It is July and August again; a season of rains and more rains; a season of gathered waters here and there and wetness of different kinds. The rains in July are here again. Every month of July since 1990 in Lagos, South West Nigeria, is also a season when any sign of rain provoke different thoughts in the hearts of many; thoughts of good or evil, thoughts of love or fear. For some peculiar persons in our midst who are lucky enough to be alive, the month of July represents bad memory; memory of hate, rape, loots, cold, beaten to coma by both whether and man, losses of priceless valuables, bloodshed, and in extreme cases, deaths of loved ones. The month of July remains a constant ghost no ‘anointing’ has been able to cast out of Maroko evictees.
But in the beginning it was not so. At the beginning, Maroko was a sub-city within Lagos. It was peaceful and very popular. The places now call Oniru Royal Estate; some parts of Victoria Island and Lekki Phase 1, were formerly known as Maroko and it was inhabited by mainly low income earners.
Over 300,000 people inhabited Maroko then. Maroko prides itself with over one hundred and fifty streets and houses owned by ten thousand land lords. Though, once in a while, it residents experienced ocean incursion, the surge never carried even the least domestic animal (fowl). The people were happy and contented.
The plot to take Maroko
But research shows that Governor Raji Rasaki of Lagos State in 1990 saw that Maroko was good and liked it. He related it to Ibrahim Badamusi Babangida (IBB). IBB, in company of Raji Rasaki and the then newly created Eti-Osa Local Government Boss Olatunde Beecroft, had visited Maroko on November 17th 1989 and saw that the land was “flowing with milk and honey”. IBB, who described Maroko then as ‘a mini Nigeria’ because all Nigerian languages were duly represented in the community, enjoined the residents to continue to embrace government programmes; promising that he would soon send Raji Rasaki to the residents in order to fast track the development of the region. The promise was followed by ovations that nearly rend high heavens.
But surviving Maroko residents said they were innocent and naïve to have trusted the promise IBB made to them; the promise to make Maroko more human friendly, livable community. They said they did not see clearly the disembodied hands of IBB writing on the wall of Marako’s history. He did sent Raji Rasaki; but on the contrary. Raji Rasaki was sent to demolish Maroko, arrest and detain, even kill anyone who dares the military might.
It was also discovered that Obafemi Awolowo, former Premier, South West region was also involved in the demolition of Maroko in June 1990. At a presidential rally campaign in Maroko in December 1979, Awolowo had told Moroko’s former dwellers that even if Maroko was given to him Free of Charge (FOC), he would not have accepted it. But a-15-year-old boy shouted “Na lie” from the background. The teenager reportedly told Obafemi Awolowo that he (Awolowo) was lying about not interested in taking Maroko. The irate supporters of Nigeria’s political gladiator at the time attempted to lynch the poor boy for daring the ‘almighty’. But today, Dideolu Estate, near Oniru Royal Estate belongs to Obafemi Awolowo.
Surviving Maroko evictees said, earlier, Chief Obafemi Awolowo tried using Lateef Jakande, popularly known then as ‘Baba Kekere’ (Yoruba words meaning small papa) to forcefully grab the land but that Baba Kekere was however too ‘kere’ (too small) and too attached to the people to be able to achieve the dislodgment of the residents until the Military coup that brought Raji Rasaki to power.
Findings revealed that Raji Rasaki was a key personality who played a strategic role in the successful demolition and grabbing of Maroko land. General Rasaki had told the nation that Maroko land would not be shared among the elites and that former dwellers would be brought back when government might have put the place in order. However, today, the evictees are still waiting to be brought back.
Available information also shows that Ligali Ayorinde, who was Chief Judge of Lagos state at the time, was strategically used to forcefully evict Maroko residents out of the land. His seat was allegedly instrumental in achieving the brutal dislodgement. Justice Ayorinde reportedly refused the evictees’ plea to grant even a-one-day extension of the 7 days radio notice. Justice Ayorinde ruled that: the evictees could only come for a redress after government action. When the evictees eventually went back to the court after government action in early August of 1990, the same Justice Ayorinde again ruled that the subject matter had been destroyed and that the evictees no longer had any case. Ligali Ayorinde Street, a major street in Victoria Island named after the former CJ was part of Maroko. Government College and Ilado Community High Schools, with 3,000 students were former occupiers of the land given to the late CJ. The land and the naming of a Maroko street after Justice Ligali Ayorinde were few of his many benefits for allowing his seat to be used in achieving the brutal dislodgement of, says Maroko evictees.
Oba Oniru was the traditional leader of Maroko people before the mayhem. He too expressed satisfaction and pleasure when Maroko was demolished. In 1976, the Lagos state government allegedly paid the Oniru Chieftaincy Family N6.8 million as compensation because Lagos state had in 1972 acquired the land of Maroko.
Earlier, before he was ousted from office: following a coup led by IBB, General Mohammadu Buhari, who is now the President of Nigeria, had a very noble record in the history book of Maroko, according to the evictees.
His appointed governor Mike Akhigbe, who was a Navy Captain at the time, had brought Buhari to Maroko, according to the evictees, in an attempt to convince him on the proposal to demolish Maroko and make more lands available for the General and others.
President Buhari openly asked Akhigbe to show him the bank account where he had kept money which he (Akhigbe) intended to build another town for the people before embarking on the demolition of their houses.
But after the ouster of Buhari, all other powerful Nigerian elites at the time pulled their resources (soldiers, police politicians, Lawyers and Judges) together and demolished Maroko. Seven days from the day it was announced on radio Maroko was brought down. There was popping of champagne in exuberance. It was dream comes true; the dream to take over Maroko by whatever means, crook, trick or force. Enough money was available to be spread around. Oil exploration had just started booming in the country. Enough money to bring in the very powerful Nigerians who were also willing to join the flight; the flight to skyscraper, where the evictees who had bought the land from the Onirus and developed it with their resources and little might would be looked down at and be mocked.
The massacre in July 1999
Nevertheless, as the elites rejoice over the successful grabbing of Maroko land, in the camp of the puny masses there was pandemonium and bereavement. Maroko residents were in disarray. They tried fighting back tears to no avail. Children broke in tears as they watched their parents howling and sulking. The legs of grand and great grandparents among the Maroko residents went limp and their knees knocked. An ancient African proverb that says: “The eyes of a man could be red but does not roll down tears”, was defied on July 14 1990 in Lagos Nigeria-as tears cascaded the chicks of men like widows mourning and weeping for a dead polygamous husband. They filled everywhere with sorrows and tears. Sorrow and tears were insufficient words to describe the inhuman treatments meted out on Maroko evictees as they faced a blink future with uncertainty.
A people regarded as ‘sub-humans’
The late Bola Ige, had said at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), Lagos, in November 1994 where he was the Chairperson during the lunching of a book written by Professor Wale Omole on the late Nigeria’s foremost educationist and the Chairman of the defunct People’s Bank of Nigeria, Dr. Tai Solarin, that he was made to believe the people living In Maroko were sub-human beings. Uncle Bola (as he was fondly called then by admirers and close associates), did not however tell Maroko people, who made him, a Senor Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), believe the people living in Maroko were sub-humans.
They were indeed treated like sub-humans; dishonoured and disgraced. Maroko’s residents were toppled and oppressed principality and powers in Nigeria. They were subjugated by the merciless ‘gods’ occupying seats of power at the time.
Unfortunately, the evictees had no armor to shield them against the fierce rulers of the Dark Age Nigeria (DAN). The Police was against them. The army was used against them. The royal fathers were against them. They had no defense whatsoever. Their wives and daughters were raped. Young girls were raped in the presence of their parents. The air was crammed with News of miscarriages of pregnancies. Their belongings were stolen and looted. The armed government men that demolished Maroko came with many caskets to bury dead or alive anyone who dares say a word. The heavy presence of men in uniform on that fateful day caused the hearts of Maroko residents to move as trees of the woods are moved with a torrential wind. Some died while carrying their belongings across the Lagoon River in wooden canoes. Others died in the rain and cold that they were thrown into. Maroko’s residents were heavily wet with showers of July and huddled around under the bridges, churches and mosques for want of shelter. Some died weeks, months and years after. No government official came to collect the corpses of those who died while they were still stranded in the open Maroko. The corpses were left to decompose on their own and not given proper burial. Some are still dying silently. Some had their legs amputated as a direct consequence of brutal injuries sustained while trying to salvage their property from being looted by government agents and touts. They were arrested and detained for protesting the injustice.
Ten days after moving into the government abandoned Ilasan and Ikota housing estates provided for the evictees, the Military government again swung into action by throwing the evictees and their salvaged properties into pool of waters. The situation would have been worst but for Femi Falana, a human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), who immediately dragged the Lagos state government to court. Within 4 days Mr. Falana secured a High Court order restraining Lagos state government from further harassment of the evictees. The injustice is seen by many as the worst in Nigeria’s recorded history from leaders to the led.
Demolition without pasted notices
Investigation also shows that demolition notices were not pasted on any building before the eventual demolition. Seven days from the day it was announced on radio was all it took the military government to pull down the whole of Maroko. By 8: am on that fateful morning, the first set of 30 houses had been put down and their walls crushed to fine dust by the over 30 bulldozers brought for the task.
