Amnesty International, a human rights organization, has begun the process of collating signatures for its petition condemning last February’s evictions at Ijora Badia by the Lagos State government.
In a joint press conference with Social and Economic Rights Action Centre, SERAC, in Lagos, Monday, the group urged the state government to “urgently” respect people’s rights to adequate housing and put an end to forced evictions across the state.
The petition urged Babatunde Fashola, the Lagos State governor, to ensure that no forced evictions are carried out in the state. It also urged Mr. Fashola to “immediately provide assistance” to those affected in the demolitions at Badia.
“We urge you to immediately provide an effective remedy and reparation to all those who were forcibly evicted from Badia East on 23 February, 2013, (including alternative housing for all those who cannot provide for themselves and compensation for all losses caused by eviction),” read the petition.
“We urge you to adopt a state-level moratorium on mass evictions until adequate legal and procedural safeguards are in place to ensure that all evictions comply with international human rights standards and national laws,” it added.
Oluwatosin Popoola, Researcher at Amnesty International said that forced evictions, like the one at Badia, are prohibited under international and regional treaties to which Nigeria is a party.
“The eviction amounts to a forced eviction as the Lagos State government failed to engage in genuine consultations with the people affected prior to eviction,” said Mr. Popoola.
“They also failed to give adequate and reasonable notice and failed to provide alternative housing and compensation to residents affected by the loss of their homes.”
In July 2012, residents of Makoko saw their homes demolished by the Lagos State Government, resulting in the police fatally shooting a local chief.
On February 23, 2013, about 9,000 people were affected after officials of the Lagos State Environmental and Special Offences Enforcement Unit destroyed hundreds of houses at Badia East.
Monday’s petition also urged the Lagos State House of Assembly to introduce a bill that explicitly prohibits forced evictions and sets out safeguards that must be strictly followed before any eviction.
Following the outcry that trailed the demolitions at Badia, the Lagos State Government had justified its actions stating that the area was a refuse dump and the people affected were squatters.
But Felix Morka, SERAC’s Executive Director, said that squatters were also protected by the law.
“That land belongs to the federal government and they were the ones that resettled the community to that place.
But over the years, the Lagos State government has continued to harass and intimidate the people at Badia, which is wrong,” said Mr. Morka, whose organization has worked extensively with the affected community.
“Even if they were squatters, (that) does not mean that they cease to exist as human beings.”