Abuja – December 1, 2023 – Viewpoint Housing.Our Stand (96)-
In Nigeria, the demolition of houses has been ongoing since the late 1990s since 2003, several state governments have used the demolition of houses as a restructuring tactic, to better suit their demands and political ambitions.
Typically, only the removal of unsafe or undesirable structures is recommended. Nigeria has seen a wave of forced evictions and home demolitions throughout the years, which has been amplified in the recent few months. demolition and eviction have evolved from becoming tools of state policy to tools of wrath it is illogical for a country with a housing deficit of over 20 million to be actively tearing down the few homes that residents have created for themselves. the country’s housing stock depreciates, even when the immediate burden of the destruction falls on a person or family.
Events that happen suddenly, without prior notice, are considered to be the most traumatic for human beings.
A father described his situation: “What has happened is a catastrophe for our family. When we left our home, we did not expect that the government would demolish it. Home means life and security. I am unable to work while my family is still living in a tent by the roadside”.
For children, a home fulfils a basic vital need and makes it possible to establish a secure and adaptive human relationship. The protective shield that is essential for children’s mental health is dramatically destroyed when faced with a home demolition.
The fundamental requirements of humankind is shelter. housing has evolved from being only a basic necessity to a fundamental human right in contemporary civilized cultures. nigeria has ratified many conventions that guarantee the right to a decent place to live.
Along with other economic and social rights, the right to suitable housing imposes three responsibility on the government: to respect, protect, and fulfil. By abstaining from acts that might violate existing housing rights, the state has a negative commitment to protect such rights. While the duty to safeguard means defending individuals against third parties who violate their housing rights, the responsibility to fulfil entails taking administrative, financial, legal, and other activities to guarantee that people’s rights to appropriate housing are positively fulfilled and reinforced. hence, the state has an obligation to provide housing for everyone, contingent on the availability of funding.
Therefore, it is obvious that a state is in flagrant breach of its obligations under the right to sufficient housing when it initiates a procedure that results in the demolition of dwellings constructed by residents and their forcible eviction from their residences. this also applies to the federal capital territory. let’s go over the justifications for demolitions and evictions. usually, the first concerns a lack of official documents such as permits, permissions, or titles. sometimes estates and homes are constructed and occupied for decades before state officials become alarmed and deem construction and land occupation unlawful. the state essentially ignores its legal obligations and acts as though everything is fine until the bulldozers are moved. in other cases, state officials provide permits and permissions that subsequently prove to have been issued incorrectly. the family that has lost millions of naira is made to suffer, but the authorities are often not censured, fined, or otherwise made to pay for their misdeeds.
Additionally, demolition is invariably contentious and slow in delivering new replacement homes or even compensations to the affected home owners.
One major problem with the majority of these demolitions is that there are other options that may lead to a win-win scenario without requiring the demolition of houses. If the homes are not obstructing any infrastructure routes, such as flood, power, or public rights of way, they may be spared and their owners forced to comply by paying the required fines and penalties in order to get the required licences. Additionally, it can be investigated if it is feasible to redirect the flood or whether the owner of the building that unintentionally violated the restrictions is responsible for paying for the infrastructure. Ultimately, the public goal is accomplished without placing undue financial burden on the home owner.
In several cases, evictions and demolitions have occurred against court orders or while legal proceedings are pending, depriving the homeowners of the protections afforded by due process of law, which is embodied in the right to a fair hearing. Therefore, it is crucial that state governments and other authorities refrain from attempting to overreach the courts and present them with a situation in which the court’s orders and rulings would become meaningless.
When houses worth billions of naira are demolished without the ability, the will, or the planning to create homes half the value of the ones it has destroyed, the victims ends up poorer and worse off. The state cannot be said to have a plan for development when its sole plans are to demolish without having a strategy to construct anything in its place. Instead, it acts as a catalyst for decay and regression.