FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA: Fire and demolitions that left 30,000 homeless must be urgently investigated

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19 Nov 2016
[International Secretariat]
Topic: Forced Eviction

The Lagos State authorities must take immediate steps to provide alternative accommodation for as many as 30,000 people who were made homeless, in direct contravention of a court order, when their homes were deliberately set alight in the Otodo Gbame community in Lekki, Lagos, Amnesty International said today.

Although it is unclear who started the first fire on the morning of Wednesday 9 November, eyewitnesses have told the organization that police present did not attempt to stop the fire. Instead, they say they were chased away by police officers when they attempted to put it out.

After the fire stopped in the afternoon, the police and a demolition team returned overnight with a bulldozer. Eyewitnesses say that the police then started the fire again, forcibly evicting thousands from their homes. At no point were firefighters seen.

“Thousands of residents of Otodo Gbame watched in horror as their homes and possessions were destroyed literally overnight, and their futures plunged into uncertainty. What makes this especially shocking is that on Monday this community was granted an injunction preventing the Lagos State Government from proceeding with the planned demolition of the informal settlements along the State’s waterfronts – the authorities involved in this destruction are in flagrant violation of the law,” said Amnesty International Nigeria’s Researcher Morayo Adebayo.

“We are therefore urging the Lagos State authorities to immediately establish a commission of inquiry to investigate the shocking incident at Otodo Gbame, and provide adequate housing and compensation to all those who have lost their homes.”

Amnesty International confirmed with the Public Relations Officer of Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA) that the agency was part of the demolition team sent to Otodo Gbame.

A police statement made on 10 November also confirmed that the “State Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development would move in to demolish the remaining shanties and clear the rubble caused by the inferno.”

Residents told Amnesty International that this morning (11 November), policemen returned to demolish the few remaining structures. With police back at the site, there are growing fears that the neighbouring community called ‘Chisco Ikate’ will also be destroyed. A resident from this community told Amnesty International a demolition team arrived this morning with a bulldozer.

In October the Lagos State authorities announced plans to demolish all irregular structures in waterfront communities across the state, which could leave hundreds of thousands of people homeless and destitute. They alleged the settlements are a ‘security threat’, linking them to a rise in kidnappings in the area. However, the authorities failed to provide any details on the process and how people would be rehoused.

On 31 October the Lagos State House Assembly passed a resolution calling on Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode to halt the demolition plans, and on 7 November Lagos State High Court granted an interim injunction preventing the Lagos State Government from proceeding with the demolition of the informal settlements along the State’s waterfronts, including Otodo Gbame.

Amnesty International is calling for an immediate end to destruction of any houses in the Otodo Gbame and neighbouring waterfront areas, and a moratorium on mass evictions within Lagos State until there are regulations in place to ensure that such evictions comply with safeguards that are required under international law for any eviction to proceed.

These standards prohibit evicting people at night and the deliberate destruction of property including through arson. The deliberate burning of people’s houses and structures during the demolition exercise by the police may constitute cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment for which suspected perpetrators must be brought to justice as a matter of urgency.

11 November 2016

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