Nigeria: Nigerian authorities must stop forced evictions in Port Harcourt

Southern Nigerian authorities must comply with international human rights standards and stop forced evictions of communities in the oil-rich Niger Delta region, Amnesty International demands today.

Thousands of people forcibly evicted from their homes over the last week in the city of Port Harcourt, capital of the Rivers State, have been left homeless and face further human rights abuses after their homes were demolished by state authorities and they were forced to leave with no notice.

After five days of evictions, 10,000-20,000 residents of Abonnema Wharf - one of 40 waterfront communities built on reclaimed land - are being forced to sleep outside on the street, in cars or shelter in nearby churches, and are vulnerable to further human rights violations.

Many did not know their homes would be demolished until the bulldozers arrived under the supervision of heavily armed security forces. Residents were not given time to collect their belongings and many lost everything.

Residents were not offered any alternative housing or even emergency shelter. The demolitions were carried out during rainy season when the weather conditions are bad and it’s difficult for people to move around to find shelter.

Amnesty’s Poverty and Human Rights Campaign Manager Naomi McAuliffe, said:
“Thousands of people are being made homeless because of these illegal forced evictions and communities are being destroyed. Governor Amaechi of Rivers State is committed to the violent eviction of thousands of people in Port Harcourt and we need to send a message to him that their human rights must be protected.

“Rivers State authorities must call off the bulldozers immediately to comply with regional and national laws and international human rights standards. They must provide emergency relief to those who have lost their homes and offer them adequate alternative housing and compensation for all their losses.

“In addition Amnesty wants to see a full and independent investigation, and a review of the role police and soldiers in assisting the demolitions, ensuring that they are not ordered to assist in illegal evictions.”

The Rivers State government (RSG) had earmarked Abonnema for demolition in May this year as part of a process of what it calls ‘urban renewal’ involving the destruction of all waterfront settlements in the city. According to the RSG, the most recent round of demolitions was carried out “for security reasons” following gang shoot-outs in the community on Monday last week.

Landlords were promised compensation for the destruction of their properties, but when the eviction began negotiations over compensation were still ongoing. Tenants were not entitled to any compensation at all.

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