Habitat International Coalition
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Urgent Action: Hundreds of Thousands to be Evicted in Port Harcourt, Nigeria (Case NIG–FEDN 060809)
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Port Harcourt, Nigeria authorities to evict communities,rendering hundreds of thousands homeless

Dear Members and Friends,

HLRN has just received news from its local counterparts in Port Harcourt (Nigeria) about massive evictions planned by local authorities and private developers.  If the agreed upon plans are carried out, hundreds of thousands of people in 55 communities will be left homeless over the coming year.  Your URGENT ACTION is needed.

Please note that a sample letter can be downloaded at the bottom of to this Call to Urgent Action for your convenience.  For more details or to directly support the case, please visit: http://www.hlrn.org/english/cases.asp .  Please also make sure that letters sent individually are also cc'd to the UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, Raquel Rolnick, at:  urgent-action@ohchr.org .

Thank you,

Urgent Actions Team (HLRN)

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Urgent Action Appeal

 

Case NIG–FEDN 060809

 

Port Harcourt, Nigeria authorities to evict communities,

rendering hundreds of thousands homeless

House/community demolitions, forced evictions, use of force, deprivation of the means of subsistence

 

 

The Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN), part of Habitat International Coalition (HIC), a global coalition of member organizations in over 100 countries, is deeply disturbed to have learned from our counterparts in the National Union of Tenants of Nigeria (NUTN) and other sources in Nigeria about the mass evictions and demolitions taking place in Port Harcourt.  Your urgent action is required.

 

HLRN has learned that the Rivers State government is intending to embark on mass evictions in the Port Harcourt area of Rivers State this summer.  Local sources warn that the state government already has approached various commanders of the Nigerian armed forces, including the army, airforce, navy and the police, to provide their services by assisting in the planned evictions of all waterfront settlements in Port Harcourt. In a meeting with stakeholders on 14 July 2009, the state governor, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, has confirmed that the state will not yield in its decision to demolish the entire waterfront of Port Harcourt as part of its beautification efforts for Port Harcourt and its environs as an attempt to "create a better living environment for residents.”[i] The Governor has promised that the demolitions would take place in phases so as to be able properly to evaluate and enumerate the lands and determine the appropriate compensation. In total, 55 waterfront communities will be demolished as part of the intended year-long project. The government has claimed to have plans to spend 20 billion Naira (€89,544,000) in compensation,[ii] all of which has been earmarked for the landlords’ population, and not the tenants.  Thus far, even the amount paid to the landlords has not reached one-quarter the publicly stated allotment.   

 

The Rivers State government has claimed further that the development plans were in an effort to improve the security and living conditions of the local population.  According to Secretary to the State Government, Mr. Magnus Ngei Abe, "There is no place in the world where people live in the kind of place you live now at Abonnema Wharf [in Port Harcourt] and it is the responsibility of government to change all that for the good of everyone.”[iii] Despite these public proclamations of state intentions for public service, the evictions likely will both leave hundreds of thousands homeless and exacerbate local ethnic tentions.

 

Should the evictions take place, one-fourth of the total population of Port Harcourt, or approximately 200,000 people, are expected to be at risk of homelessness and victimization from state violence. In addition, the evictions probably will escalate ethnic tensions between the Okrikans and the Ikwerres, who each have land claims in the region. Specifically, the Okrikans, who are primarily settled along the Port Harcourt waterfronts, perceive the upcoming evictions by the governor, an indigenous Ikwerre (a community that predominantly occupies the Port Harcourt uplands), as an attempt to remove the Okrikans from Port Harcourt. 

 

In addition to planned evictions, some of which have already begun, Port Harcourt’s military forces have arrested over 1,000 Njemanze waterfront residents on the morning of 5 August 2009 who were protesting the planned demolition of their homes.  According to local sources among those arrested were many women and children, whos whereabouts remain unknown. 

 

Legal Implications

The ongoing demolitions and evictions contravene the 1999 Nigerian Constitution, legislation, national policies and Nigeria’s human rights obligations under international law. Section 37 of the Nigerian Constitution guarantees the fundamental rights to privacy and family life. Enjoying these rights is essential to realizing the human right to adequate housing enshrined in Article 11 (1) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESR), which is binding on Nigeria.  Nigeria’s housing policy formally recognizes both the right to housing as consistent with essential human need and the government’s corresponding obligation to ensure all persons’ access to adequate housing. 

 

The ongoing Port Harcourt demolitions and evictions also violate the right to life and dignity of the human person, as enshrined in sections 33(1) and 34(1) of the Constitution of Nigeria, and Articles 4 and 5 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR). Moreover, the private-venture projects, for which Rivers State officials carry out these violations in the progressive Abonnema Wharf and Njemanze demolitions, also may be in contravention of Article 14 of ACHPR, as it serves private interest and not the overall well-being of the public.

 

The evictions so far have been arbitrary. Officials are violating a bundle of human rights and several treaties to which Nigeria is a ratifying party through their failure to conduct effective consultation with the affected inhabitants; the government’s failure to provide reparations, including restitution and compensation; and the use of force, as well as being inconsistent with the necessity and proportionality principles.

 

Notably, these serial violations by official acts of commission and omission constitute breaches of internationally recognized elements of the right to adequate housing. Having ratified the ICESCR on 29 October 1993, the State of Nigeria is treaty bound to conduct itself in accordance with these minimum norms of state behaviour. Thus, by condoning these Port Harcourt waterfront evictions, Nigeria is violating Articles 6, 7, 10, 11, 12 and 13 of the ICESCR, including duties specified in General Comments Nos. 4 & 7 on the human right to adequate housing.