Surviving evictees told the author that many did not actually hear the announcement on radio. And for those who heard, they were too confused to know the belongings to start packing and where to pack them to. And yet, many were away from town. And worst still, there were residents who were too young, too old, too ill or too heavy with pregnancy to act swiftly in an emergency situation (especially the one they were confronted with).
Immediate effect of the forceful eviction
Eleven years old Bose Atie, a primary five student of Kuramo Primary School, Victoria Island, had walls fell on her at her father’s house located in 20, Seriki Street, Maroko, during the demolition and died instantly. The father J.O. Atie now lives sorrowfully in his block 347 flat 2, Ilasan Housing Estate.
Seventy years old chief Anitini (aka California), the owner of the popular California Cinema, California Hotel and California Bakery, who also owned other 17 buildings including the building that housed the branch of Cooperative Bank, all in the then Maroko, having suffered physical beating with butts of guns by soldiers, died weeks later.
Tragically, Alhaji Akasholojuro of 14 Buraimoh Street, Maroko, had his wife Awawu, and the children drowned in the Five Cowries Lagoon while trying to ferry their salvaged properties across to Ikoyi water side.
Folakemi Agogo, a widow, lost two of her sons, Olugbenga, 18 and David 8 during the struggle to get alternative accommodation.
Most of the displaced people of Maroko were stranded in open places after the forceful eviction in July 1990. More agonizing for the Maroko people was that the time of the demolition was in mid July; which means there was heavy rain coupled with the coaster winds associated with such areas. Days after the demolition, the residents were spilled all over the villages in Lagos and in neighbouring Ogun state. Some moved to church yards and under the bridges. Treasured monuments such as: pictures at infancy, marriage albums, college certificates, pictures and similar records were lost as a result.
As Raji Rasaki and his allies became overwhelmed by public outcry and condemnation, the government made announcement that the displaced Maroko people were to proceed to an alternative accommodation at the abandoned government estates at both Ilasan and Ikota villages, 6km and 10km respectively east of old Maroko.
These two estates were over grown with trees and elephant grasses and most of the housing blocks were without roofs, windows and doors. The ground also was filled with swampy waters and reptiles of all kinds; with multitude of wild mosquitoes breeding in the flood of waters. Some were bitten by reptiles in extreme cases.
The two major resettlements provided for the evictees had no electricity, no roads or drinkable water. There was also no health centre for the aging and sick among the people or schools for their young ones. The nearest primary and secondary schools then were so far that the children stopped going to school. They suffered separation from family members, desertion, loneliness, hopelessness, hunger and all sort of illnesses associated with it. In extreme instances, their young girls turned prostitutes and became bread winners. Their young men were psychologically affected too. They lost focus of what life is all about as they focused on surviving in the jungle they were thrown into. Quarrel ensued amongst family members as a result of the total loss of livelihoods. The collapse of many uncompleted buildings due to the torrential downpour started to take its toll on Maroko evictees. Some consequently became vagabonds and fierce wanderers. Some are still struggling as a result of the cruel eviction. Some lost out in life completely as they became touts. Most of the thugs and touts on the axis are children of Maroko’s parents who had experienced what it means to be forcefully evicted from one’s home at a tender age.
It is also worthy of note that a former Lagos State Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Land and Housing, V.O. Ogundimu, had said the Lagos state government made an announcement of a regional plan in1981 which according to him, was to guide development in the state up to the year 2000 A.D.
He had said one of the highlights was the creation of a New Town in the Lekki Peninsula (starting from Ilado/Maroko to Ilasan embracing about 16 villages and towns) to accommodate the increasingly growing population in Lagos Island and Mainland.
He went on to say that experts viewed Maroko then with great concern the serious consequences for the quality of life of the inhabitants, and the effects it would have on the economic and social progress of the state, if the rapid unplanned growth rate were not checked.
“Consequently, this compelled the state government to look critically into the Maroko situation since government had stressed the desirability of proper planning and excellent development in this area. Lekki Peninsula schemes are designed to absorb excess population from Lagos Metropolis and in addition encourage the establishment of industrial and commercial centre, tourist and industries and set in motion the total integration of the inhabitants here. When these goals are accomplished, the schemes would be self-sufficient, self-reliant and well balanced. That would make residents of the area to live together in a wholesome environment”, Ogundimu had said in 1985.
Sir Michael Otedola, as governor of Lagos state in 1992, who took over the mantle of leadership from Raji Rasaki, made a promise to return the vacated land of Maroko back to the evictees through Oba Oniru. Governor Michael had admitted that Maroko was demolished in error, blaming it on the misleading roles of officials who partook in the demolition.
Maroko’s evictees said they expressed fears then that under such arrangement, the royal father might not let the land get to the real owners because of the powerful Nigerians who were backing him. Larger percent of that same land is owned by Oba Oniru. He acquired the land through his company known then as City Properties Development.
Disobeyed Court Orders
Investigation shows that the Lagos state High Court had also admitted in 1991 that the demolition of Maroko was done in error. There was an injunction by the Lagos Appeal Court that the Lagos state government should leave the vacated Maroko land untouched till the matter is finally determined but the judgment was not obeyed by both the Lagos state government and the other gladiators in the Maroko tussle.
Also, at the Supreme Court, Abuja, in the year 2002, the then Lagos state Commissioner for Justice, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, now Vice President of Nigeria, admitted that though, government acquired Maroko town in 1972, it again relinquished the acquisition in 1977; thereby confirming that Maroko was not under government acquisition when it was demolished in 1990.
The Lagos state government subsequently accepted responsibility through Yemi Osinbajo and promised the evictees 1,000 housing units every year, till the whole former house-owners of Maroko are fully resettled. This promise was also yet to be implemented as at the time of this research.
Brief History of Maroko
The whole of Victoria Island was originally surrounded entirely by water. It was bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on the south, the mouth of the Lagos Lagoon on the West, the Five Cowries Creek to the North and swamps on the East.
The colonial administration began the process of sand filling the eastern swamps to reduce mosquito breeding areas. This according to findings, created a land bridge between Victoria Island and Lekki Peninsula ending its existence as a true Island.
After independence, successive Lagos state government expanded this development, culminating in the construction of a highway connecting Victoria Island to Epe. This activity, along with the rapid commercialization of Victoria Island, served to stimulate residential development along the Lekki-Epe corridor, starting with Lekki Phase 1.
The area of the land bridge, composed of the former swampland, became a large slum called Maroko which housed many of the new migrants to Lagos State. Subsequent reclamation expanded the area to the extent that Victoria Island Annex is now connected to the Lekki Peninsula. This new, enlarged area is referred to as “Oniru Estate” named after the ruling family of Maroko.
But Maroko in the context of this investigation, referred to the whole district immediate east of Victoria Island and stretching from Km 8 to Km 13 along Lagos-Lekki-Epe Express on both sides of the road (from Cowry Lagoon to the Atlantic shores) an average of 4Kms; containing 30 distinct villages, more than 150 Streets, about 10, 000 houses and some 300,000 inhabitants as it were before its demolition in July, 1990.
The old villages that had grown and fused into one common Maroko Community before its demolition by the Military Administration of Raji Rasaki were: Maroko-Orile; Ilabare, Oroke; Apapa-Eleko; Iru; Igbosere; Apese; Olukokun; Araromi; Tukuru; Okokuku; Ipeun; Magbon; Igbo; Abule-Odo; Mepo; Itinrin; Inupa; Ilado; Agbadan; Ahoyaya; Famuyiwa; Aniyameta; Idiroko; Onireke; Morekete; Gedegede; Moba; Obalensoro; Ogoyo; Alagutan and Ikoyitedo.
The larger open spaces in Maroko then were four major markets, two secondary schools (Maroko Government College and Ilado Community High School; 11 primary schools and one Health Centre.
Being an integral part of Lagos until its demolition in 1990, Moroko was a place where life was comparatively cheaper. Maroko therefore became service town to other neighbourhoods. The implication of this was that: Maroko grew faster than the other suburbs of Lagos. Consequently, between 1970 and 1980, the 30 villages had expanded and fused together as a single town and eventually assumed the general name Maroko.
History of Maroko shows a generation of constantly displaced people
Research shows that Maroko was not originally a single community. It had 30 constituent villages in three divisions. Some of the villages had the Oniru Chieftaincy Family as their head. Others had the Elegushi and Onikoyi Chieftaincy Families as their heads respectively.
All the first settlers (the indigenes of Maroko) in addition to their traditional overlords had their village heads known as Bales (Traditional Leaders). The indigenes and their village heads were seen traditionally as co-owners of the land and everything (path roads, forest, animals ect) were commonly owned. No single individual had exclusive rights over communal property. According elderly testimonies, by privilege, someone is appointed the traditional head of the people and acts on their approval. Before Maroko’s unification, non-indigenes were reported to have obtained their land through the three Chieftaincy Families on a purchase basis.
The first matching order given to the people of Maroko was in 1958 and 1960 when the Colonial administration uprooted some of the villages from their original locations in the present-day Ikoyi in order to make way for the construction of residences for colonial masters and their Nigerian counterparts who held esteem positions at the time.
