Nigeria, Refugees in their Homeland: resettle Gosa, Iddo Evictees now!
Thousands were forcibly evicted from the indigenous Gosa 1 village located along the Airport Road, Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, on Thursday, April 26, 2012 on the orders of the Nigerian Army.
The demolition of over 100 ancestral homes, businesses, churches, mosques, schools, farmlands, crops, shrines and important cultural relics belonging to indigenous Gbagyi farmers and low-income families were carried out without adequate prior notice, without adequate consultation with affected persons, without payment of compensation or provision of alternate shelter, rendering several families homeless including children, the youth, women and the aged.
The demolition squad comprising heavily armed soldiers of the Nigerian Army and officers of the Nigerian Police Force claimed that the Federal Government has earmarked the demolished areas for the construction of a military barracks. Hence, they mounted a signpost after the violent demolitions, warning indigenes to keep off from the land. Only a primary school built by the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) was spared, which now serves as temporary shelter for some of the evicted families. Ten days after the demolitions, scores of families continue to sleep in the open, near the ruins of their demolished homes because "they have nowhere else to go", and cannot afford the soaring rental costs in the city. Majority of the locals had gone to farm or workplaces only to return to meet their homes completely flattened.
The soldiers used extreme force in carrying out the demolitions. Some local youth who protested against the demolitions of their community were tear-gassed, arrested and detained, until the village head, Chief Micah Wakili and the local government chairman, Honourable H. Micah intervened to secure their release.
The Gosa indigenes’ occupation of the land predates the FCT. As Mama Hauwa Abdulahi, 78, said in Hausa language, (who was seen sleeping in the open with two of her grand-children), "I was born and raised in this community. I feel so much pained that I am now a refugee in my homeland ". The demolition squad also ignored the legal action pending before the Federal High Court in Lugbe instituted by the indigenes to enforce their human rights.
SPACES FOR CHANGE strongly condemns the demolitions, and urges the Nigerian President, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, the National Human Rights Commission to investigate the circumstances of the demolitions and accompanying gross violations of human rights perpetrated by armed security security forces. We are deeply concerned that the demolitions have left evictees vulnerable to other rights violations – such as violence, theft and rape, while obstructing children and the youth’s access to education, water, sanitation facilities and health care centres. People have also been forced to move further from livelihood sources and socio-economic opportunities.
The recent demolition is the latest in a string of demolitions devastating several settlements in the FCT since 2007. Gosa community was affected during the May 2008 demolition exercise carried out by officials of the Department of Development Control and the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA). Not only that, the recent demolition exercise brazenly flouts the FCT’s resettlement policy which involves the provision of housing at the indigene resettlement schemes, compensation for their land and infrastructure, and the provision of adequate farmland.
SPACES FOR CHANGE also condemns in very strong terms, the ongoing demolitions in Iddo village - an informal settlement along Airport Road - being carried out by FCDA officials and security operatives under the guise of a manhunt for Boko Haram suspects. As the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has so clearly stated, “The very object and purpose of anti-terrorist initiatives in a democratic society is to protect democratic institutions, human rights and the rule of law, not to undermine them”. Accordingly, we strongly condemn the demolition of private homes and destruction of people’s sources of livelihoods as a Boko Haram combatant strategy, considering the resulting incalculable suffering, displacement, devastation and the massive social and economic rights deprivations of the affected poor populations.
We urge the Nigerian president, the FCT Minister, the Director of Development Control and FCDA authorities to immediately halt the demolitions of informal settlements in the Federal Capital Territory and ensure that the evicted families are provided with relief in the form of alternative housing and/or fair compensation. We also urge them to urgently explore options of in situ upgrading, the provision of sites and services schemes, and other methods of ensuring access to affordable housing for Abuja’s residents.
SPACES FOR CHANGE is committed to protecting and promoting the rights of the populations affected by the unlawful evictions and demolitions, and is fully determined to utilize all democratic and legitimate options to vindicate their trampled rights.
SPACES FOR CHANGE