1 March 2011

Nigeria: Law Abhors Forcible Evictions

Forced eviction has become a regular occurrence in Lagos and many urban centres in the country. It was commonplace, especially during the military era, to see landlords employ the use of force or miscreants to evict uncompromising tenants. Although this ugly trend is abating since the civilian administrators took over, forced eviction using unorthodox methods, is frowned at by local and international legislation and conventions.

The law states that regardless of the type of tenure (rental accommodation, cooperative housing, lease, emergency housing or informal settlements) all persons should possess a degree of security of tenure which guarantees equal protection against forced eviction, harassment and other threats.

"No matter the type of housing or interest of a person in a house, he should be protected against ejection, intimidation, harassment or any other form of eviction without due process of law".

The due process according to Mr Eze Onyekpere, a development lawyer and Lead Consultant, Centre for Social Justice, includes, giving the tenant adequate notice to quit. "The notice to quit puts an end to the term created by a tenancy. Where there is no express provision in a tenancy

agreement for the length of notice, a weekly tenancy is terminated by a week's notice while a monthly tenancy is terminated by a month's notice. A quarterly notice is given to terminate a quarterly tenancy while a yearly tenancy is terminated by six months notice. In the absence of any evidence to the contrary, the nature of a tenancy shall be determined by reference to the time when rent is paid or demanded," he said.

He maintained that no landlord (government, corporate organisation or individual) should take the law into his hands by ejecting his tenant without proper recourse to the law.

"In the event the tenant holds over after the expiration of the notice to quit, the landlord should serve the notice of owner's intention to proceed to apply for the recovery of possession of premises and it is seven clear days notice. If the tenant holds over after the seven days notice, the landlord can approach the courts in a suit for the recovery of premises.

Normally, the court after hearing the parties and being satisfied that appropriate notices have been served, in granting possession to the landlord, allows the tenant reasonable and sufficient time to secure alternative accommodation. The court can also make orders relating to arrears of rent and mesne profits," he said.

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