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Rio de Janeiro Declaration on Forced Evictions in Nigeria

To acknowledge the role of National Union of Tenants of Nigeria towards housing right protection in Nigeria, the union was selected by the UN-HABITAT to host a Networking Event on urban innovation at the just concluded fifth session of the World Urban Forum held from 22nd to 26th March 2010 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The event, which was organized in collaboration with the International Alliance of Inhabitants (IAI) and received a wide assemblage of participants from the political, institutional and civil society sectors across the world, received one of the highest ratings in WUF5 in terms of acceptability and the quality of paper-presentations.

The outcome of the Networking Event, which was facilitated by a panel of experts constituted of top officials of the Federal Government of Nigeria; the UN-HABITAT; and the International Non-Government Organizations (INGOs), culminated in sets of observations on the Government of Federation of Nigeria, which Acknowledged:

1. That the global call for bridging the urban divide has been misinterpreted by the Government of Nigeria to mean a call for slum demolition and forced eviction of slum-dwellers from the cities under the pretense of paving way for infrastructure development, which is scarcely implemented and, even, if implemented served the need of only the rich people and not the Poor.

2. That relying on the Report of UN-HABITAT Mission to Port Harcourt, most forced evictions and demolitions carried out in Nigeria were rarely for public need, but in the promotion of personal gain and overriding private interest and often involve the use of military violence against the residents without regard to human lives as in the case of 2005 where four residents in Abuja were shot dead by the police with 800,000 others rendered homeless and 2009 where eight residents in Port Harcourt were short dead by the army with nine others critically injured by bullets and hundreds of thousands of families rendered homeless and destitute without any relief arrangement till date.

3. That, using the forced evictions and demolitions carried out at Port Harcourt as a case-study, the Government of Nigeria has exhibited lack of political will to protect the housing right of its citizens and neglected or failed to recognize housing as a fundamental human right that must be enjoyed by its citizenry.

4. That forced evictions are a violation of the international law namely the African Charter on Human & Peoples Rights and article 11 of International Covenant on Economic, Social & Cultural Rights, particularly General Comments 4 and 7 thereof, which prohibit evictions without adequate and agreed relocation; not to mention that the Concluding Observations of the UN urged Government of Nigeria to cease forthwith the massive/arbitrary evictions of people from their homes and to take measures to alleviate the plight of those that are subject to arbitrary evictions or that are too poor to afford decent accommodation.

The recommendations: stop the evictions and organize the Nigeria Housing Forum

The Networking Event, through the instrument of its Recommendations Committee, further acknowledged the following:

1. The need by the Government of Federal Republic of Nigeria to:

revisit the issue of forced evictions carried out in 2005 by the Federal Capital Territory Administration and in 2009 by the Government of Rivers State, which incidents claimed several lives and left many maimed, and to ensure that victims of these evictions are duly compensated while perpetrators of the killings are brought to book; and to further ensure that proper solution is found to the plight of all the affected persons; and to proclaim, where evictions are exceptionally inevitable, the need to respect article 11(1) of ICESCR and the General Comments 4 and 7 thereof and to place an unconditional ban on the use of military forces or armed policemen in carrying out such evictions.

2. The National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to:

amend the Land Use Act to make it an offense for any public officer to order the forceful acquisition of any property for any purpose other than the purpose of genuine public interest or community need and to empower the National Human Rights Commission to investigate and prosecute any public officer that, for the purpose of personal gain or overriding private interest, ordered the forceful acquisition of any property or the use of force to evict or remove any person or the personal effects of such person from the property.

3. International Community–Development Partners/Agencies to:

investigate, before canceling any external debt or entering into any project partnership with any government, the response of such government towards housing right and to disengage from partnering with such government if the policy of that government promotes forced evictions that are contrary to the law or that mitigate the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals; and to withdraw all development support from the Government of Rivers State until all the victims of forced evictions carried out in Port Harcourt by the State Government are resettled and adequate compensations paid to all those that lost their earning potentials, personal property or immediate relations or that suffered bodily harm or injury during the forced evictions.

4. International Alliance of Inhabitants (IAI) to:

spearhead a mission to Nigeria to steer up civil society-based urban housing forums that will follow up implementation of the recommendations set out herein and to facilitate, in conjunction with the National Union of Tenants of Nigeria, a national housing convention as a pivot programme to highlight the challenges of attainment of adequate housing, being a missing phenomenon in Nigeria, and how these challenges can be sustainably addressed.

Further ratification of the Observations and Recommendations contained in this Report is open (online) to any national or international NGO, CSO or CBO as from 15th May 2010 at: www.habitants.org or by sending an e-mail to: info.nutn@yahoo.com

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