7 August 2012

Nigeria: Human Rights Commission to Investigate Demolitions

Photo: Anthony Omuya/Daily Nation

The National Human Rights Commission has vowed to investigate the recent demolition of human settlements in different parts of the country by federal or state authorities.

Hundreds of thousands of residents were displaced at the Waterside in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Mpape in the Federal Capital Territory and Makoko in the Lagos Waterfront.

The Commission's Chairman, Dr. Chidi Odinkalu, last week said, 'In all these cases, there have been allegations that due process was not followed; that there was inadequate notice to the affected communities; that there was no thought given to alternative accommodation or resettlement of the affected communities; that vast populations have been rendered homeless and destitute; and that governments have over-reached their powers with arbitrary and unjustifiable measures against poor people.

'There are also allegations that these demolitions are in preparation for the affected lands to be discriminatorily re-allocated to more well-off persons.'

At least one member of the community was killed by projectiles discharged by suspected Police personnel accompanying the demolition squads in Makoko, Lagos.

Dr. Odinkalu said because of the seriousness of these allegations, the National Human Rights Commission would be investigating them and that a public statement would be issued.

He said, 'As part of these investigations, the Commission will make adequate arrangements to hear from both the affected communities and the agencies of both State and Federal Governments involved.

'Section 16(2) (d) of the 1999 Constitution mandates government to ensure that "suitable and adequate shelter.... are provided for all citizens."

'Shelter is both a human need and a basic right. It is guaranteed under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, both of which have been voluntarily accepted by Nigeria and are binding on public institutions and government in Nigeria.'

He said that due process was not followed in the forced evictions which rendered hundreds of thousands homeless and that the exercise violated the prohibition against cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment under our 1999 Constitution.

As a safeguard against future allegations of forced eviction and unlawful destruction of human settlements, Odinkalu said his office would establish liaison with the Federal and State Governments to offer the skills and mandate of the National Human Rights Commission in undertaking compliance, impact, and verification assessments in any location where demolitions are contemplated.

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