Some of the old villages that were affected then were: Oroke, Ilabare, Apese, Itinrin, Igbo and Magbon. The evidence of this can be seen in the names given to some of the streets in Ikoyi. The present-day Ikoyi have streets like: Apese Street, Oroke Street, Ilabare Street and Magbon Street as relic of former owners of the places.
Here are some of the former Maroko villages with their present occupiers:
Mekuwen Bonny Camp
Iru Village Federal Palace Hotel
Apese Japanese Embassy
Prince Samuel Adeniyi Aiyeyemi (Late), former Leader of Maroko Evictees during the interview with the author
Prince Samuel Adeniyi Aiyeyemi (late), Leader, Maroko Evictees Committee, spoke to the author before his sudden demise. His death was in real sense not sudden. The 80 years old Pa that granted this interview was a dying man. He was one of those whose legs were amputated as a result of damaging injuries picked while evacuating belongings during Maroko’s demolition in 1990. It took him over an hour to get ready for this interview. When he finally came out, his first sentence was “I hope you have been told the person you came to see is with disability?” He said he was particularly pained that for 23 years (at the time the interview was granted) and still counting, they have been going to court on the Maroko case without any sign that it will end soon.
“Ordinary people are looking for justice for 23 years (now 25 years). No justice for 23 years”, he lamented. “Many have died. In the first twelve years we were able to record over 100,000 Maroko evictees who died directly or indirectly through this eviction. By now I know it would have risen to more than 200,000 Maroko people who have directly or indirectly died through suffering or through all that is emanating from the brutal dislodgement”, he said.
The late Maroko leader narrates how one of his legs was amputated during the demolition to the author. “I was trying to locate my wife and children who were stampeded and got my right foot impaled by a six-inch nail jotting from a piece of wood attached to a broken roof. The nail pierced the foot and exited my instep and, for several minutes, I battled to free myself from the pain. At the heat of the demolition, which was like a war situation, the nail pierced through my foot and I got stuck. Is it the Soldiers who were eager to kill that I will call upon to save me? It was a big battle and I was trying to save myself and others.
“I eventually re-united with my family and then saw my wound and the searing pain came and remained for years until Doctors at UITH Ibadan determined it was best that I let the leg go. Six years later, I was at the Teaching Hospital in Ibadan with this leg. The Doctors said something had entered into my bone and that there was no alternative than to amputate the leg if I chose to survive. I ran from there because I couldn’t stand the thought of living without one of my legs.
“It was to kill me right off and I had to be moved to outside Lagos because I did not consider myself safe in Lagos State General Hospital. I had to go far away to the Federal Medical Centre in Owo where the doctors decided to amputate the leg immediately. I couldn’t participate in the decision making process because I was unconscious. I woke up to find that one of my legs was missing. That is the experience of a Maroko man and I survived; but what about those that could not survive?” he said with a lowly tone as his wife insists he was talking beyond his strength could carry.
Pa Aiyeyemi told the author that former governor of Lagos state, Lateef Kayode Jakande, tried to obey his mentor Chief Obafemi Awolowo to dislodge Maroko people but failed to do so successfully until Oba Oniru and his allies got former military dictator Ibrahim Babanginda’s backing to take up the job of dislodging Maroko’s dwellers. “It was a personal job, but he used Nigerian Army to do the job”, he said.
He said but for lack of resources Maroko Evictees would have instituted a criminal case against the Federal Republic of Nigeria for waging war against innocent people of Maroko. “Till today, government could not give any offense that Maroko people committed. We had never disobeyed government. We never created any problem. Just because of Babangida’s personal interest. He used the Nigerian Army to wage war on us. They did it militarily and succeeded. After the military victory, they handed the land over to private citizens; the Oniru people”, he said.
According to the late Maroko evictees’ leader, the only victory they had from Lagos State High Court was that: the Court said it comply or concord with the voices of both Oputa Panel and that of the Lagos House of Assembly that the evictees should continue enjoying whatever flats Lagos state government had given to Maroko people and that the state should also find accommodation for the remaining former house owners who were yet to received any flat from government. Unfortunately, successive government in Lagos had yet to obey the Court Order requesting it to provide accommodation for the remaining 8, 000 former house owners of Maroko.
Honourable Justice Chukwudife Oputa, (now late), had during the Oputa Commission set up by the Olusegun Obasanjo led Federal Government to investigate past human rights abuses in 2000, asked the Lagos state government to resettle Maroko evictees fully in decent houses and that in addition, the government should make a public apology to Maroko evictees for how they where inhumanly evicted from their homes.
“So, that has given us confidence here. For instance, since this flat has been given to me by Lagos state government through allocation, now that the High Court has confirmed that they have given something to me, it was then in July 24, 2012, we started having confidence that nobody can harass us again”, he said.
He said before that landmark judgment, it had been frequent harassment; shifting people from one place to the other. Since that judgment they now have the boldness that the flats given to few of the evictees belong to them, and have decided to resist any attempt to further harass them.
Pa Aiyeyemi narrates how he felt when a renowned lawyer he refused to mention his name because they had made a promise to him not to tell the press about his misconduct; who served as advocate for the evictees at the time, before he pulled out of the legal tussle, advised him to receive bribe from the Oniru Royal Family and compromise the Maroko case. “We nearly shed tears when he told me and other executive committee members of Maroko Evictees to accept the offer of ten flats in choice areas by Oba Oniru so that we can forget the Maroko case”, he said in a fainted voice. “He was asking us to compromise,” he added. He said though they appreciated the lawyer’s efforts in the Maroko’s legal tussle but asking them to compromise was dirt on his legal integrity.
Speaking on the leadership qualities of Pa Aiyeyemi, Stephen Aiyeyemi, the first son of late Pa Samuel Aiyeyemi, said his father was a straight forward fellow, a dodged fighter who was selfless and fearless; describing him as an incorruptible leader who could not be bribed with either money or women.
He said the struggle for the reversal of the injustice done to Maroko people that his father spearheaded under the umbrella of Maroko Evictees Committee, was never a means of personal aggrandizement and seen as family heritage by his late father. “He always preaches straightforwardness and the fear of God to those around him. They should not defraud the masses or use the masses to enrich themselves, that the people must always come first. Many attempts were made at bribing him to forgo the struggle but he stood firm and refused to be compromised”, said Stephen Aiyeyemi, a Christian Cleric.
Alhaji Tajudeen Jegede, Deputy Leader, Maroko Evictees Committee, who may be asked to step into the big shoe vacated by the late leader and fighter, Pa Samuel Adeniyi Aiyeyemi, during the interview with the author
Speaking on the way and manner Maroko was demolished, Deputy Leader, Maroko Evictees Committee, Tajuteen Jegede, told the author that should one put all the things that happened in Maroko in mind, such a fellow would not last more than two years before he or she die of a heart attack.
According to him, there were a lot of maltreatment by the military because when they were coming, came with coffins, armor cars and Black Maria trucks. He said the battle could be liken to a situation where there was a very big war going on. “There were a lot of atrocities; raping housewives, raping young girls. Some of the demolition was carried out in the night”, he said.
He said the Maroko experience was not what one could wish even for his or her worst enemy. “My dear brother,” he called three times and paused. “Maroko story is really too sad to talk about”, he continued. “I have lost a lot to the Maroko injustice. How many will I count? I lost three wives”, he said sorrowfully as the atmosphere went hushed. The ambiance suddenly changed disconsolate and yet, with grief-stricken memories as Tajudeen Jegede narrates his experiences during and after the demolition of Maroko. The setting also became too intense. It was really becoming more than an interview between a curious journalist and his subject; especially as his grand children focused on their grandpa with inching ears to listen to one of the greatest injustices committed by Nigerian leaders and their friends.
“Some of my children died because business went bad. I lost two of my brothers not to talk of dear ones surrounding me. It is really a past experience I don’t want to revisit in my life. It’s only God who can put pieces of life together”, he said with a fainted voice. “If you look at the two photographs there, those were my two wives that passed on”, he said while pointing finger to indicate the children of each diseased wife who surrounds him during the interview. “In January 2007, I lost a son of 15 years of age. The losses are too many to be counted” said Tajudeen, a printer by profession; adding that, financial difficulties were mainly responsible for the losses he suffered because there was no business any more.
Asked to speak on the early ownership of Maroko, he said it was difficult for one to exactly say who owned Marroko then. According to him, the Onirus were the major controller that the evictees bought lands from. “There were also the Elegushis who were in charge of the Ilado side of Maroko. In the whole world, nobody own land because we are all settlers. The land belongs to God! He is the creator who has created everything; both water and land. There was a time His Highness Oba Sikiru Adetana, (the Ogbagba of Ijebu land) came from Wadai in Saudi Arabia. When coming, he came with some people from Benin Republic. We hear that, the Oniru Chieftaincy Family ancestors are from Benin Republic, including the Elegushis family as well; the Ojomu, the Oba Ajiran also came from somewhere else” he said.
Tajudeen Jegede said that Maroko former dwellers, who were evicted out of the land, bought their lands mainly from the Oniru Chieftaincy Family as they were called then. “It was owned by Oniru Chieftaincy Family. Some of the lands were also owned by the Elegushis. Oniru took Elegushi to court over part of the land; that Elegushi was trespassing on their land and Oniru won the case because Obafemi Awolowo was supporting him”, he said.
