The small fishing community of Otodo Gbame is one of many waterfront settlements in Lagos that is under constant threat of eviction. In November 2016 homes were destroyed and thousands of residents forced to flee.
Otodo Gbame sits on a small peninsula with access to water on all sides.
Fishing provides the main source of livelihood amongst residents.
The peninsula is part of Lekki in the south of Lagos. Much of the surrounding land is owned by the powerful Elogushi family.
Lekki is now home to some of the fastest developing neighborhoods in sub-Saharan Africa. The land prices in Lagos have skyrocketed following the oil boom.
In an attempt to take control of the land occupied by the community, homes were forcibly and unlawful destroyed, displacing thousands.
Remaining and new buildings sit amongst the rubble of homes razed by 'hoodlums' sent into the community.
Rosaline Esinsu is a leader in the Celestial Church in Otodo Gbame and also sells smoked fish and is a community leader. She hasn't seen her husband since he fled into the water following the evictions.
This church was destroyed, though the altar still remains as a place of worship.
Pascal Torshun, a fisherman and Otodo Gbame elder stands amongst the remnants of a church. Pascal sold drinking water, and is an active community member.
Church plays a central role in residents' lives. On a Sunday new makeshift churches form a place of worship amongst the rubble of the destroyed community.
Residents continue to worship in community churches on Sundays.
Traditional Yoruba religion and symbolism is also intertwined with Christianity.
Many students have lost their schools following the violent evictions.
Nasu Ahmed recalls how his home and possessions were set on fire, and that he hasn't seen his parents since the evictions. His school books and work were burnt and he no longer has anywhere to study.
Samuel is a member of the Nigerian Slum / Informal Settlements Federation, a grassroots movement of the urban poor. The Federation work to solve justice and development problems in Nigeria, including fighting for a security of tenure.
Paul is a Federation member and one of their many community-based trained para-legals. As a resident of Otodo Gbame, he is helping the struggle for the legal recognition of the right for the community to live on their land.
Despite the evictions, residents have quickly set about rebuilding their homes and continuing their struggle against land-grabbing.
Less than a month after the evictions, the rebuilding efforts are well underway.
Beyond the rubble of a destroyed home, the roof of a new building is being raised.
Residents access water from community wells.
In Lagos and estimated two-thirds of the citiy’s 23 million inhabiltants ive in informal settlements, with a lack of security of tenure a defining characteristic. Without it residents live in constant fear of eviction. However, skyrocketing growth in Lagos has led to conflicts over land, often resulting in violent attacks on poor communities and a continued threat of mass evictions of the urban poor across the city.
In November 2016 more than 30,000 people lost their homes when they were forcibly evicted from their community of Otodo Gbame. Eyewitnesses told how ‘area boys’ (local hoodlum) armed with machetes were sent into the community to douse the buildings in petrol before setting them ablaze. The police then entered, shooting at residents and forcing them to flee to the water where many drowned. Finally, bulldozers were used to demolish homes, schools, churches and other community buildings.
Many residents believe that the powerful Elogushi family who claim ownership over a tract of land that includes Otodo Gbame were behind the evictions.
In January 2017 a Lagos State High Court judge ruled that the waterfront evictions were cruel, inhumane and degrading. Residents have begun returning and commencing the rebuilding process following the destruction.