Today, the Nigerian Slum/Informal Settlement Federation stands in solidarity with our members here in Otodo Gbamecommunity, an ancestral fishing village located off MTN Project Fame Road in Lekki Phase I, off Ikate roundabout. We celebrate Otodo Gbame, a community that has managed to preserve its social integrity and traditional way of life in the face of encroaching elite development of the Lagos “Mega City” on all sides.
We are deeply concerned about the plight of our brothers and sisters in Otodo Gbame in the face of the massive dredging and sandfilling project ongoing in the neighboring Lagoon. This land reclamation project is being implemented by Destiny Dredgers International Ltd (DDI) and Hanson Dredging and Marine Services Ltd, but is spearheaded by none other than the now infamous developers of Lekki Gardens who are facing criminal prosecution for more than 34 deaths resulting from the tragic building collapse on 8 March 2016.
We want the world to know that the activities of the LekkiGardens developers are responsible for more suffering than even what we have seen in the most recent tragedy. Since August 2015 when the land reclamation project began, the people of Otodo Gbame community have watched helplessly as massive sandfilling has begun to fill their lagoon, destroying their akajafishing traps, cutting off their access to their traditional fishing grounds in the main Lagos Lagoon, and restricting the free flow of Lagoon water to and from the community, thereby increasing contamination in the community’s water supply.
We join with the community in believing that these impacts on the community’s livelihoods and water sources may have weakened immune systems and enabled the recent measles epidemic that ravaged Otodo Gbame earlier this year. According to the community, over 70 children lost their lives during this epidemic. We join them in their grief and mourning.
The Nigerian Slum/Informal Settlement Federation is a movement of the urban poor for our dignity and development, made up of community savings groups in over 50 slums and informal settlements here in Lagos – and growing also in other Nigerian cities. In addition to community-led economic empowerment through our savings groups, we work with our member communities to undertake citywide slum profiling, mapping, and enumeration to identify and understand ourdevelopment challenges and opportunities.
We are affiliated with and supported by Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI), a global network of slumdwellers’ federations in 36 countries around the world. Last month, we joined the SDI delegation at the UN Habitat III Regional Meeting for Africa, held in Abuja, where we were pleased to see the importance of community-generated data was welcomed and included as a central point in the final Abuja Declarationadopted at the meeting.
In response to the recent health crisis in Otodo Gbame and the health needs identified by our member communities in their profiling processes, we have reached out to build partnerships to support community-led solutions. This week, we are welcoming one such partner – the Access to Health Project from Northwestern University from Chicago, USA – to visit many of our communities in Lagos and help us respond to various health challenges including infectious disease, water and sanitation, maternal health, and fire safety.
We also welcome the recent announcement of the Lagos State Ministry of Health, in the aftermath of its response to the measles outbreak in Otodo Gbame, of its intention to map all the slums in Lagos to understand their health needs. As community-based experts on mapping, profiling and enumeration, utilizing global best practices developed by the SDI network, we at the Federation have already reached out the Ministry of Health to offer our partnership in their efforts. We are pleased that we have been invited to submit a full proposal and we are committed to following through to ensure a truly pro-poor and inclusive approach to health mapping and the generation of realistic community solutions.
Even as we build such partnerships to respond to the health needs of communities like Otodo Gbame and otherwise bring pro-poor inclusive development, we emphasize that our vision for the future of urban Nigeria can only be achieved if there is an end to forced evictions that destroy our communities and proliferate poverty and slums in our cities.
Last year, in the aftermath of the forced eviction of our sisters in brothers in Ijora Badia communities in September 2015, we at the Nigerian Slum/Informal Settlement Federation took a firm stand against forced evictions of our member communities and the urban poor in general. We appealed at that time for the Lagos State Government to form an inter-ministerial working group to partner with us to bring an end to forced evictions in the city.
We hereby renew our appeal for the same and reaffirm that we will stand with our brothers and sisters in Otodo Gbame – and any other slums and informal settlements that face such threats –to respond to and face down any threat of forced eviction.