Independent UN expert sounds alarm on mass forced evictions in Nigeria

13 August 2009

An independent United Nations human rights expert today voiced her concerns at the mass evictions planned by the River State Government in Nigeria which could leave hundreds of thousands of people homeless over the coming year.

“Forced evictions can only be justified in the most exceptional cases and in full compliance with international human rights law,” Raquel Rolnik, the Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, said in a news release.

In February the River State Government announced it would demolish all the waterfront settlements in Port Harcourt as part of an urban renewal strategy. 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.

Ms. Rolnik emphasized that evictions should not result in individuals being rendered homeless or vulnerable to the violation of other human rights.

“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,” she said.

The Special Rapporteur reminded the Government that, 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, and the provision of legal remedies.

Ms. Rolnik also voiced concern that military personnel may assist in the forced evictions in Port Harcourt, and that this could result in multiple human rights violations.

According to local sources, Port Harcourt’s military forces arrested over 1,000 residents on 5 August who were protesting against the demolition of their homes.

Ms. Rolnik reports to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council in an independent and unpaid capacity, as do all Special Rapporteurs.

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