LAGOS — A Nigerian state government’s scheme to tear down slums for modern buildings including a hotel and theme park could leave more than 200,000 people homeless, Amnesty International warned on Thursday.
Waterfront shanty settlements are being razed in the oil hub city of Port Harcourt in southern Nigeria under a so-called “urban renewal” scheme.
“More than 200,000 people will be at risk of losing their homes and livelihoods,” as a result, Amnesty said in a report released Thursday.
The evictions, which began in August last year, were carried out by armed security agents without prior consultation with the affected communities, compensation or resettlement plans, it also said.
Amnesty said that a cinema complex has since sprung up in one of the districts pulled down while commercial ventures such as “a theme park, a conference centre, a shopping mall and a hotel,” are under way.
Ibim Semenitari, Rivers State government spokewoman, confirmed to AFP that some commercial projects would be established, but added that the acquired spaces will be “mainly for housing.”
She said the slums were too dilapidated for habitation.
“The communities are…worse than slums. Often times there are a lot of floodings in these areas,” she said.
“These are not communities in which a respected government would leave its people,” she added.
Semenitari also said a study had found that “one of the places where criminal conduct was most rife was in the waterfront.”
But Amnesty accused the state authorities of incessant breaches of rights in the blitz.
“The Rivers State government has consistently violated its international human rights obligations by carrying out forced evictions in Port Harcourt’s waterfront settlements,” the report said.
“It has announced demolition of all the waterfront areas without putting in place legal protections and other safeguards against forced eviction,” it said.
The government is currently putting up new houses to be sold off at subsidised mortgage rates, Semenitari replied.
“The idea behind it is to make it as affordable as possible,” she said.
Amnesty reiterated that 12 people were wounded last year when security forces fired on demonstrators protesting the slum housing demolition.
The Rivers State government denied that any shooting took place.
Amnesty called on the government to cease immediately all forced evictions and “adopt a moratorium on all evictions and demolitions in the waterfront areas until adequate safeguards are put in place.”