Nigeria: Amnesty International welcomes decision to make greater Port Harcourt master plan available to public

Just days after Amnesty International published its report highlighting the threat of forced eviction of more than 200,000 people in Port Harcourt for urban regeneration, the authorities in the region have agreed to make public the full 2009 Greater Port Harcourt Master Plan.  

The Greater Port Harcourt City Development Authority has given residents of the waterfront communities, community organisations and non-governmental organisations the opportunity to see the plans which are set to impact them.

Amnesty International’s UK Director Kate Allen said:

“This decision to disclose details of the plans to the people who are most likely to be affected is welcomed.

“These plans which include dramatically regenerating the area should have been disclosed long before now, particularly as there is the risk that more than 200,000 people are to be forcibly evicted from their homes and some developments have already begun.

“The authorities must make every effort to ensure genuine and transparent public consultation with the residents of the waterfront and to ensure that those affected by the regeneration plans will have their views taken into consideration.”

Amnesty also welcomed the authorities’ commitment to produce a summarised version of the Master Plan, so that details are easily accessible to all members of the public and affected residents of the waterfronts.

These commitments follow the publication of an Amnesty International report ‘Just Move Them: Forced Evictions in Port Harcourt, Nigeria’.

The report documents the August 2009 forced eviction of 13,000 residents in Njemanze waterfront, Port Harcourt. It also highlights the failure by the Rivers State government to ensure the progressive realisation of the right to housing and the failure to put in place safeguards against forced evictions in its preparation for the demolition of other settlements in the waterfront areas.

The Rivers State government claims the demolition of the waterfronts is necessary for the urban renewal of the area and to implement the Greater Port Harcourt Master Plan, the main strategy document for the city’s redevelopment programme.

The plan, launched in April 2009, is intended to guide the development of the city for the next 50 years. It encompasses the entire city and some surrounding areas and the “development of the waterfront promenade” is a central feature. But the plan, which is reported to run to four volumes, was developed without consultation with residents, and especially residents of the waterfront.

In addition, the Rivers State government has until now refused to made a copy of the plan available to members of the public.   

Kate Allen continued:

“Any alternative housing provided to people should meet adequate housing requirements, especially in terms of location, affordability, and access to public services.”

NOTES TO THE EDITOR

On 29 October 2010, representatives of the Greater Port Harcourt City Development Authority (GPHDA) met with Amnesty International delegates in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. The GPHDA agreed, at the meeting, to make the full master plan available to interested persons, either for viewing at their offices or for making copies, provided a written request was submitted beforehand. Amnesty international welcomes this development, and urges the GPHDA to make as many copies as freely available as possible, including an electronic version.
 
The GPHDA also committed to produce a summary version of the four-volume master plan and to ensure it is easily accessible to interested parties. Amnesty international urges the GPHDA to set a timeline within which they will produce and make available to members of the public, the summary version. The GPHDA should make the documents available to representatives of the waterfront community, Nigerian civil society and non-governmental organisations in its development.

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