GENEVA – “Forced evictions can only be justified in the most exceptional cases and in full compliance with international human rights law,” said today United Nations independent expert Raquel Rolnik, while expressing her concern at the mass evictions planned by the Nigerian River State Government, which could leave hundreds of thousands of people homeless over the coming year.
“Evictions should not result in individuals being rendered homeless or vulnerable to the violation of other human rights,” warned the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing.
In February 2009, the River State Government announced its decision to demolish all the waterfront settlements in Port Harcourt within the framework of its urban renewal strategy. Since then the authorities have allegedly carried out demolitions at various sites throughout Port Harcourt in violation of a stay order issued by the Federal High Court to stop the evictions.
“Nigeria, as State Party to several international human rights treaties must take all appropriate measures, to the maximum of its available resources, to ensure that adequate alternative housing or resettlement is available,” said Rolnik.
According to international human rights standards, people affected by forced evictions have the right to compensation and to procedural protection, including genuine consultation, adequate and reasonable notice, information on the proposed evictions, provision of legal remedies and legal aid, to be present during the eviction and to identify all persons who are carrying out the eviction.
However, according to local sources, most of these conditions have not been met in evictions already carried out in Port Harcourt. The Special Rapporteur urges the Government of Nigeria to respect its international obligations by fulfilling all of them.
The UN independent expert is also concerned that military personnel may assist in the forced evictions in Port Harcourt. “The military’s participation in forced evictions may result in multiple human rights violations” she pointed out. According to local sources, on 5 August 2009, Port Harcourt’s military forces arrested over 1000 residents who were protesting against the demolition of their homes.