In a twist to the drama that trailed demolition of structures and shanties at Otodo Gbame Waterfront in Eti-Osa Local Government, the Lagos State House of Assembly has declared Elegushi Royal Family as the rightful owner of the land.
The House also absolved the royal family and the police of incessant killings, illegal detention, harassment and continued intimidation of the indigenes levelled against them in a petition over the true ownership of the expanse of land historically known as Ebute-Ikate, which the fishermen squatters refer to as Otodo-Gbame.
This much formed part of the resolutions of the State House of Assembly passed at its plenary on Thursday, January 12, 2017, after debating the report of an investigation into the allegations of harassment and intimidation against one Mrs Adebayo, Oba Saheed Elegushi, Anofi Olnrewaju, Segun Abdullahi Elegushi and top-ranking policemen from Jakande Division.
In the words of the State lawmakers:
“The said land called Otodo-Gbame is historically called Ebute-Ikate, which is part of Ikate land that belongs to Elegushi family and not the petitioners. Moreso, the petitioners, who inhabited Otodo-Gbame, are (mostly from Egun tribe of Cotonou and Togo) squatting in the area without the consent or permission from the Elegushi family.”
Consequently, the House of Assembly directed that “All land owners along the coastal areas of the state should take ownership of their land and report any emergence of shanties and squatters around their land to forestall encroachment.
“His Excellency, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode, the Governor of Lagos State should direct appropriate Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to take necessary steps to enforce compliance in respect of the setback policy on development throughout the state.
“The police and other law enforcement agencies should urgently distinguish between what operates as temporary fishing camps to permanent live-in-shanties so as to prevent the illegal structures from developing into problems for the State.”
For years, Otodo Gbame has been recognised predominantly as a fishing village in Lekki. It boasted of ewe-speaking locals comprising Egun speaking people from Badagry, Dahomey and Togo whose ancestors were among the early settlers in the community for close to a century.
The indigenes have co-existed peacefully until early 2016 when the activities of sand dredgers started affecting their homes and means of livelihood.
This development forced the community to demand an immediate stop to the dredging activities at the Otodo Gbame lagoon by a certain Destiny Dredgers’ International (DDI) Ltd, purportedly owned by Lekki Gardens.
The letter signed by Dansu Hunkpe, the Baale of Otodo Gbame; Paschal Tosinhun, a community leader and Emmanuel Anasu, the community para-legal and addressed to Governor Akinwunmi Ambode and Mudashiru Obasa, Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly read thus:
“The sand-filling of our lagoon and fishing grounds has caused severe hunger in the land. We no longer have money to send our children to school since our fishermen’s work has been cut off.”
The land reclamation activity began around August 2016, with the community watching helplessly as the massive dredging destroyed their fishing traps as well as cut off access to their traditional fishing grounds in the lagoon.
To avoid violence and bloodletting, the slum dwellers, mostly women and children, arrived the Government House around noon in commercial buses (known as Danfo) chanting solidarity songs.
Among other things, the protesters said the dredging had caused water from the main lagoon to stop flowing freely to and from their community.
“It is affecting our community’s health – and leading to the outbreak of disease that killed many of the children in our community. If you visit our community today, the odour from the now stagnant water overwhelms the senses such as we never experienced before now,” they wailed.
From the look of things at the moment, unless a miracle happens, it is apparent that the recent declaration by the Lagos House of Assembly has put a final nail to the coffin of the legendary Otodo Gbame settlement.
Meanwhile copies of resolution passed by the House of Assembly are posted below.