He said Chief Awolowo was given a huge sum of land as payment for the services he rendered in court to the Oniru family. “When you are coming through the alternative route of Lekki Toll road, just before the market, there you will see the massive land given to Awolowo for aiding the Oniru to get the land back. They wanted to take the land back so they put their resources together to achieve it. There was also rumours that the people who part took in the Dimka’s coup with IBB ran to Maroko and that was why they took over the place. When they tried all their ways and it was not possible for them, they then resorted to using military might,” he said.
He said further that though, Oba Oniru was already rich, he however never owned a house in Maroko before it was demolished. “Oba Oniru did not have any other house in Maroko except his extended family. His Palace was situated at N0 1A, Ozumba Ubadiwe street. He was already a wealthy person at the time. Right from his school days his friends called him raw cash”, he said.
Jegede, who thanked the Almighty God for been able to buy land then in Maroko and built houses, said a bag of cement then was sold for 12 shelling when they built houses. “I was the chairman of Ilado Landlords Association before the demolition. I had four houses. They were in 75 and 77, Janet Benson street; 19, Aniyameta street; 13, Sunny street; 9, Igbo street. Out of those houses, only two flats were allocated to me”, he said.
Like his late leader, Pa Samuel Aiyeyemi, Tajudeen Jegede also lamented the N6.8 million as compensation allegedly paid to Oba Oniru by the Lagos state government. “It is very sad that tax payers’ money was not used judiciously in Lagos. The Lagos state government had paid the Onirus compensation of N6.8 million at the time for the land. It was a very big money then. The same land was given back to the Onirus. From Mobile, to after Lekki roundabout, then coming through the Oniru market, all those places now belong to one person”, he lamented.
Mrs. Titilayo Anitini, Executive member and Organizing Secretary, Maroko Evictees and owner of two houses before Maroko was demolished
“For the past 25 years, we have been struggling on this Maroko case. We went to Uputa Panel and Supreme Court in Lagos. We were also at the Abuja Supreme Court where Alisa Agbokoba, our lawyer then said he was tired because of how the case was dwindling” said Titilayo Anitini.
She said Olisa Agbaokba told the evictees that unless they settle with the land owner there may not be any sign of light at the end of the tunnel. But the land owner allegedly offered a flat each to 10 executive members of Maroko Evictees Committee and in return, the evictees should abandon the Maroko case. The Evictees’ Committee under the leadership of late Pa Samuel Ayeyemi refused the offer and chose rather to die fighting the injustice.
According to Mrs. Anitini, after Olisa Agbakoba pulled out of the struggle to get justice for the Maroko evictees, Femi Falana then advised the evictees to transfer the case to Felix Morka, whom he (Falana) said was vast and more influential on both local and international legal scene.
“Since taking over, Felix Morka has really done extremely well for us. The mandate we have is that, nobody can remove us from here (Ilasan Housing Estate) and Ikota Housing Estate since there is a court judgment to that effect. My husband owned 17 houses when Maroko was demolished. My parents owned 12 houses while I owned 2 houses before the demolition of Maroko. When the houses were demolished, my husband then say: oh! My name is ‘Adebowale’ because I am no more a landlord. He subsequently died as a result of the losses and beating he received when Maroko was demolished. It was really too much for him to bear”, she said as her eyes starts whaling tears.
She laments that no compensation has been given her for the two houses she owned nor had the beneficiaries of her late husband received any flat for 17 houses he owned before Maroko was demolished in 1990.
“My husband was a big man in Maroko. He had hotel and film house then. My husband was the owner of the popular California Hotel in Maroko and California Block Industry. The building used by Cooperative Bank at 32 Araromi Street in Maroko was my husband’s. Cooperative Bank can tell you more about my husband. All his buildings were made with blocks. The thinking of those losses actually facilitated the heart attack that eventually killed him. His death certificate is still with me till date. The thinking of a landlord of 17 houses to become a tenant again in such dehumanizing circumstance was responsible for his death”, she said.
She said after the demolition in 1990, herself and some friends slept in the open area of Maroko because there was no place for them to go to. “Even this place (Ilasan Housing Estate) that you are seeing now was very bushy when the evictees were asked to come here. There were different types of bush animal here when we moved in. The government actually wanted to throw us out of this place again three months after moving in. Femi Falana was the one who saved us by going to court to stop the Military government”, she said.
She paints a picture of some of the despicable things that happened while the demolition lasted: “Some ladies who were pregnant for 5, 6 or 7 months put to bed by force because of the duress. Some boys in the area saw young ladies and rapped them. The soldiers were among those rapping our young ones. Some of these things were published in TELL MAGAZINE because I gave them the images. If you should move to go and find something to eat, before you come back your properties would have been looted or stolen. That was why we lost many things. It is not really palatable talking about it”, she said.
When asked to explain the role of the traditional fathers back then in Maroko, Mrs. Anitini who turned 73 this year but looking a lady in her 50s, told the author that Oba Ajeran was the only King then in the whole of Eti-Osa. She said others were just chiefs and Bales.
“It was during the time of Abacha that the Onirus were crowned. That is why we call them Abacha’s kings. I and Oniru were close to some extent. It was when he saw my picture with Pa Aiyeyemi that he distant himself and asked me to dissociate myself from the Maroko leader. I didn’t know it was because he was planning to take over Maroko by force with his allies. I told him that Pa Aiyeyemi was fighting for the poor and that I will rather pitch my tent with those who loved to do the right thing than to benefit wrongly”, she said.
The sand filled land along Lekki beach road was formally car park of Ilasan Housing Estate
She said further that this side of Ilasan Housing Estate by Lekki beach road, as seen in the picture above, was sand filled and sold by Oniru’s son call Segun. “Governor Fashola was the one that stopped him. He told him to return the money to whomever he sold the land to and that Lagos was not selling land any more. This is the place that they call our car pack. Now they have sand filled everywhere. When Fashola wrote them they were left with no other choice than to remove all the caterpillars that they had brought here”, she said.
All efforts to speak to the royal fathers involved either directly or indirectly in the demolition of Maroko did not yield any result as they appeared unwilling to speak on the matter. When the author visited the Palace of Oba Oniru to hear his side of the story, a tall man with strong physique and extremely fiercely looking, probably in his late 30s, came out angrily once he saw the name Maroko on the visitors’ form. “Are you the one asking about Maroko? Don’t come here again asking about Maroko”! He threatened! “Maroko is a dead case” he said angrily and turned his back; just as the fully armed three police officers who were earlier friendly, withdrew, apparently for fear of later victimization.
Visits to Oba Patrick Ibikunle Fafunwa, the Onikoyi of Ikoyi land and Oba Saheed Ademola Elegushi were also met with stiff resistance. The promises of the secretaries of both royal fathers who coincidentally have Bamidele as their first names to arrange meetings with their bosses was not fulfilled after countless numbers of calls to their cell phones reminding them of the proposed interview throughout the period the investigation lasted.
Bamidele Ijagbemi, the Personal Secretary to Oba Ademola Elegushi confirmed the email sent to him asking for answers concerning issues related to the demolition of Maroko. He said the questions were on the desk of the Kabiyesi (Yoruba word meaning Majesty) adding that he could not determine when the royal father would respond to the questions. As at the time of filling in this report, Oba Elegushi had yet to respond to the questions.
In the same vein, the Personal Secretary to Oba Patrick Ibikunle Fafunwa, Bamidele Adewale who had earlier promised to use his office to let the royal father see the importance of the issue, subsequently refused to take several calls to his cell phone. As at the time of filling in this report, he also had yet to return calls to his cell phone or reply text messages sent to him.
Speaking on the manner Maroko was demolished by the military government in 1990, the Army Spokesperson, Lagos Command, Colonel Kingsley Umoh, said the military leaders at the time should be held responsible not the soldiers who allegedly committed several atrocities while carrying out the demolition because the soldiers were carrying out order given by high ranking officials.
Colonel Omoh, who said his knowledge of the Maroko issue was limited because he probably was not in the military when the place was demolished, noted that current military administration in the country was working hard in distancing itself from all the human rights abuses associated with military regimes.
He said if Maroko evictees were yet to be resettled after 25 years, the Lagos state Ministry of Land and Housing, mandated to handle issue like that of Maroko, should be able to explain why Lagos state government was yet to fully resettle the evictees. “Government is continues; when you hand over government, you hand over everything (both the good and the bad). If the military government demolished Maroko 25 years ago, at least, this is a civilian government; they should be able to rectify the ills of the military”, Colonel Kingsley Umoh told the author in his office in Victoria Island.
Pa Samuel Ayeyemi, the late leader of Maroko evictees, had told the author that on the morning of 19th December 1998, following the previous night Holy-Ghost Congress of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) theme: Lekki 98, he had heard an unusual voice saying: “I will not be happy with Nigeria until Nigeria makes Maroko people happy”.
He said he had left for his Ilasan Housing Estate home at about 5: pm on that fateful December 18th 1998 from Illupeju; but could not get home till 11: am the following morning due to the traffic situation as a result of the RCCG’s programme. “I had aroused from my short sleep inside the vehicle by the motion of the crowed coming from the RCCG’s programme. This continued until 9: am when I had to get down from my stranded vehicle. Since my sore foot had eased, I decided to continue my journey home on foot. Pushing myself opposite the surging crowd, I did not know when suddenly I wondered aloud: “if God could be so hard-hearted as not to listen to the prayers of so great a multitude of people”.
