A series of state-ordered demolitions and riots among slum dwellers have made some 30,000 people homeless in Nigerian megacity Lagos, a rights group and residents say.
The Justice and Empowerment Initiatives (JEI), a Lagos-based rights group, said in a statement on Thursday that bulldozers escorted by police arrived late on Wednesday to raze the makeshift housing in Lekki island and other up-market districts.
The rights group noted that officers had gone ahead with demolitions despite a court order to stop such plans, pending a hearing. The group has also published videos showing people fleeing in boats. JEI’s account has been confirmed by witnesses and residents.
A worker told Reuters that he fled with his family after their house was destroyed in the troubled area. “Police came at 11 p.m. and ordered us to go. We left by boat,” the workers said, adding, “We have nowhere to go now.” A spokeswoman for Lagos police, however, denied claims that the police had demolished buildings. She instead stressed that officers had detained several people for setting on fire makeshift houses in Lekki district.
Lekki, a prime site for investors, has attracted poor Nigerians and workers from Benin Republic, a poor nation located just west of Lagos. The site has been a scene of riots among slum dwellers competing for jobs and space.
The trouble started when riots erupted this week between local slum settlers and job seekers from Benin Republic. Residents and witnessed said that several rows of shanty buildings had been burned down.
The overcrowding in Lagos looks likely to continue in the coming years. Every day, thousands of Nigerian villagers head to Lagos, seeking work in a city of 23 million.
According to UN estimates, by 2050, Nigeria’s population is set to more than double to 400 million, making it the world’s third most populous nation after China and India.