UN beckons on Nigeria to halt forced evictions of 30,000 people in Lagos

Drive around Lagos very early in the morning and you would see people at their makeshift homes — under bridges and abandoned buildings as they cringe under the economic difficulties of our time. Sadly, the government whose responsibility is creating affordable housing for the masses is sometimes responsible for putting them on the streets.

More than 30,000 people will lose their homes, businesses and livelihoods, if demolitions in Badia area of Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, continue as planned. Already large-scale demolitions and evictions carried out in the area have rendered thousands of people homeless, according to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, Leilani Farha.

“I am alarmed that over 10,000 people, including children, women and elders have been pushed out of their homes without prior notice in the middle of the rainy season, with police sometimes resorting to violence to carry out the evictions,” Ms. Farha said. “There was no consultation or discussion about alternative temporary housing options available to them.”

“More troubling yet is that two months later there are still hundreds of people sleeping in makeshift shelters or churches, facing routine harassment, with the situation getting worse every day, and without any adequate response by the local or federal authorities in line with their international human rights obligations,” the independent expert lamented.

When unlawful forced evictions were executed near Badia in February 2013, over 9,000 people were displaced.  According to studies of mid-term impacts, one out of three persons evicted at that time are still homeless years after their eviction.

It has been two months since the Badia evictions took place, but no actions have been taken as regards the concerns raised by affected individuals and their representatives by either the State or Federal authorities, even after the expert raised the issue with the Government last month.

Unlawful evictions are not uncommon in congested Lagos where over 15 million people scramble for the grossly inadequate affordable housing. According to Amnesty International, over 1.5 million people have been ejected from their homes following the wave of ejections and demolitions all over Nigeria.

Homelessness is also increasing across African cities as economic constraint or government policies continue to force people out of decent homes. There are an estimated 800,000 homeless people in Johannesburg, while the number of homeless people in Nairobi are estimated to be 250,000. Cairo’s homeless are believed to be more than a million people. But despite efforts to get authorities to see to their welfare, governments keep ignoring and try their best to hide them from the world anytime there is a focus on the continent.

Ms. Farha, therefore, urged Governments at all levels in Nigeria to put an end to unlawful evictions immediately, as they are causing massive homelessness. She also asked that those affected be given access to just and effective remedies, including compensation.