N-3Billion World Bank Project, Civil Society Groups Storm Lagos Assembly

To Protest Over Plan To Suspend Lagos Slums Rehabilitation
By Akinmola Ade

As Anxiety grips over 500,000 inhabitants of Lagos slum areas in ,Ajegunle,Agege,Badia,Ijeshatedo,Iwaya,ilaje, Bariga and Makoko over purported plans by the Nigerian office of the World Bank to suspend the funding of the Lagos Metropolitian Development & Governance Project (LMDGP) worth $200million (N3.2 billion),the Speaker Lagos House of Assembly Rt Hon A. Ikuforiji has pledged to intervene to ensure that the-project designed to upgrade the low level of the human,social and infrastructural base of the communities is not abandoned.

Addressing a coalition of 20 Civil society groups under the auspices of Centre for Public Opinion Monitoring(CENPOM) and Conscience Nigeria who stormed the House of Assembly in Alausa,Lagos, today to demand for the status of the project,he assured the demonstrators that the legislators will engage the state Governor and the World Bank to sustain the project saying the House was concerned about the plight of the slum dwellers.

Addressing the Legislators,representatives of the Coalition ComradeTosin Adeyanju and Affez Abiodun said the fears were palpable going by the slow pace of implementation of the projects in the slum areas and information reaching the people hinted that suspension was imminent in September.

At the centre of the plan to halt the redevelopment of Lagos slums was said to be the Nigerian Country Director of the World Bank Ms Francoise Marie Nelly who the source said, had not hidden her dislike for the continuation of the program beyond September 2013.

While the Lagos state Government ,the beneficiary of the loan and the Federal Ministry of Finance which executed the loan agreement of the project had supported the continuation of the project through extension for another 18 months ,a move said to be supported by the Internal Task Team of the Bank, the Country Director have blocked the extension,preferring to transfer the remaining funds in the project to another one.

The World Bank was said to have hinged it's planned withdrawal on the slow disbursement and the recent demolition of illegal structures by squatters carried out by the Lagos state Government on Badia area of the state,insisting that the state Government must compensate the affected persons.

Submitting the protest letter to the Speaker, the Coalition of Civil Societies in Support of Slums Rehabilitation stated that if not nipped in the bud, the suspension of the project will affect the youths and women:They stated in the letter:

"-17000 pupils who are to benefit from the 450 new classrooms under the project would have their education in jeopardy

-60% of the road and infrastructure projects in these areas which are yet uncompleted will be abandoned

- Over 50% of the water projects which will provide drinkable water for the over 2million people are on going and liable to be abandoned upon cessation of the project.

-Over 2 million people who are involved (with over 60 % women and youths)will continue to live in poverty and squalor,since all the social upgrading projects will be abandoned.

-The Productive capacity of the largely vibrant informal sector will be curtailed leading to unimaginable economic and social consequences

"Our legislators sir, As representatives of the people , we call on you to intervene in this impending truncation of the on going upgrading of Slum Areas, so that whatever disagreement the World Bank has with the Lagos State Government or the Federal Ministry of Finance should not be visited on the hapless people.

Our Prayers:
i.The Lagos state House of Assembly should activate its powers as the people's representative to prevail on the Country Director of the World Bank to drop her anti people posture and stop her intension to cancel the LMDG funding for a minimum of 12 months to allow for the completion of all outstanding projects at different levels of potential abandonement.

ii.The Minister of Finance,Dr Mrs Ngozi Okonjo Iweala,incidentally a product of the World Bank should utilize her best endeavors to intervene in a potentially dangerous attempt of the bank's local officials to truncate one of the programmes which has started to give Government and the bank a human face,particularly in Lagos where human deprivation and pauperisation stare us in the face.

iii.While we commend the Lagos State Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola on the efforts to mitigate the pains of the inhabitants of the slum areas particularly the Badiya East affected by the demolition,the Governor should accelerate the rehabilitation and resettlement of the displaced inhabitants and payment of compensation for those wrongly affected.