Lagos Demolishes Homes as 9,000 Forcibly Evicted: Amnesty

Nigeria’s government forcibly evicted about 9,000 people in a slum area in the commercial capital of Lagos in February, demolishing their homes without prior notice or providing alternative accommodation, Amnesty International said.

Satellite images of Badia East show that concrete houses and other structures were destroyed in the Feb. 23 demolitions, the London-based human rights group said in an e-mailed report today, citing witnesses. Senior officials in the Lagos state government said the slum was a rubbish dump, it said.

Lagos, with 21 million people, is the most densely-populated of the 36 states in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation. About 70 percent of the inhabitants of Lagos live in slums, according to Amnesty. The West African nation is Africa’s largest oil producer.

The report, compiled by Amnesty and the Lagos-based Social and Economic Rights Action Centre, cites former residents from Badia East as saying armed police officers threatened to shoot them if they didn’t move.

Hakeem Bello, the special adviser on media for Lagos state Governor Babatunde Fashola, didn’t answer three calls to his mobile phone while two calls to his office didn’t connect. Two e-mailed inquiries sent to the state government weren’t answered. Ngozi Braide, a spokeswoman for Lagos police, was unavailable when contacted for comment.

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“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, mosquitoes and at risk of physical attack,” Oluwatosin Popoola, Amnesty’s Nigeria researcher, said in the report.

The evictions are part of a pattern of forced removals of residents in informal settlements since the 1990s across Lagos, including in Badia, Makoko and Ilaje Otumara, according to the report. The organizations urged the Lagos state government to immediately end mass evictions “until safeguards have been put in place to protect people from forced eviction.”

“The Lagos state government has failed to consult people to explore alternatives to the eviction, provide adequate notice, legal remedies, compensation and adequate alternative housing,” the report said.

Lagos state Governor Fashola is pushing to build infrastructure, including an urban rail system and bridges, to lure investors and cater to an expanding population. On Aug. 1, he said he was building 1,008 apartments in Badia to rehouse its residents.

“The state government will empower and give all residents of blighted areas a chance to live a prosperous life,” he said.

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