Break the silence on the evictions: defend housing rights in Nigeria!
What’s going on in Nigeria?
On November 28th 2005, President Obasanjo gave the go-ahead for the most massive and violent operation of forced evictions in living memory, not just in Africa, but in the world.
The demolitions and forced evictions affect over 4 million inhabitants, out of a total of 7 million residentsin the federal capital, Abuja. Acting on the orders of the Minister, Mallam Nasir El Rufai, Chairman of the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA), officials of the FCDA escorted by the police, the army and bulldozers, began to destroy the houses, schools, hospitals, churches and mosques of Abuja.
Local organizations and NGOs denounce the action and stress the incredibly large number of people involved : no adequate notice was given; no government plans were proposed for the re-housing or compensation of those evicted; 800,000 people were forced into homelessness particularly in the area along the International Airport Road, at Pyakasa, Kuchingoro, Garamajiji, Aleita, Chika, Galadimawa, Gosa A., Gosa Sarki, and Sabon Lugbe. Other forced evictions took place in Gwagwa, Karimu and Dei dei. Over 2,000 families are forced to sleep amongst the rubble of their former homes or in makeshift camps. Over 15,000 children have been forced to give up school. The extreme conditions give rise to violence, especially against women - including pregnant women - and girls, who are thus even more exposed to the dangers of prostitution and AIDS.
The reason for all this cruelty lies in the decision to implement the master plan drawn up in 1978 by the International Consortium of Planners, Urban Designers and Architects (USA), to develop the city of Abuja, which at that time had just been nominated the new federal capital of Nigeria. The master plan, which has been in the pipeline for years, envisages a population of 3 million inhabitants at the most. According to the logic of the master plan, therefore, the extra 4 million inhabitants are outside the legal limit and must be expelled from their homes.
To these figures must be added the 1,388 families violently evicted by the Ministery for Housing and the Defence Ministry on December 6th 2005 from publicly-owned appartments in Lagos (1004 Flats, Victoria Island, Awolowo Road Towers, Eric Moore Road Towers, Alagbon Towers, Reeve Road Towers and Mulliner Road Towers). Other planned forced evictions will bring the figure to over 20,000 residents made homeless by the policy of privatization of the housing sector launched in 2003 under the so-called Monetization Policy. These evictions were carried out by the military, in direct contrast with Court decisions, as denounced by Ray Onyegu Executive Director of the Social-Economic Rights Initiative and the lawyer representing the residents evicted from publicly-owned apartments in Lagos.
Is this the Nigerian government’s idea of how to implement the UN-Habitat “City Without Slums” programme? Is this what hides behind the political rhetoric of Olusegun Mimiko, the Minister of Housing and Urban Development during the celebration of World Habitat Day on October 3rd 2005 in the presence of the UN-Habitat representatives? Is this the true significance of the poster the government dedicated to the implementation of Millennium Goal No. 11 on display throughout Nigeria in the three main languages Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo?
Just one image is enough to sum up this despicable policy, one picture with no need for translation which even the illiterate could understand: a bulldozer in action. You cannot reduce the number of slum-dwellers just by destroying homes and evicting inhabitants.
The Nigerian government is in flagrant breach of international law.
Let us remember that Nigeria ratified Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, in particular General Comments 4 and 7 prohibits evictions without an adequate and agreed relocation. The Nigeria Government is carrying out the evictions despite the Concluding observations of the UN Committee adopted at its 6th to 9th meetings held from 29 April to 1 May 1998: "42. The Committee urges the Government of Nigeria to cease forthwith the massive and arbitrary evictions of people from their homes and take such measures as are necessary in order to alleviate the plight of those who are subject to arbitrary evictions or are too poor to afford a decent accommodation. In view of the acute shortage of housing, the Government of Nigeria should allocate adequate resources and make sustained efforts to combat this serious situation."
Nigeria also ratified Article 27 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child that provides a right to adequate housing. The Nigeria Government is carrying out the evictions despite the Concluding observations on Nigeria adopted by the Committee on the Rights of the Child adopted at the 1025th meeting held on 28 January 2005: "70. The Committee recommends that the State party: (a) Undertake a comprehensive study on the causes and scope of this phenomenon and establish a comprehensive strategy to address the high and increasing number of street children with the aim of preventing and reducing this phenomenon; (b) Ensure that street children are provided with adequate nutrition, clothing, housing, health care and educational opportunities, including vocational and life-skills training, in order to support their full development;"
Why then do we hear nothing from the international community, which only a few months ago, rightly voiced its opposition to forced evictions in Zimbabwe?
Probably because these evictions are the result of globalization on African cities, which first caused massive urbanization. Now these same cities have become saleable goods for foreign investors for whom oil is no longer enough.
Let us not forget that, according to the most recent IMF Report , Nigeria has a foreign debt of 32,917 million US dollars, and however unfair, hateful and illegal it might appear, there are those who would insist on repayment, the G8 countries among them.
If we take a closer look at who benefits from the privatization of public housing and the demolitions envisaged by the master plan for Abuja, we can trace the instigators of these crimes which are destroying lives and whole communities.
That’s why hundreds of local inhabitants associations, women, NGOs, individuals, and the Church are breaking the cloak of silence. That’s why they are mobilizing on the basis of an Appeal launched by the “Nigeria Zero Eviction Coalition” demanding a stop to the demolitions and evictions, demanding compensation and immediate rehousing of the homeless, and the setting up of a commission of enquiry. The Appeal also demands a stop to privatization and the master plan for Abuja, and the freezing of all foreign investments (G8, World Bank, IMF, European Union) if they result in the violation of human rights, especially housing rights. In contrast, the Appeal proposes channeling of the resources freed by the cancellation of the countries foreign debt into People’s Funds for Land and Housing controlled by all parties concerned, in particular the inhabitants’ associations.
As in the case of the W Nairobi W Campaign and the battle against the evictions in the Dominican Republic, the foreign debt is therefore the weapon which could turn weakness into strength, by changing from a means of extortion in the hands of the rich countries into a means of liberation for poor countries.
To break this silence on the fate of millions of people and put pressure on international institutions to play the role they should, this appeal is addressed to UN-Habitat, the European Union and the Africa Union.
Much, if not all, depends on international solidarity in support of the Zero Eviction Campaign in Nigeria.
Break the silence on the forced evictions in Nigeria!
Sign the Appeal now .
Your signature will reach all parties involved immediately!