UN expert questions legality of ‘brutal’ mass evictions in Nigeria

The UN special rapporteur on the right to housing, Leilani Farha, said on Thursday that four people were reported to have died in the eviction and others had complained of "brutal treatment"

By: Reuters | Geneva/lagos | Published:November 17, 2016 10:29 pm
nigeria, lagos, nigeria mass eviction, un nigeria mass eviction, world news A woman sells dry fish and palm oil at the side of demolished houses by government officials in Lekki, Lagos, Nigeria. Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016, Amnesty International says as many as 30,000 people in Nigeria’s commercial capital are homeless after their community was set ablaze and demolished this week. (Source: AP Photo)

A UN expert asked Nigeria on Thursday for urgent information about a forced eviction of thousands of people from makeshift homes in Lagos, amid reports of brutality and possible breaches of human rights laws. Residents and a rights group said 30,000 people were forced from their bamboo homes illegally built in the city’s Lekki neighbourhood – a prime site for luxury apartments – despite a court order not to.

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In August, the Lagos state government gave residents who lacked building permits two weeks to move out of Lekki and other upmarket districts and authorities have demolished several shanty towns that it says are home to criminal gangs, making them a security threat, as well breaching building regulations.

The UN special rapporteur on the right to housing, Leilani Farha, said on Thursday that four people were reported to have died in the eviction and others had complained of “brutal treatment”. “It has been brought to my attention that the evictions may have involved the extreme use of force and fire by the Nigerian police force and Lagos State government, leaving individuals and families scrambling in the middle of the night to find safety and shelter,” Farha said in a statement.

“What makes these evictions particularly concerning is that they were carried out in blatant disregard of a court order and have completely ignored international human rights guidelines on forced evictions.” There was no immediate comment from Nigeria’s government or Lagos state. Lagos police last week denied they had destroyed homes and said they had arrested several people for setting fire to them.

“In an urgent communication, Ms. Farha has asked the Nigerian government for information on the evictions, the methods used and their compliance with international human rights law,” said the statement. Last week Amnesty International called on Nigeria to shelve plans to demolish more illegal settlements.

Slums of makeshift housing are common in the poorest parts of Lagos, a city of 23 million people, which attracts thousands of people each day in search of work from across Africa’s most populous nation and neighbouring countries. Overcrowding in Lagos looks likely to continue. U.N. estimates suggest that by 2050, Nigeria’s population – currently 180 million people – will grow to 400 million, making it the world’s third most populous nation after China and India.