By Tope Templer Olaiya,
Assistant Lagos City Editor
AN eighty-page report recently released by Amnesty International has accused the Lagos State government of violation of human right in the demolition of over 200 structures and displacement of over 2,000 people in Ijora Badia.
The Amnesty International office last week expressed disagreement with the compensation package approved for Lagos State by the World Bank for people forcibly evicted from the informal settlement. The body in a report titled: “At The Mercy Of Government,” said the World Bank wrongly endorsed a compensation process that was not consistent with international human rights standards or the bank’s own policy.
“It is an outrage that a community, left destitute by the actions of the Lagos State government, has been denied an effective remedy by the same government and that the World Bank has been complicit in this matter,” said Audrey Gaughran, Director of Global Issues at Amnesty International.
She added that Badia East was chosen to benefit from a World Bank-funded project, which aimed to increase access to basic services such as drainage, through investment in infrastructure. “However, the demolition of at least 266 structures that served as homes and businesses took place without genuine consultation or adequate and reasonable notice and with no remedy for the loss suffered.
“In Badia East, none of the legal and procedural safeguards that are required under international human rights law and standards in relation to evictions was observed. There was no genuine consultation with the affected people to identify alternatives to eviction. The government failed to provide adequate notice, legal remedies, alternative housing for those unable to provide for themselves or compensation for the loss of property.
“After mounting pressure, the state government, in collaboration with the World Bank, agreed to develop and implement a retrospective Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) for the Badia East residents in line with the World Bank’s Policy on Involuntary Resettlement. However, both the content of the RAP and the process by which it was prepared contravened international human rights standards and World Bank policy.”
According to Gaughran, while the RAP was supposed to accommodate provision of options for adequate alternative housing or relocation to other sites; ensure that affected people were offered the support needed to restore their livelihoods and standard of living; ensure adequate compensation was given to those affected, instead only financial assistance of amounts unilaterally determined by the government and considered inadequate by affected people was offered.
Amnesty International is a global movement of more than three million supporters, members and activists in more than 150 countries, who campaign vigorously to end grave abuses of human rights around the world.
This latest report has called on the state government to act immediately to ensure all those forcibly evicted from Badia East are adequately compensated for their losses and those who cannot provide homes for themselves are provided with adequate alternative housing.
It also urges the World Bank to strengthen its safeguard policies to prevent the abuse of its funded projects and its policies to commit or facilitate human rights violations.
Describing the Lagos State government’s compensation as “inadequate”, Amnesty International noted that the slum dwellers of Ijora-Badia, whose homes were bulldozed on February 23, 2013, did not get compensations commensurate to their losses. She, therefore, insisted that destitute victims of forced eviction must be adequately compensated.
Despite the state’s lofty dreams of making Lagos a mage city, the body had in the wake of the demolition last year, stated that about 75 per cent of Lagosians live in slums.
The body’s Nigerian researcher, Mr. Oluwatosin Popoola, had noted that government’s failure to respect the rights of Badia residents had resulted in hardship for most residents of the state, while forced evictions, aimed at bringing order to the chaotic and crowded metropolis which is home to about 15 million people, had cost around 9,000 people their homes or livelihoods in the last 18 months.
“The effects of February’s forced eviction have been devastating for the Badia East community, where dozens are still sleeping out in the open or under a nearby bridge exposed to rain, mosquitos and at risk of physical attack,” the report stated.
“The Lagos State government has violated the right to adequate housing of the residents of Badia East by failing to put in place any of the legal safeguards required under the international law, prior to evicting thousands of the residents. The demolition has devastating consequences on the lives of the evictees. This is one eviction too many, all in the name of development.
“The Nigerian government has failed the people of Badia by resettling them in the area from Oluwole, where they were in 1973 by the Federal Government without proper documentation. Oluwole area is now home to the National Theatre,” the report stated.
While there has been no official response to the Amnesty report, Governor Babatunde Fashola had countered critics of his administration’s Badia eviction, saying that the government’s plan is to solve problems and ensure better living for residents.
“That is why I have committed to build 1,008 flats in Badia, to take people out of living on the refuse heap. That place has been there since I was a child and we have carried on as if nothing happened.
“The easiest thing to do is to take a bull-dozer and bulldoze a slum because governments don’t create slums, it is people who do. Our administration’s plan is to bulldoze away your difficult conditions by providing roads, drainages and primary healthcare centres.”
According to a community representative, “since February 23, the people have nowhere to stay, they sleep outside battling with mosquitoes, malaria and cholera. In the process, many have died, including a pregnant woman, who died few weeks ago.
“Now, our life, our pains and what we went through can never be paid except the roof that was taken over our heads. To make matters worse, we here there is even a reduction to N90,000 compensation from what we formerly agreed on. With that amount, you cannot rent a house in Lagos and pay for a year. Till date, 18 months after, we are yet to get anything from government, not even a relief material.”
Badia East is part of the larger Badia community, which is one of nine settlements (slums) that were intended to benefit from the World Bank-funded Lagos Metropolitan Development and Governance Project (LMDGP). The objective of the US$200 million project was “to increase sustainable access to basic urban services through investments in critical infrastructure.
The infrastructure component of the project (estimated at US$160.89 million) included urban upgrading activities in “nine of the largest slums identified in 1995” in Lagos State, along with drainage and solid waste management projects.
Though the area of land from which people were forcibly evicted has been earmarked by the Lagos State Ministry of Housing for a housing development project, The LagosHOMS project did not form part of the activities under the LMDGP.
The state’s Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Ade Ipaye laid the blame on the doorsteps of the displaced citizens.
He said: “If anybody says no, I don’t want your assistance, I want proper compensation because my house was destroyed; if that person can show land title, he can show planning permit approved by the Ministry of Physical Planning through the planning office, such a person can make claim for compensation because you have acquired my property which I built legally. But for others, the fee they are rejecting is the financial assistance that government has approved.”