In a report published on Tuesday, Amnesty International urged Nigerian authorities to put an end to the Lagos State government’s campaign of forceful evictions and demolitions of waterfront communities that have displaced over 30,000 people and have left at least 11 dead.
The report, “The Human Cost of a Megacity: Forced Evictions of the Urban Poor in Lagos,” details the Lagos State government’s brutal evictions of the Otodo-Gbame and Ilubirin communities while calling on the Nigerian government to establish a panel to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the forced evictions and demolitions.
Amnesty International revealed that between 2000 and 2009, over 2,000,000 people across Nigeria have been forcefully evicted from their homes or have had their homes demolished, with Lagos State accounting for roughly half the evictions and demolitions. Some 300,000 face the threat of forced evictions, Amnesty International reported.
The human rights organization explained that the Lagos State government’s policy of forced evictions and demolitions disproportionately targets the poorest citizens of Lagos.
“These ruthless forced evictions are just the most recent examples of a practice that has been going on in Nigeria for over a decade in complete defiance of international law,” said Osai Ojigho, Nigeria Country Director for Amnesty International.
“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.
“The Lagos state authorities must halt these attacks on poor communities who are being punished for the state’s urban planning failures. The instability and uncertainty created by forced evictions is making their lives a misery as they are left completely destitute.”
Perhaps the most belligerent case of forced evictions in Nigeria occurred in November 2016, when police and unidentified men bulldozed homes and set others on fire in Otodo-Gbame. Some policemen opened fire on residents fleeing their homes.
“After a couple of days we started seeing the bodies floating. I saw three - a man with a backpack and a pregnant woman with a baby on her back. The community youths brought the bodies from the water. The relatives of the pregnant woman and child came to take their bodies,” Celestine Ahinsu, an Otodo-Gbame evictee, told Amnesty International.
Amnesty International noted that the ejections were carried out without any respect for the law, adding that such actions have led to the deaths of residents in some cases.
“These (evictions) were carried out by the authorities in disregard of their obligations under international and domestic laws, and in some cases, in direct violation of court orders.
“The forced evictions and related attacks resulted in at least 11 deaths, some or all of which may amount to unlawful killings,” Amnesty International reported.
Amnesty International also documented 17 reports of people who disappeared during the forced evictions, massive destruction of property, homelessness, loss of livelihoods, separation of families, and children deprived of access to education.
It also disclosed that the lands from which its original residents were displaced are being put up for sale at exorbitant prices by close allies of the state government.
A construction project signboard near Otodo-Gbame and marketing materials seen by Amnesty International indicated that the Periwinkle estate was being developed on parts of the land and that the Elegushi royal family, an influential family in Lagos, was the joint venture title owner of the project.
“While evictees are left homeless, the lands they formerly occupied will soon become abodes of the rich, as both Ilubirin and Otodo-Gbame are being developed into luxury real estate properties. A plot of land in the Periwinkle estate sells for between N45 million and N200 million (US$124,710 – US$554,269). Ilubirin land is home to the ongoing construction of luxury real estate jointly owned by the state government and a private company,” the group said.
The state government has on several occasions posited that it has made available housing schemes for the displaced, but findings revealed that these housing provisions have already been sold to rich and influential people in Nigerian society who in turn sublet the property at high rates.
Amnesty International revealed that the cheapest option for evictees is a single room and a parlor with shared facilities in Epe area of Lagos, costing N1,500,000, with buyers required to make a monthly payment of N15,820 for ten years.
In order to be eligible under this scheme, buyers must show that not more than 33 percent of their monthly income would be spent on the monthly repayment. This means that an eligible applicant must earn a minimum of N47,461 monthly, which is over 100 percent above the minimum wage earned by civil servants in the state.
Amnesty International concluded its report by calling for an immediate inquiry into the demolitions and forced evictions carried out in the state, especially in Ilubirin and Otodo-Gbame, and demanded that legal action be taken against anybody found guilty by the law.
Amnesty International recalled that a Nigerian court ordered that evictions without resettlement are unconstitutional and restrained the Lagos State government from further forced evictions, ordering it to consult with affected residents and evictees with a view to resettling them within the state.
Amnesty International also demanded that the Lagos State government establish a moratorium on mass evictions until there are regulations in place to ensure that evictions comply with international human rights standards.
It also requested that all victims of forced evictions have access to effective remedies and the right to reparations, including restitution, rehabilitation, compensation, satisfaction and a guarantee of non-repetition.