By Echeburu Oby
Demolitions of buildings have become very common in Nigeria and it’s been trailed by uproar by those mostly affected. However, the government usually support these demolitions to effectively outline the areas for proper planning and development.
Most of the affected individuals always complain of inadequate notices issued to them, biased patterns of demolition, nonexistence of resettlement options and the affected lands to be “unfairly re-allocated to more influential persons”.
Demolition often leads to immense displacements of people, due to the opaque population of these areas. Arguably most of the areas being affected by demolition are illegal shanties, traders’ outlets/structures and possibly those without building approvals.
The government springs its legal authorities to commence on demolition as the section 297 (2) of the 1999 constitution confers the ownership of lands in the FCT on the federal government. Also, under the Land Use Act of 1978 and the FCT Act, controls to manage lands are conferred on the governors and the minister in case of the FCT
Former NHRC Executive Chairman of Board, Dr Chidi Odinkalu, cautions against involuntary ejections and demolitions of residence without awareness to human rights standards.
He cited section 17 (2) and 16(2) (d) of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria “which decrees that government needs to ensure that “appropriate and acceptable shelters…are provided for all citizens.”
Odinkalu further cautioned that the actions of the authorities should not be in breach of extant United Nations covenants on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights No 7 in 1997 and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
He further stated that there is a global consensus on the safeguards against forced evictions. As contained in the 1976 United Nations Conference on Human Settlements. He said major clearance operations should be taken only when “conservation and rehabilitation are not feasible and relocation measures are made.”
“In a situation where there is a demolition without due process and prior notice, it is regarded as forced eviction or imposed homelessness and it infringes on the prohibition against cruel, inhuman and humiliating treatment under our 1999 Constitution. Nothing can be more degrading as to throwing a family out onto the streets without a roof over their heads. which amounts to insight against poor people in defilement of the constitutional prohibition against status-based discrimination”, he wrote.
The implementation of city beautification, urban renewal and general environmental-friendly programmes necessitates the pulling down of illegal structures by the government. They commence slum clearance, redevelopment in central and suburban areas and general commitment to the city master plan in a bid to achieve its objectives.
In some instance, the government usually task it upon itself to migrate affected house owners into another suitable environment.
The FCT Development Control has been quoted to have said the government has no plan to relocate those that are affected because they built illegally without the relevant land documents and Building Plan Approval which are the ones twisting the Abuja Master-Plan.
A citizen, Ehizogie Agbondimwin said: “Demolition is not bad; it is the way in which it is carried out that is the problem. Yes, these buildings are illegal and illegal structures cannot stand. But the government has failed to provide mass housing projects. The Nigerian government doesn’t care about the well-being of the people that is why its housing policy has continued to defy successful implementation. since the government has the right to demolish, it is only important to produce new areas, completely developed and provide low-cost mass housing for people like the Shagari low-cost houses all over the country.”