Out from the sea came this low lying place called Lagos, growing from a port city to becoming the nation’s economic hub. Home to well over 20million Nigerians with about 70% of them living in shacks or slums in the city’s coastline and lagoons. From Makoko to Otodo Gbame to Tarkwa Bay to Oniru the list goes on. This is a place prone to and susceptible to environmental impacts due to the changing climate; rising sea levels and flooding.
Of interest in this publication is Tarkwa Bay. Ancestral home to about 4500 peoples who are mainly of Egun and Gunuvi decent whose main occupation is fish farming. It is an escape island for hardworking Lagosian to have fun and relax on weekends and festive seasons.
Located within Lagos, a three and a half hour drive from the new developing, ocean floor sand filled Eko Atlantic , a city that if critics are right pose a potential hazard and unimaginable risk to the people of Lagos and islands like Tarwa Bay.
Martin Lukacs in a Guardian report of 2014 described Eko Atlantic as a place where we can begin to see a possible future – a vision of privatized green enclaves for the ultra rich ringed by slums lacking water or electricity, in which a surplus population scramble for depleting resources and shelter to fend off the coming floods and storms. Protected by guards, guns, and an insurmountable gully – real estate prices – the rich will shield themselves from the rising tides of poverty and a sea that is literally rising. A world in which the rich and powerful exploit the global ecological crisis to widen and entrench already extreme inequalities and seal themselves off from its impacts – this is climate apartheid.
On the 21st of January 2020, slum dwellers and families in Tarkwa bay faced forced eviction one similar to that experienced in 2016 by their brothers living in Otodo Gbame when state security agents allegedly destroyed their homes. Many of them are still homeless despite a court ruling that the Lagos state government should resettle those affected by the demolition.
The Nigerian Navy was reported to have entered Tarkwa Bay community shooting into the air and commanding a swift eviction of the peoples out from their ancestral habitation.
The official reason given for the eviction is that it is part of government’s effort to stop the looting of nearby oil from vandalized pipeline belonging to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). A spokesman for the operation, Commander Thomas Otuji, confirmed this and added that residents had been advised to leave since December. “We found at least 300 illegal spots and dug out pits where oil products were being tapped and sold illegally, even to neighboring countries,” Otuji said.
But the big question now is, take for an example there was discovered in the house of assembly of a state, 10 corrupt members. Would a state government evict the whole house of assembly membership because 10 out of 30 members are corrupt thieves? Or would a university sack all her lectures because 300 lecturers out of 4500 lectures take bribe on a continuum from students for grades?
The ideal thing to do one would think (if the reason given by government is correct), is to fish out the culprits, arrest and prosecute them rather than give untold and unplanned hardship to all the peoples.
In a 2015 blog post by Nnimmo Bassey, he wrote that our coastal cities such as Lagos have been afflicted by the addiction to cementification. No better example could be found for the enclosure and erasure of a public beach (commons) and waterfront than the notorious example of the piece of property called Eko Atlantic. The push against the ocean, lagoon and wetlands definitely attract negative feed backs through floods, properties with early obsolescence and general loss of biodiversity. Some may be delayed, but we can be sure of a day of reckoning, he said.
But barely 5years after this report is another eviction of peoples located very close to the said new city without any consideration of the inhabitants, as to where the peoples would be resettled.
DISPLACED is an ongoing project by Omoregie Osakpolor, a documentary photographer based in Lagos and Benin City, Nigeria.. He began this project in late 2016 when he began documenting some daily moments in the lives of waterfront community peoples.
The project tells the story of the Egun people who are struggling to keep their identities and communities in the midst of the city called Lagos ( of which they make a significant part) against the backdrop of globalization.
He is faced with these questions in the pursuit of this assignment; what happens to the peoples culture, religion and identity when they are forcefully and violently evicted from a place that they have known and called home for generations?The project pays tribute to the resilient spirit of this people. You can read more of his work on his website.
The Images are created by Omoregie Osakpolor and the text is written by Babawale Obayanju