He said the soliloquy had hardly left his lips when an angry voice quickly responded thus: “How do you want God to be happy with Nigeria, with what they have done to Maroko? Maroko’s complaints are still before me, when they forgive Nigeria, I will forgive Nigeria” explained Pa Aiyeyemi.
He said though, he was in the midst of a crowd, it then downed on him that it had been a voice such as he had heard few years back; emphasizing the consequences of how Maroko was demolished on Nigeria as a Nation. He added that it was a confirmation the Creator of heaven and earth was keenly and patiently watching Nigeria and all the key actors in the Maroko affairs.
“A man’s last words (either by admonition or instruction), given to the living before his death, is to be taken with all seriousness”, so upheld an African proverb. Prince Samuel Adeniyi Aiyeyemi who owned four houses in Maroko then, and lived in a duplex with his family before the place was demolished is no more today. His leg was not only amputated, he died a tenant as a result of the injustice 25 years ago.
Having considered the last message of Pa Aiyeyemi to Nigerians, the author decided to go further in the investigation by seeking religious views on the matter since all the parties involved in the demolition of Maroko were either acclaimed Christians or Muslims (the two major religion in the country); coupled with the fact that the peaceful resolution of Maroko fall out was issue of National Importance.
Could the injustice in Maroko and related injustices be responsible for the dwindling fortune of the country? Is Nigeria being punished by the Divine Almighty for the sins of her leaders? Is it possible that Nigeria could be up against a Supreme Being as a result of Maroko demolition and demolitions in other parts of the country as stated by the late evictees’ leader? The total decays of infrastructure and failure of every sector of the economic in the country in spite of the big names the country parades? The inability of Nigeria to live her dreams in spite of the obvious potentials? Corruption in high and low places! Corruption in churches and mosques! Promising leaders: getting confused once given the mantle of leadership. Political tension between and within political parties: the erratic power problem in the country in spite of the billions of dollars sunk into the sector. Aviation challenges and the resultant plane crashes. Planes carrying dead bodies crashing and killing the dead bodies second time after they had died earlier. Niger Delta insurgency: kidnapping every everywhere. The rapping of children: housewives, mothers and grandmothers. The killings by Boko Haram fundamentalists and the bombings of religious worship centre; not to mention the abduction of the Chibok school girls and the forceful compulsion by their captors to deny their faith. Baby factories where unborn babies are sold while still in the womb and taken to slavery once delivered. The selling of human body parts for rituals and money making. Evil taken as good by leaders and good seen as evil: judges taking bribes to set the guilty free and put the innocent behind bars. Individuals convicted of corruption receiving Presidential Pardon. ASUU strikes, ASUUP strikes, Doctors strikes, Oil workers strikes and the list of ills are endless! Is it possible that all these vices and many more are directly or indirectly linked to what happened in Maroko 25 years ago? Could the peaceful resolution of Maroko dispute be the key that would unlock Nigeria’s potentials? Since Maroko demolition was the crudest of all?
Abdurraheem Ahmad Sayi, the Chief Imam of the Lekki Central Mosque told the author that: one fundamental value in Islam which is stressed over and over in several parts of the Quran is justice, fairness and equity.
He said as far as the Quran is concerned, the major or the most important duty of leadership towards the led was essentially to take care of their welfare. “A state in Islam is built on five fundamental objective principles which are: preservation of faith, the state is expected to be organized in such a way that the worship of the Supreme Being should be freely carried out without any hindrance from any quarter. The second which is preservation of life, the third which is preservation of property, the fourth which is reputation; and then we have the last which is preservation of linage”.
According to him, Islamic-ally, it is expected that in every policy a state is making, a proper attention has to be paid to all these fundamentals; adding that the state must be structured in such a way and manner that will aid the citizens in achieving these fundamentals.
“The state should consciously work at delivering these fundamentals to its citizens. One of the basis when it comes to property of basic necessity of life, the Prophet Mohammed said: there is really no privacy for him who does not have a roof over his head and that is the three most fundamental things that the Prophet said and whoever is living below that level is living a miserable life. These are the sides I really wants to emphasize on.
“It shouldn’t even be the responsibility of the citizens to strife to be sheltered. Hard working citizens may distinguish themselves by achieving that on their own. But ordinarily, it should be the responsibility of the state to ensure that all the citizens are decently and hournarably sheltered. Where the state has absorbed itself from this kind of responsibility to ensure dignity of life of human being out of the fundamental duty of a state, we cannot talk of dignity in a place where there is no roof over ones head. We can’t also talk about dignity where the roof over the head is just any roof. It has to be decent!
“We are talking of a place where all these were not provided and the people strived on their own without any assistance from government. They were able to develop a virgin land. The whole of Maroko was developed by private individuals without any input from the state; how they got the place electrified was left to them. All these were done by private individuals, and at a point, the state developed some interest. We understand there are provisions where the state is allowed to take over private property for public policy; but that purpose must remained for public policy”, he said.
“The idea of seeing a place as slum: and then, dislodging the slum and allocating the land to privilege ones, that is not in any way justifiable. If a vicinity is seen as an eye sore and what they have put in place is not good enough, it’s the responsibility of the government to come in and assist the people who themselves have taken some steps”, he said.
The Lekki Chief Imam, who is also a legal practitioner by profession, said taking a look at chapter two of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, under fundamental and objectives principles, those were some of the basic things which even the Nigerian Nation have taken to be the fundamental principles of the state; to ensure that all Nigerians are taken care off.
“The idea of saying we want to clear Lagos of all sorts, when you now take over the land and demolished it, you are only now going to allocate the land to the privilege who would put in exotic buildings or the government itself converting it to an estate that would be beyond the reach of the primary people who were chased out of the place; I think it is injustice, it is bad, and it is also a fact that, wherever injustice goes, it is a natural law that such society will not know peace. It is just natural! Whether Maroko, or Bako Haram, or whether MASOB, whether it is the Niger Delta insurgent, look at everything and dig deep into the root, you will find one factor behind it; injustice of several decades, negligence and inequity. Nigeria is living today with a lot of such time bombs. Some of them are exploding already, and many are yet to be exploded. Until we learn to do things right and justly as well, I don’t think there can be any hope for a peaceful and enduring harmony in Nigeria ”, he said.
He said further that this was a call for the right people to get themselves properly organized, look deeply into the Nigeria situation and fashion out ways of rescuing the nation. “Nigeria is in a serious state of emergency and really need to be rescued. We should see ourselves as brothers and sisters. The Maroko people are suffering because other Nigerians who have not suffered the same thing have left them alone. It shouldn’t even be their right to fight; it should be those of us who are their brothers. An injury to one they say is an injury to all and that is the essence of brotherhood. We need more human rights advocates and this is the culture all of us in Nigeria should develop”, he lamented.
He advised that people should also be aware of their rights. “Government can be sued to court. We should develop a culture not just to accept anything. Our leaders can just presume that whatever you give Nigerians they will take. They can only clamour for a while, they don’t have the mind to resist”, he said.
Responding, a prominent Christian Cleric with the Redeemed Christian Church God (RCCG) Lagos, Iliya Idris Abdul, said biblically, wherever there is oppression particularly coming from leaders (whether chosen by God or allowed by God to be leaders), God would natural respond.
“If you look at 1Kings chapter 21, there was a story about Ahab a King in Israel and Naboth an ordinary citizen. Ahab loved the vineyard of Naboth and wanted it by all means. Naboth refused and the King was not happy about the refusal. Jazebel his wife manipulated the King to the point that Naboth had to die simply because the King liked his vineyard and wanted it for himself even though it was not his own”, he said.
He noted that Naboth’s vineyard sounds almost similar like that of Maroko; because it was a pleasant land that was strategically located. “When the King subsequently went to possess the land after the death of Naboth, immediately God spoke through a Prophet; warning him not to possess the land and that the King would die the same way Naboth was killed including his generation unborn. Though the King eventually repented and God forgave him, his generation after him suffered the consequences of their father forcefully taking the land belonging to the downtrodden in the society as a leader”, he said.
On the consequences of Maroko demolition on Nigeria, Iliya Idris who is an entrepreneur said God’s standard has not change, saying countries where leaders used power to take what belongs to the poor would experience all the misfortune that befell the Nation Israel who had “Ahabs” as their leaders.
“At a time, the rains were withheld in Israel for three and a half years. To us as Nigerians, the rains being withheld could represent many things: under development, corruption, kidnapping, epileptic power supply, not prospering in spite of the natural and human resources etcetera.
“Also, in the book of Exodus, we saw what God did to the Egyptians because their leaders where oppressive. The bible said ‘God heard the cry of the children of Israel. Egyptian rivers were turned to blood. There were sickness and death everywhere; strange sicknesses that the Egyptians had not seen before. Believe it or not, you cannot divorce the regretful condition of the country today from what happened in Maroko 24 years ago and similar injustices that had taken place. Oppression in the sight of God is a serious matter. It may seem as if the oppressors are gaining gland but God will definitely respond. Many times God’s response to nations whose leaders are oppressive is usually not pleasant”, he said.
