19 August 2014

Nigeria: Destitute Victims of Forced Eviction Must Be Adequately Compensated

press release

The World Bank endorsed the Lagos state government's inadequate compensation package for thousands of people forcibly evicted from an informal settlement, Amnesty International said in a report published today.

The report, At the mercy of the government, finds that the residents of Badia East whose homes were bulldozed on 23 February 2013, were not adequately compensated by the government for their losses and that the World Bank wrongly endorsed a compensation process that was not consistent with international human rights standards or the Bank's own policy.

"It is an outrage that a community, left destitute by the actions of the Lagos state government, has been denied an effective remedy by the same government and that the World Bank has been complicit in this matter," said Audrey Gaughran, director of Global Issues at Amnesty International.

"The bulldozing of hundreds of houses and businesses destroyed livelihoods and rendered thousands homeless. The subsequent failure to provide an effective remedy has only compounded victims' misery pushing them deeper into poverty."

The informal settlement of Badia East in Lagos state was chosen to benefit from a World Bank-funded project which aimed to increase access to basic services such as drainage, through investment in infrastructure. However, the demolition of at least 266 structures that served as homes and businesses took place without genuine consultation or adequate and reasonable notice and with no remedy for the loss suffered.

After mounting pressure the Lagos state government, in collaboration with the World Bank, agreed to develop and implement a retrospective Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) for the Badia East residents in line with the World Bank's Policy on Involuntary Resettlement. However, both the content of the RAP and the process by which it was prepared contravened international human rights standards and World Bank policy.

The RAP failed to:

provide options for adequate alternative housing or relocation to other sites;

ensure that affected people were offered the support needed to restore their livelihoods and standard of living;

ensure adequate compensation was given to those affected. Instead "financial assistance" which contained amounts unilaterally determined by the government and considered inadequate by affected people was offered. In addition, the Lagos state government reneged on an agreement reached between a committee it had established and community representatives on compensation. The World Bank knew this;

give adequate attention to addressing the needs of all disadvantaged groups.

Despite these blatant failings the RAP was approved by the World Bank. The World Bank committed a further breach of its policy by failing to disclose a draft of the RAP before approval, exacerbating the challenges that affected people faced in engaging with the process.

Although some affected people asked for a full inspection of the case by the World Bank's Inspection Panel - a body that is supposed to be independent of the Bank's management - this was refused and the Panel also endorsed the RAP.

"The RAP - and the process by which it was developed - failed to adhere to human rights standards and has not addressed the terrible impact of the forced evictions suffered by the already vulnerable community of Badia East," said Audrey Gaughran.

"It is imperative that the government of Lagos state act immediately to ensure all those forcibly evicted from Badia East are fully compensated for their losses and those who cannot provide homes for themselves have access to adequate alternative housing."

"The World Bank must re-engage with the Lagos state government on this case in order to fulfil its duty of care to those affected by its failure to ensure compliance with human rights standards and its own policies."

"In addition the Nigerian government must impose a moratorium on mass evictions until it has adopted legislation to protect people from forced evictions, which are illegal under international law."

Background

On 23 February 2013, thousands of residents of Badia East in Lagos state were rendered homeless when the Lagos state authorities, supported by the police, demolished homes and businesses in the community.

In Badia East, none of the legal and procedural safeguards that are required under international human rights law and standards in relation to evictions was observed. There was no genuine consultation with the affected people to identify alternatives to eviction. The government failed to provide adequate notice, legal remedies, alternative housing for those unable to provide for themselves or compensation for the loss of property. The demolitions in Badia East constituted a forced eviction which violates the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), a treaty to which Nigeria is a party.

Under international human rights standards, all people, including those who live in informal settlements, are entitled to an effective remedy when their rights are violated.

The right to adequate housing and security of the person and home are basic tenets of human rights law.

In September 2013 the Lagos state government had negotiated with representatives of the victims of the Badia East forced eviction with a view to paying compensation. The World Bank monitored the development of a Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) by the Lagos state government.

In November 2013 the Lagos state government reduced the amount of compensation it had initially agreed to pay under the RAP. In December 2013 the Badia East community accepted the reduced offer of compensation with conditions.

The conditions included the following: that the government makes an "upward review" of the compensation package in the future; that all structure owners be given the right of first refusal in the housing scheme the government wants to build on the land cleared; and that the RAP is implemented as soon as possible.

The government rejected the community's conditional acceptance of the compensation offer and the community was left with the option of accepting the reduced compensation package unconditionally.

On 30 September 2013, three affected people, acting on behalf of the larger Badia Community, filed a Request for Inspection with the Inspection Panel of the World Bank. The Inspection Panel is a complaints mechanism for people who believe that they have been, or are likely to be, adversely affected by a World Bank-funded project to express their concerns and seek recourse. On 16 July 2014, despite being aware of the inadequacies of the RAP, the Panel decided not to register the Request.

Badia East is one of many communities across Nigeria that have been torn apart by forced evictions in recent years.

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