Rights group: 800 000 have been evicted in Abuja

A human rights group said on Thursday that 800 000 residents of the Nigerian capital, Abuja, were forcibly evicted over a four-year period as town planners sought to clear space for the fast-growing city.

The Swiss-based Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions said in a new report that many of those removed from their homes by authorities between 2003 and 2007 were not given due notice or afforded other usual rights. The group said some evictees were tear-gassed or beaten.

The group, which provided a rare firm estimate of the number of people forced from their homes as Abuja has developed, called on the capital’s new minister to cease evictions that are pushing many Nigerians further into poverty.

“These widespread and ongoing evictions have resulted in the massive displacement of hundreds of thousands of people with a disastrous effect on health, education, employment and family cohesion,” said the group, which wrote its report in conjunction with Nigeria’s Social and Economic Rights Action Centre.

“Nigeria has violated the right to adequate housing on a scale and with a persistence that is rarely seen anywhere else in the world.”

Nigerian authorities were not immediately available for comment.

Nigeria in the 1970s began planning the move of its capital from the swollen, southern city of Lagos to a new site in the geographical middle of the country.
As Abuja grew over the years, the city began to overwhelm nearby communities and town planners in 2003 began using forced resettlement to allow for development.

The country of 140-million people now boasts a capital city that is better organized and far less congested and crime-ridden than many of its other metropolitan areas. But human rights campaigners say that this has come at the cost of hundreds of thousands of disrupted lives.

Many original residents have been forced from their homes and now live in teeming slums just over the border from what is known as the Federal Capital Territory, where property values and rents are far beyond the means of the average Nigerian.

The evicted residents have been campaigning for years to obtain what they see as fair recompense from the government.—Sapa-AP

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