It is bad enough that they have lost their ancient homeland, but it is even worse that they have also now lost their king. And the residents of Makoko are kitting up for whatever war they can manage to wage against the Lagos State Government for making them lose both their kingdom and their king. The displaced residents of Makoko community are billed today to march on Alausa, the seat of government, to display their displeasure against their displacement.
A resident who spoke to THISDAY, Agbodemo Isola, said the protest would take off from Makoko to the Government House at Alausa, Ikeja.
He said: "We are going to protest the murder of our ‘baale’ at Alausa on Monday. It is quite unfortunate that since the incident happened the government has not sent any representative.
"For now, we are mobilising for the baale's service of songs and we've gone to see his three widows and the 14 children he left behind."
The bulldozers were unleashed on the community a week ago, crushing and squeezing the wooden buildings that served as their homes, which they had erected on the lagoon for over a hundred years. Makoko, before its demolition, was such a degenerate slum that served as home to over 85,000 persons. The residents little care about government’s presence, neither does the government spare much thought for them either. But not anymore.
It is a tough fate for the community that at the time the government ever remembered them, it is to send them packing from where they have always known as home, the ancestral base of their kiths and kindred. Left with not much choice, the residents had begun to warm up for evacuation following the 72-hour quit notice served them by the Lagos State Government. But the question is, to where shall they move?
It is a bitter throwback to the Maroko saga of 22 years ago, when the then military governor of Lagos State, Col Raji Rasaki, sacked the Maroko neighbourhood. The lacerations of that eviction and the pains that followed have not faded over two decades after the incident.
But beside the pains of dislocation and exposure to the elements, the Makoko residents have the added pain of having their Otun Baale of Egun, Timothy Azinpono, killed by a police Corporal called Boma Pepple last Saturday. It is even more tragic that the monarch was killed unprovoked, whilst he sought to make peace between the demolition squad and the angry residents.
Eyewitness account said the victim was placating the protesting community youths when the police corporal shot him.
Although the policeman attempted to escape in a canoe, he was promptly caught by the youths.
The state police command announced that it had arrested and detained the trigger-friendly corporal whose is now undergoing interrogation.
In a statement given to THISDAY, the state Police Public Relations Officer, Ngozi Braide, a Deputy Superintendent of Police, said the corporal with Force no 363084, was posted on special duty with the Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) on demolition exercise at the waterfront of Makoko area of Yaba.
She said: "The corporal allegedly shot a man in the stomach and the victim was rushed to General Hospital, Gbagada where he was later confirmed dead.
"The corpse has been deposited at the General Hospital, Ikeja for post-mortem examination while the suspect has been arrested and detained at the state Criminal and Investigation Department (SCID), Panti, Yaba."
Braide appealed for peace, adding that the police would ensure that justice is done in the case.
Residents were peeved, saying the shooting of the monarch was uncalled for since the community did not put up any resistance to the demolition that kicked off a week ago.
Isola said: "When the task force arrived in our community on Saturday, they came to set our property ablaze and we protested that it was not necessary because we were already being displaced without any compensation or alternative accommodation.
"The youths then climbed their canoes with placards to protest the action of the task force. It was then the ‘baale’ came out with some chiefs to talk with the Commissioner for Waterfront, Segun Oniru, and the shooting started.
"Unfortunately, the gun shot the deputy ‘baale’ in the lower abdomen and he bled to death on his way to the hospital. It is indeed a tragedy that the police will resort to this level of violence against people they are supposed to protect."
He also lamented that the nine persons who were arrested by the joint task force were yet to be released.
Another resident who was simply identified as Apostle Paul, said the planned protest by the community would depend on the outcome of the meeting that was scheduled for yesterday evening.
But Lagos lawyer, Mr Femi Falana, has demanded the prosecution of the corporal for murder, as well as asking the Lagos State Government to pay adequate compensation to the families of the murdered community leader.
According to him, “the killers of the Baale of Makoko should be immediately arrested and prosecuted for murder while the Lagos State Government should pay adequate monetary damages to the dependants of the deceased whose fundamental right to life has been brutally violated.
“All those whose houses have been destroyed by the government are equally entitled to compensation that is fair and just.”
Falana added that “a 72-hour quit notice was reportedly pasted in the houses at Makoko on Friday, July 20, 2012 to prevent the owners from seeking redress in court. Before the expiration of the illegal ejection, the Lagos State Government took the law into its hand by engaging in the demolition of houses without a court order. This is a reckless violation of the provisions of the Lagos State Rent Control and Recovery of Premises which have criminalised the ejection of any person resident in Lagos State without an order issued by a competent court and executed by the sheriff and bailiff of the court.”
He lamented how the displacement would affect the education of “thousands of children”, warning that the tactics of exploiting the vulnerable poor residents of Makoko to “confiscate their marshland”, develop it and then later distribute it to the society’s elite as it happened in the Maroko incident, would be resisted by “the progressive extraction of the civil society.”
As at last night, the tension created by the killing last Saturday, had subsided, as many of the residents are yet battling how to settle in their children, especially under the rains.