60,000 Nigerians were at risk of being homeless peradventure the task force made good its threat.
Some civil society organisations have condemned the eviction threat issued by the Rivers State Government Task Force to members of waterfront communities in the Diobu axis of Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
The civil societies include: Collaborative Media Advocacy Platform; Social Action; Nigerian Slum/ Informal Settlement; Justice and Empowerment Initiatives; Center for Environment, Human Rights, and Development (CEHRD); Environmental Rights Action/ Friends of the Earth.
In a statement on Wednesday sent to SaharaReporters, the groups said 60,000 Nigerians were at risk of being homeless peradventure the task force made good its threat.
According to the groups, not only will the people be made homeless, they will also be driven into poverty by loss of livelihoods and other hardships associated with homelessness and displacement.
They further argued that people in the communities are employed in legitimate businesses, who also contribute positively to the economy of the state. The groups said their inability to afford the housing units in the main cities drive them to the waterfront.
This was in reference to Governor Wike's crackdown on “identified criminal hideouts” in Port Harcourt Township and the Illoabuchi axis of Diobu in his 2022 New Year’s address.
The civil societies said, “On 19 January, 2022, a Rivers State Government Task Force visited several waterfront communities in the Diobu axis of Port Harcourt, arbitrarily marked homes for demolition and told residents they should vacate within 7 days, that is by 26 January 2022.
“Should the government proceed with its threats, over 60,000 persons will be rendered homeless and driven into poverty by loss of livelihoods and other hardships associated with homelessness and displacement.
“We, the undersigned communities and members of civil society, decry this unlawful and callous threat and call for the Rivers State Government to seriously reconsider its plans before it takes irreversible action that violates the fundamental human rights of 60,000 persons and undermines the security and long-term development goals of all residents of Port Harcourt.
“Any person that has witnessed the horrors of forced eviction, where persons are thrown out of their homes and have their livelihoods and communities destroyed overnight, cannot believe this is the path to the security and development of our society. Studies have shown the terrible long-term impacts of forced evictions on the incomes, health, and education of evictees.
“We understand that His Excellency, Governor Wike, declared a crackdown on “identified criminal hideouts” in Port Harcourt Township and the Illoabuchi axis of Diobu in his 2022 New Year’s address – a vague menace that has resulted in fear among waterfront communities that have seen previous administrations use scaremongering and smear campaigns to justify forced evictions of waterfront communities like Agip (2004/05), Njemanze (2009) and Abonnema Wharf (2012).
“Indeed, Diobu-axis waterfront communities joined hands on 7 January 2022 to write to the Governor to express their concerns and request an urgent audience with the Governor to discuss how to address security concerns and otherwise seek win-win partnership as an alternative to eviction and demolition.
“Yet, till date, there has been no positive response to these appeals. Meanwhile, the reality is that the demolitions being threatened do not target specific criminals or criminal hideouts; instead, they are a pretext for evicting thousands of innocent children, women, men, and elderly persons who are employed in legitimate businesses through which they eke out modest livings, and from which they pay their children’s school fees and government taxes.
“We know the communities under threat are ready to work with government in any legitimate law enforcement approach to resolving security concerns and rooting out criminals who may be hiding in different corners of the city.
"Should the government proceed with the evictions threated on 19 January 2022, over 60,000 more Nigerians will be forced out of their homes and businesses and communities.
”We are deeply concerned that the government would run roughshod over all these rights in the present-day democratic dispensation; we call for a break from the past of such abuses and for the government to partner with us – communities and civil society – to find a better way forward.”