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Land Grabbing: HEDA Condemns Alleged Army’s Intimidation, Seeks Justice

…Petitions Tinubu, COAS, Akpabio; Abass, Ribadu

The Human Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA Resource Centre) has condemned the alleged actions of the Nigerian Army for reported intimidation and land encroachment against the indigenous residents of Ebute-Afuye in Epe, Lagos.

In a statement issued on Sunday, the organization called upon the Federal Government and the Lagos State government to intervene and seek justice for the Ebute Afuye community residents.

HEDA Resource Centre in the statement alleged that the Nigeria Army’s 81 Base Ordinance Corp had commenced the construction of a perimeter fence, posing a grave threat to the existence of the Ebute-Afuye Community.

According to it, this development not only endangers the livelihoods of the residents but also undermines various human development projects implemented by governments and development partners in the area, including efforts by the HEDA Resource Centre.

The statement read: “About a month ago, HEDA Resource Centre was approached by the indigenous people of Ebute-Afuye Community concerning a distressing situation.

“It came to our attention that the Nigeria Army 81 Base Ordinance Corp had initiated the construction of a perimeter fence that poses a severe threat to the existence of these communities.

“This fence not only jeopardizes the livelihoods of the residents but also undermines various human development projects implemented by governments and development partners including HEDA Resource Centre to support the communities.” The statement reads.

“In response to this urgent matter, the HEDA Resource Centre conducted thorough investigations to ascertain the facts surrounding the situation. Our participant observation findings revealed that the Nigerian Army is constructing a wall to relocate its perimeter fence, thereby expanding its land at the expense of the indigenous people of the Ebute Afuye community.

“This expansion entails shifting the known boundary by over 200 meters closer to the lagoon shore at Ebute-Afuye, effectively encroaching upon the homes and livelihoods of many community members.”

HEDA Resource Centre sighted the acquisition notice No. 1111 of 16th July 1970, wherein the then Oloja of Epe, late Oba David Ajayi Fesogbade II, and his chiefs ceded a total of 71.74 acres of land to the Nigerian Army in the community for an agreed sum.

However, while the military barracks have coexisted alongside the indigenous peoples of Ebute Afuye, and other communities, the recent actions of the Nigerian Army represent a clear violation of the rights and interests of the affected communities.

It said: “On 30th January 2024, HEDA Resource Centre addressed letters to key stakeholders including the President Bola Tinubu, Lt. Gen. Taoreed Lagbaja (Chief of Army Staff), Senate President, Godwill Akpabio; Mr Nuhu Ribadu (NSA), Speaker, House of Representative, Rt. Hon. Tajudeen Abass; Senator Tokunbo Abiru (Rep Lagos east senatorial zone) Hon. Wale Raji (Rep Epe federal constituency 1) Governor Babajide Sanyo-Olu, Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Obasa (Speaker, Lagos State House of Assembly), Mr. Lawal Pedro SAN (Attorney General of Lagos), Mr Anthony Ojukwu SAN (Executive Secretary, Nigeria Human Rights Commission), among others.

“These letters not only brought attention to the land grab and displacement of the Ebute-Afuye Community but also urged swift intervention by the Presidency, Nigeria Army and Lagos State Government to halt the construction and ensure the removal of the invasive wall.

“Such actions are necessary to allow residents and fish farmers to continue their livelihood activities without fear or intimidation by armed military personnel.

“Furthermore, we were duly informed by the affected people, that on Tuesday, 6th February 2024, the Nigerian Army held a meeting with them during which they instructed residents to submit passport photographs and personal information for access passes. The Nigerian Army justified its actions by citing orders from higher authorities.

“However, it is evident that the Army’s encroachment on lands beyond the agreed boundaries is unwarranted and detrimental to the well-being of the affected communities.”

Meanwhile, the HEDA Resource Centre condemns these alleged unjust actions by the Nigerian Army and calls for immediate and decisive measures to rectify the situation.

HEDA urges the Federal Government Lagos State Government and all relevant authorities to prioritize the rights and welfare of the indigenous people of Ebute-Afuye Community and to uphold principles of accountability, transparency, and environmental justice.

Efforts to get the response of the Nigerian Army proved abortive as of the time of filling this report.

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