Close to our compound here in Lagos, there is a settlement of Benin Republic nationals living on the very edge of the water. Many times we have been to their village on one of our morning runs and hitched a boat ride across the water to pick up the run on the other side. We have also, on many occasions, paddled past them on our kayaks, providing entertainment for the children as us group of ‘oyibos’ cruise by on the water.
On our run on Saturday morning, we passed the ‘village’ only to see that it had been devastated. Apparently on Wednesday, Lagos state officials turned up with caterpillars, flattened what they could and burned the rest. I went down on Saturday morning after our run to see the devastation.
At first when I arrived there, I was confronted by the security guards for the residential area in which we live. I asked them what had happened and was duly informed that we do not ‘need’ those people any more. When he saw that I was annoyed by that statement, he changed his tone and seemed to be a bit more sympathetic to their plight. I really think that ‘need’ was not what he really meant. He then explained that the community had been given notice, but had simply ignored it.
The community was made up of families, a school, a church and even a cinema. They were living literally right on the edge of the island, with their homes protruding into the water. I am not judging whether they were or were not meant to be there, I simply cannot get over the level of devastation that has swept through this small community. It was clear to me, walking around the area, that they were not even able to gather up all of their possessions before the Caterpillars and fire swept through the place. The had been ordered to move on elsewhere, but as one elderly, 76 year old lady rhetorically asked me: ‘where must we move to?’