Hundreds of people have been forced from their homes to make way for a commercial development in Rivers State, Nigeria, Amnesty International has learned.
Residents of Njemanze Road, Port Harcourt will lose their homes permanently if a planned demolition by local authorities goes ahead this week.
The demolition was originally scheduled for Tuesday morning, prompting panicked residents to salvage what they could from their homes throughout the night.
Many are seeking shelter in nearby churches or with relatives, while others have nowhere to go and are sleeping on the streets.
The demolition did not go ahead on Tuesday and Amnesty International has called for plans to bulldoze the community to be halted.
“Many of the tenants have nowhere else to go and most are unable to afford the large deposit necessary to rent a new home,” said Erwin van der Borght, Director of Amnesty International’s Africa Programme.
Houses along the Njemanze Road were made uninhabitable when doors, roofs and windows were removed by police on Friday.
Tenants – including many women and children – were given just seven days’ notice to vacate their homes and businesses, while most were not offered compensation or
“Even our elderly fathers and children are on the street. We need help from the government,” one local resident told Amnesty International.
For some residents, this is the second time they have been forcibly evicted from their home. Njemanze waterfront community, home to thousands of people, was demolished on 28 August.
Several of the displaced residents sought shelter in the neighbouring buildings along Njemanze Road – buildings that are now also set to be demolished.
The houses under threat stretch along approximately 2km of road. They will be demolished to give access to the site of the already demolished Njemanze waterfront community.
The waterfront is one of the most densely populated areas of Port Harcourt. The state governor has repeatedly stated that demolitions along the waterfront are “to sanitize and check criminal activities”.
“Rivers State government is only permitted to carry out evictions as a last resort,” said Erwin van der Borght. “They are obliged, in every case, to explore all feasible alternatives to evictions and avoid or minimise the use of force.”
Amnesty International has said that the Rivers State government is not following its own Physical Planning and Development Law (2003).
Under this law, they should have established an “Urban Renewal Board”, which would have declared the waterfront communities an “improvement area”, for which it would have prepared an improvement plan.
This law also requires the government to provide alternative housing for all the occupants affected, which they have not done.
“The Governor of Rivers State should call an immediate halt to the planned demolitions, respect the rights of the residents to adequate and reasonable notice of any eviction and ensure that all those affected receive adequate alternative housing and that no one is rendered homeless,” said Erwin van der Borght.