Mr. Muhammadu Buhari
President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
Dear Mr. President,
We are extremely concerned to learn about the situation on Lagos. According our information, the police brutally evicted and demolished Otodo Gbame and Ebute Ikate communities, bulldozing and setting fire to houses, businesses and community facilities, two days after the Lagos High Court injunction prevented the authorities to do so. Allegedly between 4 and 10 persons drowned and 30,000 people became homeless. These evictions might be framed in a wider governmental plan to clear Lagos’s waterfront communities, which would leave around 300,000 people homeless.
Evicted residents face an extreme situation without shelter, access to clean water, food, or other basic needs. The demolitions and evictions of the waterfront of the Lagos State contravene the 1999 Nigerian Constitution, legislation, national policies and Nigeria’s human rights obligations under international law. Certain provisions in the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 may be invoked to contest forced evictions under articles forbidding arbitrary expropriation of property and violation of the right to privacy of the home. 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". The evictions and demolitions also violate the human right to life, dignity and private and family life as enshrined in sections 33, 34 and 37of the Constitution of Nigeria, and Articles 4 and 5 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR). Having ratified the ICESCR on 29 October 1993, the State of Nigeria is treaty bound to conduct itself according Human Rights Standards. Thus, by condoning these waterfront evictions, Nigeria is violating articles 6, 7, 10, 11, 12 and 13 of the covenant, related to right to adequate livelihood, including the duties specified in the General Comments Nos. 4 & 7 on the human right to adequate housing and on forced evictions.
We urge the Government of Nigeria and the Lagos State to uphold their treaty-based obligations to avoid forced eviction and to provide the affected families with effective remedies. We also urge the government to ensure adequate compensation and alternative accommodation as essential elements of their duty to respect, protect and fulfil the human right to adequate housing. It is crucial the Nigerian Authorities respect, protect and fulfill its human rights obligations. Habitat International Coalition - Housing and Land Rights Network suggest the Nigerian authorities to:
Place an immediate moratorium on all evictions until International Human Rights Standards are met;
- Ensure that all those who have been subject to forced evictions have adequate alternative accommodation and effective remedy, including access to justice, which may include restitution, compensation, satisfaction and guarantees of non-repetition;
- Ensure that all law enforcement officials comply with the UN Code of Conduct and the UN Basic Principles under all circumstances;
- Set up independent, impartial and competent commissions of inquiry to investigate the way in which the forced evictions in the Waterfronts of Lagos States have been carried out and initiate appropriate judiciary measures and clarify responsibilities of the loss of lives and human rights violations against a court injunction;
- Introduce any necessary legislation or amendments to existing law in order to include and protect the right to adequate housing for all;
- Promote a forum where the Government of Nigeria and all the interested parties, including the waterfront communities and their representatives, concerned habitat networks, NGOs, relevant UN agencies, and public bodies can consult, come to mutual understanding and agree upon the alternatives to evicting persons in a manner agreed with the concerned communities and consistent with their needs and the international law;
Your Excellency, we look forward to hearing of your due diligence to adhere to the Federal Republic of Nigeria’s relevant human rights obligations by protecting its citizens from further violation of their right to adequate housing, among their other human rights.