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FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA: Deadly mass forced evictions make life misery for waterfront communities

22 Nov 2017
[International Secretariat]
Region: FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA
Topic: Forced Eviction

Nigerian authorities must halt a violent, unlawful campaign of demolitions and forced evictions of waterfront communities in Lagos State which has so far left more than 30,000 people homeless and 11 dead, Amnesty International said today

A new report, The Human Cost of a Megacity: Forced Evictions of the Urban Poor in Lagos, details repeated forced evictions of the Otodo-Gbame and Ilubirin communities carried out since March 2016 without any consultation, adequate notice, compensation or alternative housing being offered to those affected. Some evictees drowned as they fled police gunfire, while at least one was shot dead.

A new report details repeated forced evictions of the Otodo-Gbame and Ilubirin communities since March 2016 without any consultation, compensation or alternative housing being offered to those affected.

Amnesty International spoke to 97 evicted people as part of its research, all of whom told a similar story of being made homeless and losing almost all their possessions.

“For the residents of these deprived communities, many of whom rely on their daily fish catch to make a living, the waterfront represents home, work and survival. Forced evictions mean they lose everything - their livelihoods, their possessions and in some cases their lives.

Communities under attack

Between November 2016 and April 2017, Lagos state authorities forcibly and violently evicted more than 30,000 residents from the Otodo-Gbame community on the outskirts of Lagos city.

In the first eviction, at midnight on 9 November, police and unidentified armed men chased out residents with gunfire and teargas, setting homes on fire as bulldozers demolished them.

Panicked residents tried to run to safety amid the chaos, with eyewitnesses reporting that some drowned in the nearby lagoon as they ran from gunfire.

Evictee Celestine Ahinsu told Amnesty International: “After a couple of days we started seeing the bodies floating. The community youths brought the bodies from the water. The relatives of the pregnant woman and child came to take their bodies.”

Of the 4,700 residents who remained in Otodo-Gbame after the eviction, some slept in canoes or out in the open, covering themselves with plastic sheets when it rained.

The forced evictions were carried out in direct violation of court orders issued on 7 November 2016 and 26 January 2017.

Meanwhile, 823 residents of the nearby Ilubirin community were forcibly evicted between 19 March 2016 and 22 April 2017.

Evictees subsequently returned to the area and rebuilt their structures, but these were demolished six months later with just two days’ oral notice and no consultation.

Inconsistent government response

The Lagos government’s explanations for these forced evictions have been repeatedly inconsistent.

In November 2016, it denied any responsibility for the forced evictions.

In March 2017, the government said its actions that month were taken to protect environmental health.
In October 2016, the Lagos Governor also stated that waterfront demolitions are intended to stem a rise in kidnappings in the state.

In April 2017, the State Ministry of Justice said the government forcibly evicted residents because “militants are hiding amongst the people and are perfecting plans to attack”.

Lack of safeguards and a need for investigation

All forced evictions in the Ilubirin and Otodo-Gbame communities occurred without genuine consultation with affected residents, adequate prior notice, provision of compensation or alternative housing. As a result, many of those evicted are homeless and have lost their livelihoods.

“The Lagos government must set up a panel of inquiry to investigate the forced evictions and attacks at Ilubirin and Otodo-Gbame. All those responsible for criminal acts must be brought to justice,” said Osai Ojigho.

Nigerian authorities must halt a violent, unlawful campaign of demolitions and forced evictions of waterfront communities in Lagos State which has so far left more than 30,000 people homeless and 11 dead, Amnesty International said today.

“Finally, the authorities must urgently launch an investigation into the whereabouts of all those reported missing following the Ilubirin and Otodo-Gbame forced evictions.”

14 November 2017
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL PRESS RELEASE

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