About 70 per cent of the urban dwellers in Nigeria do not have access to potable water and toilet facilities, a UN official has said, calling for urgent action to address the problem.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, Leilani Farha, said this in a report published on the website of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, on Tuesday.
Ms Farha also said there is an estimated housing deficit of 22 million units, and about 130 million people lack access to adequate sanitation.
The official, while addressing journalists in Abuja also criticised landlords for "the manner they evict home seekers in the country."
She also noted that persons with disabilities are often held in punitive detention centres against their will, "in deplorable conditions."
"I was shocked to see that the people most in need of protection and assistance by the State are instead persecuted, harassed, extorted, and even arrested and jailed without ever having committed a crime," she said.
"Informal settlements are ballooning where conditions are inhumane and perhaps the most severe I have seen worldwide," said the rapporteur at the end of a 10-day visit to Abuja, Lagos and Port Harcourt.
A global survey conducted by the Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH NORM) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), identified Nigeria as the second in the world among countries where open defecation is prevalent with about 47 million that still indulge in open defecation.
In rural areas, only about 42 per cent of households have access to safe water. Nigeria is also unlikely to meet the MDG target of 75 per cent coverage for improved drinking-water and 63 per cent coverage for access to sanitation facilities by the year 2015.
The UN official urged the Nigerian government to tackle homelessness and poverty, and also declare a "nationwide moratorium on forced evictions."
"These measures will improve the lives of those most in need, and they can be introduced immediately as they do not require government spending.
"I recommend the establishment of a national truth commission to investigate gross human rights violations in the context of forced evictions and provide the remedy to the victims," Ms Farha said.
Forced evictions have occured in many Nigerian states including Lagos and Jigawa.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how the Lagos State Government forcefully evicted thousands of residents of Otodogbame, a suburban community on Lagos island. Two years after the residents secured a favourable court judgement against their eviction, the state government is yet to comply with it.
She also encouraged the government "to prioritise the participatory upgrading of informal settlements and to adopt a rights-based national housing strategy, which recognises housing as a fundamental right in national law".