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Authorities in Nigeria’s Lagos State must immediately abandon plans to demolish all irregular structures in waterfront communities across the state within the next three days, which would leave tens of thousands of people homeless and destitute, Amnesty International said today.

Tens of thousands of people living in settlements along creeks and waterfronts, the majority of whom are poor fishing communities, are at risk of forced evictions. This comes as a result of Lagos State authorities’ plans to demolish irregular structures in their attempt to improve security following a rise in kidnappings in Lagos.

Nigerian authorities are prohibited under international law from using forced evictions as a punitive measure.

“While the government needs to address the issue of abductions, destroying people’s homes and forcibly evicting tens of thousands of people from their homes can never be a lawful response,” said Amnesty International Nigeria’s researcher Morayo Adebayo. “Many people in these settlements make their living in or near the Lagos Lagoon waterfront and are now facing terrifyingly uncertain futures.

“By attempting to push these residents off the waterfronts with just a week’s notice, no genuine consultations, and no provision of compensation or alternative housing, the Lagos State authorities are blithely violating international human rights law. We are urging the Lagos authorities to immediately halt their plans to forcibly evict the waterfront communities across the state.”  

The day after the Governor’s announcement, Amnesty International spoke to the Baale (traditional ruler) of the Illubirin fishing community, Peter Simenou, who said: “Yesterday, the Governor came here, he told us we should leave here within seven days. So we told him that… we are fishermen, there is nowhere else for us to go. He said he has told us all that he came to say, and he did not say anything else.”

Amnesty International is calling for Lagos State government to halt its plans to demolish irregular structures across the state’s waterfront and to ensure that forced evictions are not used as a punitive measure or a law enforcement tool.

Even in situations where evictions are considered to be justified, governments obliged to ensure that that they are carried out in strict compliance with international law, including the principles of reasonableness and proportionality. Governments must consider all feasible alternatives to evictions in consultation with all affected people. Any person affected by a proposed eviction must be served adequate written notice, within a reasonable time period.

Other due process safeguards must be followed, including the provision of legal remedies and compensation. Governments have to ensure that no one is left homeless and provide adequate alternative accommodation for those who cannot provide for themselves.

“It is staggering to think that Lagos still does not have a law prohibiting forced evictions and guaranteeing people’s right to housing. Authorities in Lagos need to establish a moratorium on mass evictions until they have regulations in place to ensure that evictions comply with international standards,” said Morayo Adebayo.   

Background

Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode visited Ilubirin, a waterfront community on 9 October 2016 where he said that demolition of all shanties in Lagos will begin in the next seven days. Amnesty International received confirmation of these plans from the Public Relations officer of Lagos State Building Control Agency. He told Amnesty International that they will demolish all the shanties on the waterways.

The Lagos State authorities added that these planned demolitions are as a result of the rise in kidnappings which they believe the irregular structures are a main cause, describing such settlements as ‘security threat’ structures. On the official Lagos State government website, the Commissioner for Information Steve Ayorinde said: “The government has taken adequate steps to stem the tide of kidnapping in the State, noting that in line with the directive of the State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, plans have been concluded to commence the demolition of illegal structures erected across the state waterfronts and creeks.”

More than two million people have been forcibly evicted from their homes in different parts of Nigeria since 2000. These evictions are carried out without adequate prior consultation, adequate notice and compensation or alternative accommodation. Most were already marginalized and many had lived for years without access to clean water, sanitation, adequate health care or education.

In September 2015, approximately 10,200 residents of Badia-East community in Ijora area of Lagos were forcibly evicted, and many of them remain homeless and dependent on family and friends. The state government is yet to provide any compensation or resettlement to these evictees.

Nigeria is a party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and other international and regional human rights treaties, which require it to realize the right to adequate housing, and to prevent and refrain from carrying out forced evictions.