Nigeria: Over 200,000 people risk being made homeless for urban development, warns Amnesty

Plans for urban development of waterfront areas in the Rivers State capital of Port Harcourt, Nigeria are being developed at the expense of making more than 200,000 people homeless, warns Amnesty International in a new report released today [28 Oct].

The plans include a theme park, a shopping mall and a hotel. Already thousands have been forced from their homes to make way for an eight-screen cinema complex.

Amnesty International’s new report ‘Just move them’ : forced evictions in Port Harcourt, Nigeria urges the authorities to suspend the planned demolitions and to ensure that evictions are carried out in accordance with international human rights law. This includes providing adequate alternative housing.

Amnesty International’s Africa Deputy Programme Director, Tawanda Hondora said:

“These planned demolitions are likely to plunge hundreds of thousands of Nigeria’s most vulnerable citizens further into poverty. The government should halt the waterfront evictions until they ensure they comply with international human rights standards.”

The Rivers State government claims the demolition of the homes on the waterfront is necessary to implement the Greater Port Harcourt Master Plan, an urban renewal project launched in 2009. The development of the waterfront promenade is a central feature of the Master Plan - which encompasses the whole city - but full details have not been made public.

Amnesty is urging the Nigerian authorities to undertake a genuine public consultation on the Greater Port Harcourt Master Plan and ensure that it complies with international standards.

On 28 August 2009, Njemanze, a waterfront settlement, was demolished as part of the urban renewal plan. It is estimated that over 13,000 people lost their homes and, in many cases, their possessions and livelihoods after being forcibly evicted without adequate notice.  One year on, many still have nowhere to live.

Chidi Ekiyor, 15 years old, has been sleeping under a flyover since the demolition of the house he shared with his aunt in Njemanze. Chidi told Amnesty International that he has been arrested five times since he lost his home. Most nights he and the other boys are harassed by police or older boys who steal their money or beat them.   

Tawanda Hondora continued:

“None of the affected communities have been adequately consulted about these urban renewal plans and this has resulted in a great deal of uncertainty and insecurity.  The government must make every effort to identify alternatives to evictions, using them only as a last resort.”

Charity Roberts is a primary school teacher who lives in a property marked for demolition. She told Amnesty International:

“Cash is the problem. Right now people don’t even have enough to eat. How will they relocate? There are some people [whose livelihood depends on] the waterside [fishing etc]. What would they do?”

The Rivers State government claims to have undertaken a buy-out scheme, purchasing all the properties on the waterfront and paying owners a replacement value for them. Under this scheme however, tenants, who make up the vast majority of the waterside population, are completely ignored and can claim no entitlements. House owners who do not want to sell their houses are also given no alternative.

Tawanda Hondora said:

“Nigeria has put in place legislation to protect tenants from unscrupulous landlords. It is hypocritical to say the least that once the state government itself becomes a landlord, it flouts its own rules.”

Amnesty International is also concerned about the excessive use of force, including the unlawful use of firearms, displayed by security forces while undertaking forced evictions.

Notes to Editors:

In 2007, South Africa based-Arcus GIBB was contracted to develop a ‘master plan’ for Port Harcourt to guide the development of the city for the next 50 years. The plan was launched in April 2009 and encompasses the whole city and some surrounding areas. The “development of the waterfront promenade” is a central feature.  The Port Harcourt Master Plan has not been made publically available.

A full copy of ‘Just move them’: forced evictions in Port Harcourt, Nigeria is available upon request.

Find out more about our campaign to end forced evictions /p>

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