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200,000 face homelessness in forced evictions

More than 200,000 people face homelessness as Nigeria goes through with plans to clear its waterfront shanty towns.

In what it calls its Greater Port Harcourt master plan, the local government hopes to develop the area to create jobs, boost the local economy and build better roads.

The scheme, which includes an amusement part and other attractions, is near where foreign oil workers live in fortified compounds.

Meanwhile Nigerians living in the city have little electricity and access to clean drinking water.

Thousands of families have already been forcibly evicted from the shanty towns to make way for an eight-screen cinema, said Amnesty International.

The rights group’s Just Move Them report out yesterday (Thursday) urges authorities to put the planned demolitions on hold and make sure any evictions are carried out in line with international human rights law,  which guarantees that people forced out of their homes be found somewhere else to live.

These planned demolitions are likely to plunge hundreds of thousands of Nigeria's most vulnerable citizens further into poverty,” said Amnesty’s Tawanda Hondora. “The government should halt the waterfront evictions until they ensure they comply with international human rights standards.

Last year, about 13,000 people lost their homes as the waterfront community, Njemanze was demolished as part of the same regeneration scheme. In the process, many of these people lost their belongings and livelihoods after being forcibly out without notice, Amnesty said. A year on, many of these people still have nowhere to live.

"Thousands of people, including children, women and the elderly were left homeless and vulnerable to other human rights violations,” said Amnesty.

None of the people affected this time around have been properly consulted about the plans and this has created a great deal of uncertainty and insecurity, Amnesty said. “The government must make every effort to identify alternatives to evictions, using them only as a last resort.

"Cash is the problem,” Charity Roberts, a teacher whose home is marked for demolition, told Amnesty. “Right now people don't even have enough to eat. How will they relocate? There are some people whose livelihood depends on the waterside. What would they do?"

Amnesty is also worried that security forces will use excessive force, and illegally use guns while carrying out forced evictions.

The report also exposed how local officials cared little about the plight of the residents. It quoted Rivers state Government’s Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi as saying: "We need to just move them and they will have to find their own accommodation."

Hayley attribution