He said further that when God allow leaders, He allows them to serve and not to take undue advantage of the helpless followers. “Whenever leaders start taken advantage of the followers, God who is the Chief Leader, will take a very strong decision on that. All leaders are stewards; and a day will come when they will be made to give account of their stewardship, and they will be evaluated by God and if you are found wanting, you will be dealt with by God. If current leaders really want peace and prosperity in the country, they should start addressing these issues as matters of national importance”, he said.
Anxiety in Ilasan Housing Estate over rumour of plan demolition
Lagos state government abandoned Ilasan Housing Estate where some of Maroko Evictees were forced to by Raji Rasaki
The cloud of greed is gradually gathering momentum again and reaching its peak as well. From the east to the west, from the north to the south, the sign has always been there for those who know how to use past events to forecast the future. The rain of horror is about to fall on the fallow grand of Ilasan Housing Estate. That type of rain witnessed by Maroko evictees sometimes in July 1990. That type of rain, that wet and amputated the leg of Pa Samuel Adeniyi Aiyeyemi, the late leader of Maroko evictees, and finally killed him 24 years after! The type of rain no man wishes his enemies to experience; the rain of terror and agony; the rain of hopelessness and psychological disorder. The type of rain that not only wet the clothes, but goes further to wet the flesh, spirit and body. The type of rain: that entrenches poverty and brings death to its victims.
Former Commissioner for Housing, Lagos state, Dele Onobokun, had told the leadership of Maroko evictees as he was entering the conference room where a meeting was to take place between both parties, that Ilasan Housing Estate was becoming ‘a gold mine’ ‘no longer suitable’ for the evictees; and that ‘the people staying on the axis are not people like you (former Maroko residents).
“He said we should look at Femi Okunu estate and similar estates around. He was already coming with developers. That was the first thing he told us as he was entering the conference room where we met him. We told him that anybody who wants to give us trouble again will not have rest of mind in life. He became angry with that statement. So, I told him his name was not anybody. He could not sit again before he left”, said Tajudeen Jegede, Deputy Leader, Moroko Evictees Committee.
He said Dele Onobokun left in anger and very uncomfortable too. Thereafter, the leadership of Maroko evictees knew that the battle for the soul of Ilasan Housing Estate has entered a fierce stage and have decided to fasten their seat belts. He said they were prepared to die this time than to live and fight years later again.
“I really want to ask sir, is it an offense for somebody not to come from a rich family? Is it an offense for somebody not to have money in life? Why is government taking care of other parts on this axis and have abandoned us here?” Tajudeen Jegede asked in a very drab manner.
He said the government has block Ilasan Estate’s drainages because it was more interested in developing places surrounding it. “So that when the flood gets to certain level, they will say the drain is getting too much, the place is not habitable for human living again, that is why we want to move them out. On the 9th of September 2012, there was atlantics surge and where government has sand filled brought the entire flood into the estate. Before we left Maroko, they said the place was not habitable and that the people staying there are scoters and fishermen living below the sea level”, he said.
Tajudeen, who attributed the lack of government presence in Ilasan estate to ways of finding excuse on the part of government to chase the evictees out again and share the place amongst the elites, said evicting Maroko people again would seriously affect the education of their children and grand children. “If the ten thousand former house owners in Maroko are to give government estimation of the losses that we have suffered so far, I think we will be looking at trillions in naira. They want us to go back to square one where the education of our children would be paralyzed again; where they will not be somebody in life. It is not possible. When we came here, most of the buildings were uncompleted. There were no doors and windows in many of the buildings. There was nothing we could really do, we just have to abide. Even we at Ilasan here are still thanking God. Go to Ikota and it will amaze you the extreme inhuman condition of Maroko evictees there. As I talk to you now, we don’t have rest of mind. Today we here they are coming to chase us out of here; tomorrow is another form of government coming to do what they did in Maroko 25 years ago; next tomorrow we are going to be relocated. ”, he said
He said further that residents of Ilasan Housing Estate has done re-certification as required by the Lagos state government but that they were yet to have access to it. “They asked us to go and pay like other estates, we paid, we did all we can, but till date, we have not been able to have our certificates of ownership (CofO) receipts. We are still waiting since 2010 when we completed all the things government asked us to do without given us the needed documents”, he lamented.
Inside the Ilasan Esate
Joseph Afolabi, Chairman Nigeria Union of Tailors Eti-Osa branch, confirmed to the author that there were times Lagos authority asked Ilasan residents to make payment of 12,000 naira at Ikeja in order to have occupancy related documents given to them and thereby securing permanent allocation.
“We have made such payment and government is yet to do anything for us till today. We are suffering from light outs, suffering from lack of water. Every day whether you like it or not, you will spend up to N100 for you to drink water. This estate is a suffering and abandoned estate. The government has abandoned us here. Every raining season you will see how this place could be. You have to roll up your trouser before you can go inside your house. You can’t wear good dress. No better gutters. No anything! We don’t know what will end us here. We are praying they will not displace us again because we are yet to recover from the 1990 displacement. It would be automatic death for many should government displace us gain”, he said.
Sixty-eight years old Afolabi, who said he has been a tailor since 1971 in Maroko, describes how it was for him when Maroko was demolished. “It was a great loss and shock beyond words. Imagine a situation where you have six children without any work. When I packed here in 1990, I knew what my eyes saw. I have to work in my parlour in the flat given to me. I managed myself with my children. We just have to thank God and Pa Aiyeyemi. If not for Pa Aiyeyemi, only God know what would have happened to us”, he said.
No where to flow out
Sixty-four years old Simon, who also is an evictee of Maroko, said successive government in Lagos have deliberately abandoned the estates in order to have excuse to demolish the place and given to the elites. “Look at this gutter for instance; it is not moving since we came here in 1990. Now we are hearing that they want to give us another place. They want to rebuild somewhere and move us there. Our hearts have started palpitating since we got that news. They have not fully settled the fallout of Maroko demolition; yet they are planning to take over here again and consequently throw us into further hardship. We are really not happy to be here. You can see the environment; sickness every time”, he said.
He said that the Lagos state government told some of the evictees given flats to go and do some documents purportedly to authenticate their ownership but that nothing has since come out of the exercise. “Till today we have not seen anything like document as evidence of the flats given to us. There is no evidence showing that some of the evictees who were given flats are true owners of those flats”, he said.
Simon who took a swipe on successive civilian government in Lagos for not making any attempt at alleviating the suffering Maroko evictees, said when the evictees came to the place provided for them in Ilasan Housing Estate, it was too shrub for human habitation. “It’s our self efforts that made it to even look like this; and yet government is not okay with our being here. Many people died as a result of Maroko demolition. We cannot count how many people died. We trek from Maroko down here with our loads. Lagos state government is giving us heavy punishment”, he said.
He said during election periods, politicians would usually sneak into the estate like deer in the jungle to solicit for votes. “We usually vote for them in anticipation that when they got there they will do something about us. Once they got the power, we become their enemy. This place you are seeing is London compare to inside the estate. Go inside and see for yourself. You can’t see where to put your leg when you go inside the estate. Government is waiting for disaster. They know their plan. They are waiting for the time when even one house will collapse and then use that as an excuse to do more havoc to us. God pass them! ‘God dey’ is a poor man prayer. We hope that one day God will change their minds and make them remember the Maroko evictees who are still suffering 24 years after that inhuman eviction”, he said lamentably.
Simon also narrates how it was for him when Maroko was demolished. “The first time I saw IBB in Maroko, it was somewhere in Mobil in (Awoyaya inside, Maroko). Days after that Babangida’s visitation, they did all they wanted to do and pushed us out of Maroko; and brought us here. When we came here, there was no light, there was virtually nothing here. We started managing our lives. I have seven children who could not go to school because of our forceful eviction out of Maroko. As you see us here that is how most of us are. We don’t have money to train our children”, he said.
He said in one of the meetings Maroko people had with the government before the eventual demolition, government had told the people that there was no need for panic, and that government was going to bring the people back when the whole place would have been sand filled; and that owners of building would be given back their building. “Now we have been waiting for our houses to be given back to us. I had two houses in Lekki Phase 1 side. Now I am living like a beggar where they came to dump us like dustbin; and yet, they are still planning to move us out of the place”, he said in a resignation.
Flood has indeed no way to leave the estate
The Vice Chairman of Ilasan Community, Ege Allen, told the author that it has not been easy economically for Maroko’s evictees. “Nobody can even boast of tangible document. When there is rain, the whole place would be flooded. We are not okay at all. Our economic situation is unimaginable”, said Mr. Allen.
He said it would be barbaric should government consider another forceful eviction of Maroko evictees from their current abode. “They should not even nurse the idea of relocating us. I have never seen anywhere in the world where people would be relocated by their government two or three times in their life time. I have never heard of such thing in the news or read it in papers”, he said.
He lamented the precarious living condition in the estate. “The living here is just terrible. Some people here don’t have allocation papers from government. There are many landlords in Maroko who are still yet to receive even a pin from government. When they allocated flats to some people, so many of us house owners did not get anything. Only few people received these flats given by government. That is our cry to government. They should listen to those that are yet to receive anything. We are facing a very hard time here. There is no government presence. There is no light here; may be once or twice in a month. No good road. No drainage. We have been abandoned here”, he said in frustration.
