A Nigerian governor sent policemen to set houses of the poor on fire, now his godfather has deserted him Updated for 2021


Updated: March 5, 2021

Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, and several other jet-flying billionaires live in Lagos, Nigeria’s smallest, but most populous and influential state, often described as the commercial nerve of West Africa.

However, with the small landmass comes the battle for space that often pits the SUV-riding rich against the poor, who usually live without electricity, security, sanitation, healthcare or food.

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Historically, virtually all governors in the past have favored the rich and punished the poor with illegal mass evictions using corrupt judges to give it a semblance of legality.

The current governor of Lagos, Akinwunmi Ambode, is no different. He only escalated the evictions and added a dark order to them: set their houses on fire and force them to move away.

In 2016, despite a court order restraining the government from carrying out mass evictions, Governor Ambode sent bulldozers to crush the houses of Otodo Gbame residents, a waterfront community in Lekki area of Lagos.

He also empowered policemen to set those houses on fire. They did. And within days, thousands of Otodo Gbame residents were rendered homeless.

Their homes, schools, clinics, places of worship and trade were razed and burned to the ground.

Those who resisted the mass evictions were shot dead.

Evicted Nigerian residents celebrating landmark ruling on Wednesday 21 June, 2017

Pleas from religious leaders and protests by activists, including those from the international community fell on deaf ears.

Megan Chapman, an American lawyer, who has given all she could to defend evicted residents in Lagos celebrates on 21 June 2017 after a court victory.

Children suddenly found themselves without a place to go to school. Infants and their mothers had no bed and no houses to return to.

At the heat of the crisis, the government’s spokesman told foreign journalists that Otodo Gbame residents were intruders. They were non Nigerians occupying an illegal land for centuries.

Their voter’s cards or national identification cards did nothing to change the minds of the governor and his team.

Otodo Gbame residents were being evicted to give the land to a royal family that would in turn sell plots to the rich who would build residences, malls and recreation centers.

There were no alternative measures for the poor. They were only asked to go away without any provision for their next move.

More court orders did not persuade the governor to stop the forced evictions. He even doubled down and evicted more people and set more houses on fire.

Now, the man who handpicked Governor Ambode has turned against him only months to Nigerian general elections next year.

Local newspapers are reporting that Bola Ahmed Tinubu has dumped Ambode and endorsed Jide Sanwo-Olu for the primary elections taking place in just two weeks.

Bola Tinubu

Mr Tinubu has successfully installed all his successors since he left office as the governor of Lagos in 2007.

Mr Ambode just days ago picked the nomination form for his re-election, but local newspapers are reporting that he had been asked to withdraw from the race or be impeached.

The Lagos House of Assembly has called off its recess and would be reconvening on Monday.

It denied that its agenda would be the impeachment of Ambode, but refused to say why it was reconvening.

Local media reported that 57 council chairmen, who are fiercely loyal to Tinubu, have met and pledged their support to his preferred candidate, Jide Sanwo-Olu.

Ambode now faces the task of beating Sanwo-Olu and another APC stalwart, Obafemi Hamzat, in the primary if allowed to contest for the party ticket.


Simon Ateba
Simon Ateba
Simon Ateba covers the White House, the U.S. government, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions for Today News Africa in Washington D.C. Simon can be reached on simonateba@todaynewsafrica.com


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