of at least four police vehicles
had started working to destroy remaining homes. There has been no indication
that our efforts to notify the Nigerian Police Force at various levels – from
Zone II Command to the Complaints Response Unit (CRU) in the office of the
Inspector General of Police – have stopped the demolition ongoing with blatant
impunity and disregard for life and wellbeing of citizens.

According to Edukpo
Tina, a young woman in Otodo Gbame interviewed in the early morning of 10
November, “Police came again after midnight with caterpillar [bulldozer] and
started breaking everywhere, putting fire on peoples’ houses. They are seriously
beating our people and threatening to shoot unless we leave. All of us are on
top of water now, there is nowhere to go.”

JEI-Nigeria strongly
condemns the actions of the Nigerian Police Force and any branches of the Lagos
State Government or private parties at whose behest the NPF may be working. We
decry the extremely false and misleading press release issued by the Nigerian
Police Force in the late afternoon of 9 November 2016 that seeks to
characterize the police’s actions as a “rescue,” while announcing that the
community in question will be taken over by the Lagos State Ministry of
Physical Planning and Urban Development and remaining structures will be

We note that there is
absolutely no legal basis for eviction or taking over of land in the aftermath
of either security or fire incident. We further note there have been no
statutory or paper notices whatsoever served on any residents of Otodo Gbame.
Rather, the police are acting completely outside the scope of the law and in
overt disregard for a subsisting order of court. We call on all conscientious
citizens concerned for democracy and rule of law to join in condemning this

See a copy
of the injunction and pictures and videos of the suffering in Otodo Gbame community on 9 November 2016 are available for download and free use by

For further enquiries contact Megan Chapman,
Co-Director of Justice & Empowerment Initiatives (JEI) at 08187196021 or
via email at