Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), on Friday debunked the allegation that the state deported some indigenes of Anambra State in violation of their fundamental human rights.
Fashola stated this when a delegation of an Igbo socio-cultural group, Aka Ikenga, paid him a visit in his office in Lagos.
He said the facts that were distorted about the whole exercise included the allegation by the Anambra State Government that they were neither informed nor consulted before the alleged deportation took place.
He said, “There was exchange of correspondences. We told them that we had 14 people who claimed to be from Anambra State and all the while, we were telling them of integrating these people back to their home communities. They were replying on their letter heads with “Integration”. So I don’t know how integration has suddenly become deportation.”
The governor, who addressed the group, led by its President, Chief Goddy Uwazuruike, said there was no truth in the allegation or suggestion of deportation, discrimination or violation of rights of Anambra indigenes by the Lagos State Government as alleged by the Anambra State Government.
“I want to use this opportunity to say that none of these suggestions of discrimination or violation of rights is true. I don’t know how I could set out to deport Anambrarians and look Ben (Commissioner for Budget and Economic Planning) in the eye; because that is his state and he is a member of this government and there are no decisions that we take in private that are not discussed extensively and if there are very sensitive issues there, his advice has been very useful,” the governor said.
He said, “These issues have been raised in a politically coloured atmosphere and in a way that seeks to incite our Igbo brothers against their host communities in the run-up to the Anambra governorship election.
“The impression sought to be created is that Lagos has adopted a discriminatory policy against the Ndigbo generally and against the Anambra people in particular.”
He also debunked the suggestion that there were 72 Anambra persons involved in the alleged deportation, pointing out that there were only 14 persons who were taken home to Onitsha at their own request after they were rehabilitated at the state’s rehabilitation centre at Majidun.
“Incidentally, we have ourselves just received a similar notice from the Government of Akwa Ibom State of two alleged Lagos indigenes, whom they picked up in a lunatic clean-up exercise in Uyo and our officials are responding to it,” the Governor said, displaying the letter from the Akwa Ibom State Government dated July 23, 2013 and the response by the Lagos State Government dated July 26, 2013.
The governor expressed dismay that his Anambra State counterpart, Mr. Peter Obi, decided to take the matter to the press instead of seeking clarification from him.
He said, “I have read excerpts in the newspapers of a letter purportedly written by him to His Excellency, Mr. President, where he was quoted as saying among other things that, “…Lagos State did not even bother to consult with Anambra State authorities before deporting 72 persons.”
The governor said his administration had as a policy embarked on the rehabilitation of the mentally ill people, who often roamed the streets with not many people taking note of them, adding that plans were already on to rehabilitate and upgrade the Madijun Centre to a State-run mental institution to complement the Federal-owned Psychiatric Hospital in Yaba.
Meanwhile, a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party in Lagos, Dr. Segun Ogundimu, has said that the action by Lagos could lead to “anarchy” in the country.
Ogundimu, who was speaking to journalists at the state secretariat of the PDP, berated the Lagos State government for its action, insisting that the move was capable of unsettling the country’s democracy.
He said, “If truly something is not done urgently, it may be an invitation to anarchy that may consume us and our nascent democracy. Imagine what will happen if every state of the federation says they are going to start arresting beggars and the destitute for deportation to their states.”
According to him, the move might be a ploy by the Action Congress of Nigeria to force the Anambra State Governor, Peter Obi, to accept to join the newly registered All Progressives Congress, which is a merger of ACN and some other parties.
However, a legal practitioner, Mr. Jiti Ogunye, described the action taken by the Lagos State Government as “legal and constitutional.”
Ogunye said, “Lagos State has lunacy law and environmental law that allow it to clear the streets off beggars and the destitute and then rehabilitate them. So, I won’t call it deportation; what they did was resettlement.
“The Nigerian constitution that gives citizens the right to reside anywhere they want in the country doesn’t give them the right to leave their state for another state to beg and reside under bridges, on the road and in shanties. And the government is expected to let that happen; it’s nonsense and it can’t be right.”