Most of the residents who spoke to the author alleged that Lagos state government was deliberately blocking drainages and channels around the estate taking water out of the estate in the name of sand filing.
“If you go to the market there you will see where they have sand filled. That is where we get our water to the lagoon. They also filled the seaside again. The RCCG’s side is also sand filled. We are now inside the hole. If it was not for the intervention of the community and Eti-Osa Local Government, flood would have swallowed the whole estate in July 2011. If you were here that time, you would have felt very sorry for us. Many people were using small wooden canoes to move out of their houses”, Ege Allen said.
Ilasan Estate a Gold mine: ready for excavation
‘Gold mine’ ‘not suitable for you again’
The response of the evictees’ delegates to the commissioner’s double phrases: ‘gold mine’ and ‘not suitable for you again,’ was an indication that those words were hearts piercing for the Maroko evictees. One of the delegates said the words covered his face like thick darkness as Dele Onobokun let them out of his mouth and that he nearly collapse back to the chair he was sitting before standing in honour of the commissioner who had just arrived the conference room.
Thereafter, there have been mounting pressures from all quarters to relocate Maroko evictees to yet to be decided destination. Land developers: from both government and private sectors coming to survey the estate. Some buildings have already been marked for demolition. There is serious tension at the moment following the increasing rumour of impending evacuation. That alone, the residents say was restless and heart palpitating for them.
When the evictees were brought to Ilasan Housing Estate in 1990 after they were forcefully thrown out of Maroko, the whole place was a wild jungle where hunters had hunted down several animals. Rats, rabbits, monkeys, tortoises, squirrels, snakes and the likes were former occupants of the place before the evictees joined them. They accepted to stay then because there was no better alternative.
Now, like Maroko before they were evicted, Ilasan Housing Estate has also become a gold mine that the evictees must be excavated out if the high and mighty must get to the gold.
The ‘gold miners’ have endured enough; they can’t take it any longer. As they drive by Ilasan Housing Estate, they wag heads inside tinted class cars; they look at Femi Okunnu Estate, the work of their hands and the dollars it was turning in to them; as they look at other estates on the corridor, the vision of how they want Ilasan Housing Estate to be become very clear to them. They envisaged towers that one could stand and have a clear view of both the lagoon at the front and the ocean at the back. They saw super rich businessmen having conversation in balcony of one of the towers at night; even as the sea breeze blew away the aches of the cigarettes in their hands. They considered the controversial toll road; they saw the street lightening at night and concluded that it was not suitable anymore for Maroko evictees.
The evictees said it was indeed a traumatizing and inconsiderate conclusion about the hard working and peace loving people of Maroko. Some of the evictees had built houses on the Island as far back as 40 years ago when some of the movers and shakers of the Nigerian economic today probably don’t own a house then. There were Maroko evictees who owned then: 2,3,4,5, up to 17 houses before the cruel demolition by military government.
The current deputy leader of the evictees told the author that Femi Onobokun failed to realize that it was government oppression that took all of that way from them. He may have left unhappy that fateful day, but the delegates of the evictees said left with far reaching implication. They were dehumanized and demoralized. Their dignity as human beings was at stake. It was a statement with the power to bruise the human ego needed to stand among men, and reduces its victims to men of low self worth.
LAWMA also seems not to be interested in taking waste generated by the people: as the estate is full of heap of waste
Speaking on the pending rumour to further evacuate Maroko evictees from their current base (Ilasan Housing Estate), Chairman, People Democratic Party (PDP), Lagos chapter, Captain Tunji Shelle, lambasted individuals, private developers and the Lagos state government who maybe nursing such idea following the hardship the evictees had had to face since their homes were demolished in 1990.
Tunji Shelle, who mourned the manner the Maroko evictees have been abandoned by successive civilian administrations in the state, accused the APC led government in Lagos of a deliberate attempt to annihilate the poor living in the state.
“It’s so painful how these people have been abandoned by Lagos state government. There is no single government presence in the estate. They have blocked the entire major channels flood could leave Ilasan Estate with their sand filling everywhere. Lagos state government is responsible for the incessant flooding being experienced in Ilasan Estate. They should stop sand filling everywhere. What is stopping them from making Ilasan Estate inhabitable for the people? They are only interested in doing business and making money at the expense of the people”, he said.
Visibly angry over the inability of Lagos state government to honour Court Orders asking it to provide decent accommodation for Maroko evictees, Tunji Shelle told the author at the PDP secretariat in Lagos that the APC led government in the state was elitist and making the rich richer and the poor poorer.
“It is evident for those who care to see that the government in Lagos is oppressive; particularly against the very poor. Go to places mainly inhabited by the poor in Lagos, it will shock you what you will find! Go to Ikorodu, go to Epe, go to those rural places in Lagos and then draw your conclusion. Are we saying the people living in those places are not Lagosians? Look at Ilasan Estate for instance; if it was a place the rich are staying, Lagos state government would have done something about it. Lagos state at the moment is being run as a capitalist state. It is all about making money; building tolls and giving the tolls to friends as means of making money; why the poor are crying and dying”, he said.
He however, advised that should the Lagos state government have any reason to demolish Ilasan Housing Estate in the nearest future, the wellbeing of the occupants must be considered seriously in order to avoid what happened in 1990 when their homes were demolished in the then Maroko.
“Government is a continuous thing. Since they have failed so far to make the place decent for the people, if they have reason to demolish, the government should either consider making adequate and decent alternative first before embarking on any demolition; or evacuate the people to an emergency sites, make the place decent and then bring them back to the place with a price that is reduced to the barest minimum”, he said.
All attempts to speak with the leadership of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in Lagos did not yield meaningful results. The Party’s Publicity Secretary in the state, Joe Igbokwe, declined to speak when he was contacted on the telephone; saying “I am in a meeting. Call me back”. As at the time of this report, he had yet to reply the text message sent to his cell phone or returned several phone calls to him.
When contacted, APC National Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed, said he could not comment on the matter since it was Lagos related.
Felix Morka and Femi Falana ready for legal showdown
As the mother hen gathers her brood under her wings, to shield them from the plowing eyes of ferocious hawks, in like manner, Maroko evictees, who were forced to live in the then jungle call Ilasan Housing Estate following their record breaking forceful eviction by military regime, political and royal predators of Nigeria, are now seeking refuge under the arbitrating safe haven of radical and consistent advocates whom they believe their legal wings are adequate enough to provide the needed blanket for their constant shivering hearts against the elitist hawks who are bent in gulping down again the Maroko evictees.
Femi Falana, a human rights lawyer who was the evictees’ saviour when Raji Rasaki and his allies were splitting fire by threatening to further throw the evictees out of the Ilasan Housing Estate in 1990 by going to court to seek a restraining order against the Lagos military government, told the author that he too has seen the gathered cloud of trouble hovering over Ilasan Housing Estate and was warming up to enter into another judicial round with any private, or governmental organization bent on evicting the people from their current abode.
In the same vein, rights activist and lawyer, Dr. Felix Morka, who also is the Executive Director, Social and Economic Rights Action Center (SERAC), who has been in the forefront of the struggle for the reversal of the injustice done to the displaced residents of Maroko in 1990; who on December 3, 2008, in collaboration with a UK-based leading law firm, Debevoise and Plimpton, filed another landmark communication before the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights against the state of Nigeria on behalf of the victims of Maroko Community in Lagos; who were forcibly evicted from their homes and businesses by the government of Nigeria in violation of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, told the author that Ilasan was not an estate anyone can take without a fight.
But, some concern observers of the impending trouble looming round Ilasan Housing Estate, are now canvassing for more Senior Advocates to join the train of Femi Falana and Felix Morka in order to strengthen the legal team backing Maroko evictees against land speculators and developers, who are friends of the high and mighty, and with the resources to buy anything and anybody, and would not stop at anything until Ilasan Housing Estate like Maroko, is also conquered.
Olisa Ogbakoba (SAN) was on the same train on the way to the reversal of the injustice done to Maroko evictees. A member of Maroko Evictees Committee who pleaded anonymous because of the past relationship between Agbokoba and members of the committee told the author that Olisa Agbakoba compromised his legal integrity and fell by the way side.
Further investigation revealed that Olisa Agbakoba was the renowned lawyer the late Pa Aiyeyemi had refused to mention who allegedly negotiated a bribe on behalf of the Onirus with ten executive members of Maroko Evictees’ Committee for the case to die.
Olisa Agbakoba, according to the source, though a SAN, could not distinguished between advocacy and intermediary hence he abandoned his role as an advocate for Maroko evictees and took the role of a mediator; negotiating a compromise between the Complainants and Respondent.
He was allegedly used by the Onirus (the respondent) to negotiates with ten executive members of Maroko Evictees Committee (Complainants), to be given a flat each in choice areas, and in return, abandon the Maroko legal tussle. The Evictees Committee under the leadership of Pa Aiyeyemi declined the offer, chosen to die in abject poverty rather than betrayed the trust Maroko people repose in the leadership.
As at the time of filing in this report, Olisa Agbakoba had yet to respond to questions bordering on the allegation via his face book inbox. His available number did not respond when an attempt was made at reaching him.
