Nigeria: World Bank panel turns its back on forcibly evicted community

The decision by a World Bank Inspection Panel to refuse to investigate a complaint about forced evictions linked to a World Bank project in Lagos shows a complete disregard for its responsibilities, Amnesty International said today. On Thursday evening, the Inspection Panel published its decision to halt the process to seek solutions for some of those made homeless in February 2013 when some 9,000 people were forcibly evicted from an informal settlement in the city’s Badia East community. This decision ends the panel’s involvement in this case. The affected community members were meant to benefit from a World Bank-funded project in the wider Badia area which aimed to increase access to basic services through investment in infrastructure for services such as drainage. But nearly 17 months on, they have been denied alternative housing and have not been adequately compensated for their loss. “This decision is beyond disappointing – it is a slap in the face for the Badia East community members who were forcibly evicted and left homeless for well over a year. What’s particularly incomprehensible is that it was reached after the Inspection Panel met the affected people, heard their stories and saw the situation for themselves,” said Ashfaq Khalfan, Researcher on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights at Amnesty International. “The World Bank Board of Directors and President Jim Kim should call an urgent Board meeting to discuss the panel’s decision and uphold its responsibility to the Badia East community.” Amnesty International agrees with the forcibly evicted residents that the Resettlement Action Plan designed for them has been flawed, violates human rights standards and does not comply with the World Bank’s policy on involuntary resettlement. It has not provided any options for alternative housing and concrete livelihood support and was developed without genuine consultation with the community representatives. More than a year after the forced evictions in Badia East, the Lagos state government offered inadequate financial assistance to the affected communities on a “take it or leave it” basis. It was wholly inadequate for the harm and loss they have suffered and most of the affected people were left with no alternative but to live in precarious conditions. Two of the three community members who originally requested the World Bank investigation have, through their lawyer, publicly expressed their extreme discontent to the Inspection Panel about the financial assistance provided and the process of developing the Resettlement Action Plan. Forty-one other community members have backed them in their stance, but in refusing to investigate, the World Bank’s panel has seemingly ignored their views. This is despite the fact that the Inspection Panel has stated itself that many of the affected people it interviewed complained that payments were totally insufficient for them to restore their previous livelihoods. The Inspection Panel’s decision was reached under a new pilot scheme which aims to solve problems facing the complainants before deciding on whether to carry out an investigation. Amnesty International is calling for an independent investigation into how the World Bank inspection panel handled the pilot, and for a suspension of the pilot scheme until that investigation has been completed. Until then, future complainants should carefully consider whether to agree to participate in the pilot scheme. “Based on this case, it seems that the World Bank inspection panel’s pilot scheme is little more than a public relations effort that allowed it to wash its hands of its responsibility,” said Ashfaq Khalfan.