COHRE/SERAC JOINT MEDIA RELEASE
Human rights organisations call for an end to housing rights violations in Nigeria: More than 800,000 residents evicted from Abuja from 2003 to 2007
More than 800,000 residents were forcibly evicted from informal settlements in Abuja, Nigeria, from 2003 to 2007, during the administration of Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Minister, Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai, according to The Myth of the Abuja Master Plan: Forced evictions as urban planning in Abuja, Nigeria, a new report released by the Geneva-based Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) and the Lagos-based Social and Economic Rights Action Center (SERAC).
COHRE’s Deputy Director, Jean du Plessis, said, “This shocking figure is even higher than the estimated number of people evicted in 2005 during Operation Murambatsvina in Zimbabwe, yet the world has hardly taken notice. COHRE and SERAC urge the current FCT Minister, Dr. Aliyu Modibbo Umar, to make a clear and firm break from his predecessor’s destructive policies that violated the human rights of residents of Abuja and, in many cases, pushed them further into poverty.”
Deanna Fowler, Senior COHRE Research Officer responsible for researching and preparing the report said, “Former FCT Minister El-Rufai and Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) officials created a myth about the Abuja Master Plan to convince people that the Plan justified and necessitated the systematic violation of the housing rights of hundreds of thousands of people so that Abuja would not become ‘another Lagos’. FCT Minister Dr. Modibbo Umar continues to insist that informal settlements must be demolished because their existence is purportedly in violation of the Abuja Master Plan. However, successive administrations have failed to implement key provisions of the Master Plan regarding housing delivery mechanisms designed to facilitate affordable housing for Abuja residents. Instead, they have resorted to forced eviction as a tool of urban planning.”
Felix Morka, Executive Director of SERAC said, “It is the FCT Government’s failure to implement the Master Plan’s recommendations that has led to the growth of informal settlements and the dire lack of affordable housing in Abuja. The solution to dealing with this problem is not to evict people desperate for housing. The Government should be exploring other solutions, such as in situ upgrading, in consultation with the affected communities.”
COHRE and SERAC estimate that the FCDA has forcibly evicted more than 800 000 people from at least 31 informal settlements, with hundreds of thousands of residents of the remaining settlements living in constant fear of forced eviction. According to The Myth of the Abuja Master Plan, the FCDA has carried out evictions without adequate notice, without adequate consultation with affected persons, without due process and without providing access to legal remedies. In some instances, FCDA officials carried out evictions without allowing people to retrieve property from their homes. There were also cases of the FCDA using tear gas, beatings and other methods of violence to carry out the evictions.
COHRE’s Fowler, said, “The demolitions have made people homeless, destitute and vulnerable to other human rights violations including violence, theft and rape. People have lost their access to water and sanitation facilities, health care centres, and schools, and have been forced to move further from sources of employment. These widespread and ongoing evictions have resulted in the massive displacement of hundreds of thousands of people with a disastrous effect on health, education, employment and family cohesion. Nigeria has violated the right to adequate housing on a scale and with a persistence that is rarely seen anywhere else in the world. Yet these violations have received little international criticism, in contrast to similar violations in countries such as Zimbabwe or China.”
The former FCT Minister El-Rufai and his administration initiated a policy of mass forced evictions in 2003, in an attempt to redress deviations from the City’s development, as planned for in the Abuja Master Plan – produced by International Planning Associates and approved by the FCDA in 1979. The Plan was created to facilitate the orderly development of a new Capital, in which to relocate the seat of Government away from the chaotic and rapidly expanding Lagos. The Plan called for the resettlement of people living in villages in what would become the Capital City. However, the Government never fully implemented the resettlement plan. Many residents – often termed ‘indigenes’ – were allowed to remain as the City expanded towards them, and in some cases, around them. Over the past 30 years, these settlements have expanded dramatically as indigenes have supplied land or built and rented housing to hundreds of thousands of migrants – also termed ‘non-indigenes’ – who came to Abuja for employment and were unable to access affordable housing in the formal market. This resulted in the establishment of at least 65 informal and unauthorised settlements that have been targeted for demolition by the FCDA.
Morka said, “COHRE and SERAC hope this report will bring attention to the systematic and widespread violations of housing rights in Nigeria, and that Dr. Modibbo Umar’s administration and all responsible authorities will take the recommendations of our report into account to address the crisis in the lack of affordable housing in Abuja and throughout Nigeria.”
For interviews or additional information, contact:
Deanna Fowler, Senior Research Officer, COHRE, at +41.22.734.1028 or
Jean du Plessis, Deputy Director, COHRE, at +27.82.5575563 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Felix Morka, Executive Director, SERAC, at +234.1.764.6299