A political scientist and a lecturer at the University of Lagos (UNILAG), who wished not to be mentioned for fear of being victimized, said going by the growing injustices in the country and the lack of interest by notable lawyers who are senior advocates to take up cases involving the downtrodden in the society, the criteria for selecting a senior advocate and other humanitarian honour in the country should therefore be reviewed.
“The corruption in the system is not sparing the judicial sector at all! How do you explain a situation like that of Maroko, for over 25 years, the matter has continued to linger. Lawyers are not interested in rising to the occasion to defend the defenseless. In spite of the many SANs we hear their names in Nigeria, only very few like Femi Falana are courageous enough to stand against injustice done to the less privileged by their leaders. Where are we really going in this country when lawyers known to be rugged in the pursuit of national justice, are now becoming cowards? It is really a dent on the legal profession. Lawyers must learn to rise above the pursuit of money and learn to be blessings to those in their communities”, he said
But, Femi Falana, one of the lawyers involved in the Maroko legal struggle, who had remained consistent with Maroko evictees, said the demolition of Maroko was not simply a judicial matter; but rather, it was a socio-economical and a political matter.
According to him, the rich in Victoria Island, through the then military regime, decided to wipe out Maroko so that it can be rebuilt solely for the rich.
“That was exactly what happened. Whereas, the argument then was that Maroko was submerged and it was not fit for human habitation. What the government did later, was to sand fill at colossal public expense and then distributed the land among the elites. And that is why you have new Victoria Island in the place.
“What we did then, because the people were scattered and we went to several courts and didn’t get justice. I tried a fast one by simply going to court to say that the government could not eject them without going to court; and that was upheld. That was how we were able to get them to remain there” he told the author in an interview at the Civic Centre, Lagos.
He confirmed that there are indeed fresh threats to eject Maroko evictees from their current Ilasan Housing Estate. “I have taken it up with the government. What I have been told which I am yet to confirm is that: some of the buildings are not okay and could give way and lead to building collapse; for which reasons government would like to get the people out with a view of rebuilding. I hope that is true. We have a duty to keep them there and to protect them. I am going to confirm what the position is and take it up with the government”, he said.
He said explained that the Oputa Panel set up by the former president Olusegun Obasanjo to investigate human rights abuses in the country was not a judicial panel. “It was an administrative panel set up by the Obasanjo’s regime. Unfortunately, the decision of the panel was not obeyed by the Lagos state government. It will be very difficult to hold the government accountable based on the report of that panel. For me, all hope is not lost. We must continue to protect the people of Maroko and insist that justice be done for those who have been stranded”, he said.
Human Rights Activist and Director, Social and Economic Rights Action Center (SERAC), Dr. Felix Morka
Speaking to the author in his Omole Phase 1 office, Lagos, Human Rights Activist and the Executive Director, Social and Economic Rights Action Center (SERAC), Dr. Felix Morka, said though, the Lagos State Building Control Agency (LABCA) has the authority and the duty for that matter, to ensure that buildings that are structurally defective and poses a threat to the citizens are compromised or destroyed before they do damage; warning that while that is done, SERAC would also not accept anyone using that as a cover to try to destroy the estate.
“As a matter of fact, we have also made it clear that even those building that would be pulled down would also be rebuilt by government; so that the owners can have their buildings back. All of that detail we are currently working on. We are hoping that in the next few months we will have clarity on how this process would happen”, he said.
Felix Morka, who described the facts-checking process of SERAC as ‘unbelievable’ and ‘strict’, said in truth, he was not aware of any latest plan by government to evict Ilasan residents out of their homes. “As we speak, I am not aware that there is any immediate plan to destroy Ilasan Housing Estate by Lagos state government; and I hope there is no such plan. If anything at all, the government should be thinking how to go into Ilasan, help extend social services to the community and enable the people to live better. What I am aware of is that the Lagos State Building Control Agency (LABCA), is concerned that a few buildings in the community maybe either distressful or maybe structurally defective and that it may pose a threat to the occupants. Recently, we have had meetings with LABCA to discuss that concern; how those buildings maybe either compromised or brought down to ensure the safety of not just the occupants but also the people who live in the estate”, he said.
According to him, there were some people within the government, and the business community who just think Ilasan is take-able. “That is where we are having problem. We have resisted several attempts. The idea of relocating the people of Maroko is not acceptable to them and to any right thinking citizen. Ilasan is not an estate anyone can take just like that without a fight. But, hopefully all that would not be necessary because my assumption is that Lagos state government would realize Maroko people are very special group of people who have suffered repeated injustice and violence at the hand of the state. So, I do not expect the current government in Lagos state to make things worse for the people”, he said.
The Harvard trained lawyer who was particularly not burdened that the land that was seized from Maroko people have been turned into one of the most expensive real estates in the country, lamented that the real owners of the land have been left to suffer and die in abject poverty without any attempt from government to alleviate the pains inflicted on them as a result of the eviction.
“The Oniru estate, most of that land that comprises Oniru estate and part of Lekki Phase 1 are Maroko land; where the Shop Rites is, the British International School and all of those multi billion naira houses on that district are built on the land of Maroko people: And yet those who own the land are still living in total desolation without a word from their government. It’s just wrong”, he said.
“When the people moved in to Ilasan housing estate, the road was like a very narrow path. But today, after 25 years, there is a lot of development in the corridor. A lot of expensive real estate is coming there. The people who are driving this expansion of Lekki now see Ilasan as a bride and are asking what is this estate doing here? It doesn’t look like the others, it is not as posh as the others; it is a colony of the poor: and many of them now think Ilasan shouldn’t be there and that in its place, they need to see buildings that are designed exclusively for the super rich standing there. But in all of that nobody is taking the time to think about the people of Maroko. The few who are in Ilasan are lucky. Like I said, over 7,000 of them used to own houses. Some of them owned more than one house in the former Maroko and now are without even a roof over their heads”, he said.
He said SERAC, in partnership with a United Kingdom base Debevoise & Plimpton had filed a communication against the Federal Republic of Nigeria before African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights, which is the regional human rights body responsible for enforcing the provisions of the African Chapter on People’s Rights which Nigeria ratified in 1983 (which is part of domestic law in the country).
“We got a favourable ruling on admissibility (which made that communication to be admissible under the rule of the African Commission). We are currently now preparing the full brief to the commission where we would lay out all of our concerns. So, we have prepared over a-300-page brief (legal arguments) before the commission that we are due to submit in the next few days. But, the decision by the Commission deeming that communication to be admissible by itself is some kind of victory in this matter. We are pursuing it as relentlessly as possible”, he said.
In the communication filed by SERAC on behalf of Maroko residents, the applicants submit that the Nigerian government has violated their rights under Articles 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 22 and 24 of the African Charter and Article 16 of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in African and addition to violations of corresponding provision of the:
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) U.N Doc. A/810, 71 (1948); International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), U.N Doc. A/6316 (1966) ratified by Nigeria on October 29, 1993; International Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), U.N Doc. A/RES/44 (1989 (ratified by Nigeria 19 April 1991; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), U.N Doc. A/6316 (1966) ratified by Nigeria 29 October 1993.
The communication filed by Dr. Felix Morka’s SERAC is seeking consideration by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights under Articles 55 and 56 of the Charter, and special attention by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union (A.U) and an in-depth study by the African Commission pursuant to Articles 58, base on the serious violation allegedly committed by the Respondent (Nigerian government).
In a letter of admissibility with Ref: ACPR/COM/370/09, titled: Social and Economic Rights Action Center (SERAC) V Nigeria, sent to SERAC by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, dated 24 September 2013, and signed by the Commission’s Chairperson, Hon. Dupe Atoki, and Secretary Dr. Mary Mabokere, ACPR acknowledged that the SERAC’s communication was adopted by the Commission during its 14th Extra Ordinary Session, held in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital from 20-24 July 2013.
The Commission noted that by no fault on its part, the Complainant has not exhausted local remedies because those remedies have been unduly prolonged. The Commission thereby agreeing with the Complainant that the requirement to submit the Communication within reasonable time has been satisfied and therefore declared SERAC’s communication admissible in accordance with Article 56 of the Charter.
Maroko evictees had pursued their claims in the Nigerian national courts and other independent bodies for more than 23 years but had yet to obtain any relief, remedy or redress, making legal action in Nigeria both futile and unduly prolonged.
After the total demolition of Maroko in 1990, Lagos state government gave allocation papers to about 3,000 of the Maroko evictees to occupy the uncompleted flats at Ilasan, Ikota and the 70 kilometer distance Epe Federal Housing Estates. About 1,000 out of the purported 3,000 allocations were not available because they were yet to be built. Even today, some of the allocations are either still at foundation level or empty lands.
In reality, only about 2,000 out of the 10,000 house owners of Maroko were given some sort of shelter after the eviction. The remaining 8,000 former house owners of Maroko are still groaning under extremely harsh economic conditions still waiting for justice.
Findings has also shown that Lagos state government under civilian administrations had actually attempted displacing the former Maroko evictees out of their current abode in Ilasan Housing Estate otherwise known as Jakande Estate along Lagos-Epe Express by sending demolition gangs more than five times. Those demolition gangs allegedly razed about 100 shanties belonging to Maroko evictees.