The Lagos State government has been called upon to respect residents’ rights to shelter and livelihoods, as they are central to the survival and wellbeing of the people.
Eminent environmentalist, Dr. Nnimmo Bassey, made the call in Lagos at a community consultation on “the rights of Makoko fishermen and women”.
The community consultation meeting was organised by Fishnet Alliance,an association of fishers within African shoreline, and Global GreenGrant Funds.
Many such meetings have been held in the past, and in each of them,the people turned out in their numbers, as they saw it as an avenue to amplify their voices for help.
Makoko , a fishing community in Yaba area of Lagos, has been in the news following the public outcry that greeted some developmental projects around the area by the state government.
The projects, which included dredging and sand-filling of the shorelines, were said to pose serious threats to the Makoko people’s existence by destroying the very areas where they conduct their fishing activities, as well as increasing flood incidents that submerged their living hut and shanties.
In a remark, Dr. Bassey said whatever developmental project that is done must be in agreement with the people, otherwise it is unacceptable.
According to him, “everybody has right to safe and satisfactory foods and fishers are the ones providing safe fish.
“They have human right to life, they have a right to involve in lawful economic activities.
“They have a right not to be rendered homeless. Some of the rights I believe fishers must be protected and assisted to have”.
He said Makoko people, through their fishing occupation, were contributing immensely to the economy of Lagos State and needed to be applauded , not demolished.
“Makoko is one of the riverine communities in Lagos. It is a place where you have people from various parts of the country, people who are fishers and they come from other places,they reside here. So,it is a place where you see life in most likely manner, people are very hardworking and families are so united. It is a place that we need to learn from.
“But they face serious challenges. One is the threat of displacement . It is always hovering over this community. This is a place to live and sleep with one eye, and sadly the activities around the area,the sand-filling,dredging , all these are affecting fishing”.
The fishers who had happily welcomed the guests with their traditional songs and chantings , expressed dismay that all efforts to make the state government come to terms with their plight yielded no results as the dredging and sand-filling activities were ongoing, threatening their existence on all fronts.
According to them, with the sand-filling of the shorelines, they are now compelled to go to the high seas for their fishing activities,and they do not have the facilities to go that far.
The fishers,who called on donors to assist them with funding to acquire bigger boats and other equipment suitable for open ocean fishing, decried that their small and rickety boats often capsize because they cannot withstand the strong ocean current.
Among the fishers were women, aged from 60 years upward including Mrs. Victoria Oyoola and Mr. Dosugan Isaac who said he was born in Makoko over 70 years ago, spending his entire life there.
Isaac noted that he inherited the fishing occupation from his father , insisting that at his age, he could not switch to any other occupation outside fishing.
Lamenting threats to their existence, he stated that though the government had assured them verbally that they won’t eject them, but their actions proved otherwise.
High point of the event was the donation of fishing nets, baskets, ropes ,among others to the fishermen and women by Fishnet Alliance, coordinated by Dr. Nnimmo Bassey.
Covered by Innocent Onoh