Maroko 27 years after, the ghost of the oppressed has refused to rest in peace
The flood has not only been consistent, it has also wrecked a lot of damage; reminding them that one cannot sow thorns and expect flowers to blossom.
Before Lekki, there was Maroko.
The evil that was perpetrated against the Biafrans could be falsely justified that in war all is fair. But for the Maroko evictees, no words can give reasons for the horror they were brutally forced to experience.
Not everybody remembers Maroko today. The haughtiness of Lekki's flamboyant structures, coupled with some classified part of Victoria Island, seems to make a mockery of her memory.
Maroko was what is today known as Oniru Royal Estate; some parts of Victoria Island and Lekki Phase one.
Being a settlement of low-income earners, Maroko easily attracted a lot of migrants as it was in close proximity to economically robust areas.
They made their living by supplying the needed skills to businesses located at nearby Islands of Lagos. And with a population of over 300,000 people (out of which about 50,000 were children), and 10,000 landlords, Maroko became very popular among Lagosians.
It is important to state here that Maroko, as a community, was humble, contented, and peaceful. community.
However, in July 1990, a tragic event occurred. But shortly before then, they were graced with a visitation.
On November 17, 1989, Gen. Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida which was the head of states, Raji Rasaki the then governor of Lagos state and the then newly created Eti-Osa Local Government boss, Olatunde Beecroft, visited Maroko.
And because almost all the languages in Nigeria were duly represented in the community, IBB, during the trip, described Maroko as 'a mini Nigeria'.
In addition, he urged the residents to continue to embrace government programmes; promising that soon, he would send Rasaki to fast track the development of the community.
The ovations that followed were high and the jubilation was contagious. Little did they know it was a plot.
How could they have known?
So it happened that over the course of twelve days on July 14, 1990, the Nigerian government destroyed the entire settlement of Maroko, which includes residential houses, religious institutions, schools, businesses, medical clinics, and community spaces; just after seven days of quit notice.
There were residents who were too young, too old, too ill or too heavy with pregnancy to act swiftly. Eleven-year-old Bose Atie, a primary five student of Kuramo Primary School, Victoria Island, died when walls of her father's house, located in 20, Seriki Street, Maroko, fell on her.
She was among the many that lost their lives in the process.
It was the peak of raining season, and those that managed to survive the raid were subjected to helplessness. Words cannot possibly describe their misery.
According to the Leader of Maroko Evictees Committee, Tajudeen Jegede; should one put all the things that happened in Maroko in mind, such a fellow would not last more than two years before he or she died of heart attack.
"My dear brother," he reportedly went on to say: "Maroko story is really too sad to talk about. I lost a lot to the Maroko injustice. How many will I count? I lost three wives. There were a lot of atrocities; raping housewives, raping young girls. Some of the demolitions were carried out in the night."
There are thousands of similar experiences.
Sadly, the Nigerian government has failed to give a sensible reason for the forceful eviction up until this day.
They had said at a time that the residents were chased out because the land was below the sea level and all they wanted was for the people to vacate the place, sand fill it and return them there. What a story for the gods?
Yes, once in a while, its residents experienced ocean incursion but never was it recorded that the surge carried the least domestic animal.
The truth is, just like David in the scripture saw the wife of Uriah and lusted after her, so did the elites, with Rasaki as their arrow head, saw Maroko and thought it good for mega urbanization.
After all, the Island of Victoria was beginning to fall short of space and there were millionaires who wanted to let others know they have arrived.
Thus, King David had to devise a plot to get Uriah killed if Bathsheba is to become his own.
But shamelessness will not let them admit this. The disease of inhumanity has eaten deep into their souls.
Shamefully, that same reason for which they claim to have demolished Maroko still happens in the luxurious clustered phases of Lekki. Only that it is now worse than before.
As a matter of fact, the flood has not only been consistent, it has also wrecked a lot of damage; reminding them that one cannot sow thorns and expect flowers to blossom.
Why have they not come to demolish lekki, to re-sand fill, since they care more for the safety of Nigerians?
During the last flood incursion, which was July 11, 2017, the commissioner of environment was reported to have said that it is now of paramount importance for owners of buildings or structures impeding the free-flow of storm water, wherever they exist in the State, are to voluntarily quit forthwith in the overriding public interest or risk being removed by the State Government…
Upon hearing this, one is forced to ask: Is there a structure in Lekki that was raised without an approved plan? Were surveys not carried out before their approval? Who did the approving?
Another demolition is coming, and the poor people are getting worried.
When Maroko was demolished, there were no plans by the government to relocate the evictees.
It was through endless agitations by civil society organizations, shouting to the world that made them reconsider. Prominent among the activists were Femi Falana, the Civil Liberties Organisation, and Prof. Wole Soyinka.
When the government announced that they have provided places the evictees could stay at Jakande, Epe, and Ikota, they did it to save their face.
It was an abandoned estate over-grown with elephant grass with most of the blocks wanting in roofs, windows, and doors. The ground also was filled with swampy waters and reptiles of all kinds.
The abandoned estate
There was no electricity, no roads or drinkable water. There was also no health centre and the nearest primary and secondary schools then were so far that the children stopped going to school.
For the sake of greed, the contended people of Maroko were forced to experienced separation from family members, desertion, loneliness, hopelessness, hunger and all sort of illnesses associated with it.
And to survive, young girls turned prostitutes for bread and their young men got lost without focus.
The majority were allocated flats that never exist.
Countless of them died struggling to survive as many got lost with the wind.
It's been twenty-seven years since the forceful eviction yet justice has refused to prevail, and greed still has the upper hand over empathy.