44TH ORDINARY SESSION OF THE AFRICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN AND PEOPLES’ RIGHTS, NOVEMBER 10-24, ABUJA, NIGERIA
JOINT STATEMENT BY THE INSTITUTE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS AND DEVELOPMENT IN AFRICA (IHRDA) AND THE CIVIL LIBERTIES ORGANISATION (CLO)
DENYING THE RIGHT TO HOUSING AND SHELTER: FORCED EVICTIONS IN THE FEDERAL CAPITAL TERRITORY (FCT), ABUJA, NIGERIA
Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) and the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA) and the would like to bring to the attention of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Commission) the serious and massive violations of human rights protected by the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights occasioned by the forced eviction of residents of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja in the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Between 2003 and 2008, over 800,000 people have been forcibly evicted from the FCT by the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA). The evictions were ostensibly carried out to implement the Abuja Master Plan – the infrastructural developmental blueprint for the Federal Capital, Abuja. Since the creation of the FCT in 1979, the Government of Nigeria through the FCDA has failed to provide the requisite housing and infrastructure for the new capital. Housing that was provided was in many cases too expensive for many residents and workers who had migrated to Abuja mainly from the former capital, Lagos. Resettlement schemes for communities which were losing their lands to the FCT were also inadequate. These failures led to the growth of numerous informal settlements, distorting the intentions of the Abuja Master Plan.
To remedy the situation, the FCDA resorted to forced evictions. Residents in most cases were either not informed of eviction dates or were given very short notice with no time to make alternative arrangements or secure their property. The evictions were carried out with the assistance of heavily armed police. Police used violence against anyone who stood in the way of the demolition of houses, schools, hospitals, churches and mosques. The forced evictions were also carried out in a discriminatory manner with ‘indigene’ homes being spared and those of ‘settlers/squatters’ being destroyed. The FCDA ignored Court injunctions obtained by the victims to stop the evictions.
Moreover, relocation sites were poorly resourced with no financial assistance or compensation given to the evictees, who were being moved far away from their sources of livelihood. The criteria for providing plots at the resettlement sites was uncertain as some evictees received plots that were not commensurate to what they had lost.
The Commission has held in Communication 155/96 Social and Economic Rights Action Centre (SERAC) and Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR) v Nigeria that:
The particular violation by the Nigerian Government of the right to adequate housing as implicitly protected in the Charter also encompasses the right to protection against forced evictions … Wherever and whenever they occur, forced evictions are extremely traumatic. They cause physical, psychological and emotional distress; they entail losses of means of economic sustenance and increase impoverishment. They can also cause physical injury and in some cases sporadic deaths … Evictions break up families and increase existing levels of homelessness.
The forced evictions not only violate the African Charter but also violate in particular, articles 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 43 and 44 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which collectively protect the right to housing and shelter, equal treatment of the law, the right to property and freedom from discrimination. The evictions also violate the African Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights Act (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, Cap 10, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990, which domesticates the African Charter in Nigeria.
It is evident that the Federal Republic of Nigeria has not heeded the African Commission’s recommendations given previously in the SERAC Case when the Commission found Nigeria in violation of the African Charter for forcible eviction.
Consequently IHRDA and CLO urge the African Commission to request the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to undertake the following measures:
- Immediately cease any forced evictions of residents from the FCT and halt any plans to carry out further evictions in the future;
- Take legislative measures as required by article 1 of the African Charter to outlaw forced evictions and to lay down guidelines for any evictions should they be absolutely necessary and inevitable. Such guidelines should be in accordance with the African Charter, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the ‘Basic Principles and Guidelines on Development-Based Evictions and Displacement’ adopted by the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2007;
- Compensate victims of the forced evictions that occurred between 2003 and 2008 for the loss of life of their loved ones, homes and property.
 Para 63.