 

In its 1998 review of Nigeria, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights already addressed the unacceptability of the housing-rights situation in the country, saying that it is:

appalled at the great number of homeless people, and notes with concern the acute housing problem in Nigeria where decent housing is scarce and relatively expensive. The urban poor, especially women and children, are forced to live in makeshift shelters in appalling and degrading conditions presenting hazards for both physical and mental health.

 

The current and the still-planned evictions and demolitions, with their grave human and material consequences, also violate the human right to private and family life, to access to justice, to work, education and health, all of which rights are guaranteed in the above-cited and other international and regional human rights treaties that the Federal Republic of Nigeria has ratified, as well as enshrined in its 1999 Constitution.

 

Actions Requested

Please write to the Nigerian Government, the Government of Rivers State and local Port Harcourt authorities urging them to comply with their human rights treaty obligations by taking immediate steps to: 

A.    Ensure the immediate halt to the Port Harcourt demolitions and fostering a culture of people-oriented urban renewal and upgrading process through dialogue with the settlements/communities;

B.   Review and amending the Land Use Act (1978) to ensure that the social function of land is at its centre;

C.   Give adequate notice to the tenants before proceeding with any further demolition and ensuring that premises occupied by the tenants are both empty and vacant before carrying out any further demolition;

D.   Provide tenants with adequate alternative accommodation before proceeding with the demolition, and holding consultation with NUTN  in the determination of alternative accommodation consistent with the express needs of the waterfront inhabitants;

E.    Ensure fair and full compensation for all affected communities, in order to enable the inhabitants to rebuild their houses, other structures and livelihoods, while government provides basic infrastructures and planning, thereby restoring the communities. Where restoration may not be possible (e.g., due to projects of national or public interest within the principles of human rights and democratic society), authority should provide inhabitants the opportunity to choose nearby resettlement;

F.    Ensure that needed land is affordable and accessible for the ordinary citizens of Nigeria by creating an enabling environment by installing necessary infrastructural facilities and allocating adequate lands/houses to those whom the demolitions have affected, including with gradual payment/repayment plans; and

G.   Provide temporary land allocation that enables temporary shelter for the affected people, as most of them do not have anywhere to go after eviction, and are sleeping in uncompleted buildings.

 

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Please click here to download the Sample Letter to the duty holders listed below. Kindly inform HLRN and National Union of Tenants of Nigeria (NUTN) of any action undertaken, including sending a copy of your letter to the authorities, quoting the code of this appeal (NIG–FEDN 220709) to: urgentactions@hlrn.org and info.nutn@yahoo.com and to the UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing Raquel Rolnik, at: E-mail: urgent-action@ohchr.org.

 

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Official Addressees:

H.E. Mr. Al Haji Umaru Yar’Adua

President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria    

State House

Federal Secretariat Phase 2

Shehu Shagari Way

Abuja, Federal Capital Territory

Federal Republic of Nigeria

Fax : +234 (0)9 234–1733

 

H.E. Mrs. Grace Ekpiwhre

Minister of State of Housing & Urban Development

Federal Government Secretariat, Mabushi

Abuja, Federal Capital Territory

Federal Republic of Nigeria

[no fax or email address available; HLRN and NUTN will ensure delivery]

 

Executive Director

National Human Rights Commission

Plot 800 Blantyre Street, Wuse 11,
Abuja, Federal Capital Territory

Federal Republic of Nigeria 
[no fax or email address available; HLRN and NUTN will ensure delivery]

 

H.E. Mr. Chibuike Amaechi

Executive Governor of Rivers State

Government House

Port Harcourt, Rivers State

Federal Republic of Nigeria

[no fax or email address available; HLRN and NUTN will ensure delivery]

 

H.E. Mr. Tonye Harry

Speaker, Rivers State House of Assembly

House of Assembly Complex, Moscow Road

Port Harcourt, Rivers State

Federal Republic of Nigeria

[no fax or email address available; HLRN and NUTN will ensure delivery]

 

H.E. Mr. Joseph U. Ayalogu

Ambassador

Permanent Mission of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to the United Nations

Rue Richard Wagner 1

1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland

Fax:    +41 (0)22 734–1053

Email: mission.niferia@ties.itu.int


[i]  Austine Unoarumi, "No Going Back on Demolition of Waterfronts—Amaechi,” Leadership Nigeria (10 July 2009), at:

http://leadershipnigeria.com/index.php/news/headlines/3482-no-going-back-on-demolition-of-waterfronts--amaechi.

[ii]  Marth Goswell, "Waterfronts Demolition Provokes More Protests,” The Mirror (17–23 July 2009).

[iii]  George Onah, "Rivers Waterfront Dwellers Protest Planned Demolition Exercise,” Vanguard (15 July 2009), at: http://www.vanguardngr.com/2009/07/15/rivers-waterfront-dwellers-protest-planned-demolition-exercise/.




 
Tags
• Destruction of Housing   • Economic, Social and Cultural Rights   • Forced Evictions   • Global Themes   • Homeless    • Housing and Land Rights / Right to Adequate Housing   • Housing and Land Rights Violations   • Housing and Target People   • Housing Policies   • Privatization   • Right to the City   • Security of Tenure   • Technical Areas of Housing   • Tenants   • Urgent Action Appeals   
   
 


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