Grippingly, Abuja was originally designed to be better organised than the commercial capital, Lagos, which is regarded as one of the world’s most chaotic cities and described by former President Olusegun Obasanjo as a “jungle”.
Although majority of us from Lagos disagree with him. Unfortunately, the plans for orderly development were deserted by preceding administrations, leading to the expansion of an unplanned urban slouch on the periphery of the city.
Fortunately, the civilian administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo as part of his obligation to return the city to its original master-plan supported Nasir el-Rufai, his minister of the Federal Capital Territory, in implementing the Abuja Master Plan. Under el-Rufai, an allegory was created about the Abuja Master Plan to persuade people that the plan warranted and necessitated the logical mass demolition and eviction. Painfully, it was deliberate infringement on the housing rights of hundreds of thousands of people. The mass demolition and evictions, carried out between 2003 and 2007, involved the complete pulling down of houses in Abuja and nearby villages.
Interestingly, in August 2012, the then Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, had in a letter, advised the FCT, and its then minister, Bala Mohammed, not to demolish houses in Mpape until a case instituted against the administration at the Federal High Court was dispensed with.
Poignantly, nine years after, the bulldozers invaded the quarry town and bustling town adjacent the highbrow Maitama District in Abuja, pulling down over 2, 000 illegal structures in the area.
According to the Chairman, FCT Ministerial Committee on City Sanitation, Ikharo Attah, Mpape Residents and Landlords Association had six months ago begged the minister to come to their aid as illegal commercial activities had taken over the road corridors. Attah noted that the sanitation and demolition was long overdue and it was targeted at roadside shanties and other unapproved buildings causing obstruction along the road.
Auspiciously, the News Agency of Nigeria reports that the mass demolition and eviction also affected Lugbe-Across, Lugbe-Berger, Car wash and Lugbe Zone 5, Iddo and other settlement and villages along Giri-Gwangwalada road close to University of Abuja.
Inauspiciously, the mass demolition and eviction are carried out with heavy security personnel comprising the Nigeria Police Force, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Nigerian Army, Immigration Service and the Nigeria Air Force as well as the Abuja Environmental Protection Board and the FCT Department of Development Control.
Besides, the Secretary, Command and Control FCTA, Peter Olumuji, claimed many of the shanties and illegal structures demolished were occupied by criminal elements. He said, “Mpape harbours the highest number of criminal elements and a lot of criminal activities which the residents have been complaining about”.
Conversely, the description of the condition in Nigeria today is not palatable. For criminality is a national consequence of systematic criminality of a political economy of “piracy”. The biggest criminals are the ogas themselves in the country. People become armed robbers because they have no option to earn a living and girls enter into prostitution for same reasons.
Ominously, we must reject the claims that it is only in the slums, shanties or semi urban areas criminals dwell or breed. Via, our politically exposed intellectual to the corridor of power, and government officials.
Nigeria, particularly, is a peripheral predatory capitalism gripping in forcefulness. We have in our society morbid ambition for land grabbing. There are situations were people in high position misuse their position and abuse the trust which people placed in them because of state resources accumulation. In the same vein, the capitalist members of the Nigerian ruling elite deliberately create shortage to line their pockets at the expense of the ordinary people. Here you are confronted with civil and public servants as well as political appointees making fortunes out of the misfortunes of the poor.
Again, we see political appointees becoming rich and powerful at the tremendous cost of groans, sweat and blood of millions of Nigerians. In addition, in this chaotic welter of conflicting interest, only men and women of sterner stuff, the cunning and ruthless ones always become the respected and powerful people of the society since they can always use their position to punish the poor without scruples.
International standards and jurisprudence on human rights are very clear about eviction and other issues in regards to adequate housing. These include the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Article 43 of the Constitution states: “Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, every citizen of Nigeria shall have the right to acquire and own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria.” Article 37 states: “The privacy of citizens, their homes, correspondence, telephone conversations and telegraphic communications is hereby guaranteed and protected”. These provisions in the 1999 Constitution as amended contradict mass demolition and evictions under articles forbidding arbitrary expropriation of property and violation of the right to privacy of the home.
Regrettably, the Nigerian state has destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses in waves of mass demolitions and evictions in Abuja, Lagos, Kaduna, Port Harcourt and many other cities leaving thousands of poor people homeless.
At the same time their right to adequate housing is being violated by special government demolition taskforces. We believe everyone deserves access to quality housings rooted in affordable scheme. In the context and consideration of acute shortage of housing, the Nigerian state should allocate adequate resources. At this point, the FCT administration should as a matter of responsibility provide assistance to mass demolition and eviction victims
Meanwhile, we charge the entire Nigerian state to comply with international standards on the right to adequate housing, ensure that all law enforcement officials who assist in carrying out the evictions comply with the UN Code of Conduct and the UN Basic Principles.
Olamilekan writes from Abuja via