On Wednesday, the Lagos State Government told a court that its officials did not carry out further demolition of homes in Otodo-Gbame, but only went to the community to pack debris.
“We were only packing the debris resulting from the fire outbreak in the community. The Fire Services were there and they saw that it was only the debris we were packing.”
The court had on January 26 ordered the parties involved in the demolition of Otodo-Gbame to attempt mediation through the Lagos State Multi-Door Courthouse and report back to the court.
- Quadri, the counsel to the state government told Justice S.A Onigbangbo of a Federal High Court in Lagos that the State did not pull out of the mediation, but that the residents of Otodo-Gbame were making impossible demands.
“We appeared before the mediation, but they are asking the government to build houses for them, over 300 people,” Mr. Quadri said.
“The government never made any offer to the people that were displaced, how do we relocate them, they should not just come anywhere they see and settle. If they want to settle in Lagos, they should come with their money and buy land to settle,” he added.
The court had earlier nullified contempt proceedings instituted by the Otodo-Gbame community against the Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, stating that it lacked jurisdiction to try the governor since he enjoys constitutional immunity.
However, the judge condemned Governor Ambode’s action.
“If the governor had truly ordered the forceful eviction and demolition of the second applicant, he undermined the principles of the rule of law and the same process which put him in office in the first place,” the judge said.
According to Ms. Megan Chapman, the co-director of Justice Empowerment Initiatives, that represents the residents of Otodo-Gbame, she said that armed men were still stationed at the community to shoot anyone that comes into the community.
“It was reported to us as at yesterday that government brought two gun boats in the community. So, the reality may be that they aren’t safe to go back there and enjoy their rights in the community,” Ms. Chapman said.
“The judge has made his position clear on this case that he finds the action of the governor reprehensible and in flagrant disregard to the rule of law which is detrimental to democracy in Nigeria,” she said.
“It is beyond his powers to commit the governor to prison but if he could, he would have and that’s a strong pronouncement; and I hope it reaches the ears of the governor so he understands that what he is doing is undermining the rule of law, undermining the principles of democracy and it’s damaging the society at large.”
Responding to the statement issued by the Lagos State Government that they were only packing the debris in the community which resulted to the fire outbreak, the judge urged the state government to act responsible to the residents.
“You don’t act like a child, so if they had flaunted the court order do you also join them,” the judge said.
“If a child rolls on the sand will you also join the child? If you had allowed those debris you claim to be packing for a month or two pending when the court gives its judgement, will those debris turn to concrete that you won’t be able to pack again?”
The case was adjourned till April 25