News / Africa

Nigeria Faces Battle Over Housing Demolitions

A building slated for destruction in Mpape, an informal settlement in the Nigerian capital, August 1, 2012. (Photo: VOA /Heather Murdock)
A building slated for destruction in Mpape, an informal settlement in the Nigerian capital, August 1, 2012. (Photo: VOA /Heather Murdock)
Heather Murdock
ABUJA — Nineteen villages inside the Nigerian capital are suing the government, demanding a halt to plans to demolish most of their homes and businesses. The government says the “villages” are actually shantytowns-settlements of illegal squatters. 

Almost every tin or wooden shack and concrete building in this vast slum is marked with a large red painted “X” and the word “demo” for demolition or the letters “D.C.” which stands for “Development Control,” a governmental department.

At the end of this month, the government plans to take down every doomed building in Mpape, and 18 other communities in the Nigerian capital, which locals call “villages.”  

Residents say they will be homeless.  At a wooden yam stand on the side of the road, Patrick Osuji says he would not mind leaving if the government offered compensation or a new house.  Under the current plan, he says, he and his three children have no where to go.

“They have marked everywhere," he said. "We are not happy. We are angry. They do not want to give us another place. They just want us to stay outside like that? Stay in the cold weather? The rain will fall upon us. They do not care. They care only for their families. They do not care about us.”

Activists say about 1.8 million people could be displaced, but authorities dispute the figure.

The government says the area is almost entirely populated by illegal squatters, and residents do not deny it. Many say they purchased their land from previous owners, but the deals were informal, without government approval.

Development Control Department spokesperson Josie Mudasiru says many Mpape residents settled on empty land years ago to save money on rent, while other parts of the city were being developed.

"What people are doing is that they want to own land by all means," Mudasiru said. "I mean own houses by all means and that is why they just go into the bush. They feel that ‘Okay, before government gets here it will take some time.’ And we can not continue like that.”

Abuja is Nigeria’s purpose-built capital in the center of the country, chosen in the 1970s to be a symbol of unity after a devastating civil war. The city is flush with mansions, grandiose government buildings and carefully manicured parks.  

As the city develops, ordinary Nigerians, most of whom live in absolute poverty, lacking adequate shelter, food or healthcare, move farther and father away or cram into slums like Mpape that have no city water, electricity or roads. Mudasiru says the government wants to change that.

“Mpape has no infrastructure, for now," said Mudasiru. "And in the master plan they would have earmarked some places for schools, for hospitals, for residential areas, you know, and all this. But it cannot be done because we have illegal people squatting on the land.”

But residents of Mpape say ordinary Nigerians can not afford to live in rich Abuja neighborhoods, populated by the Nigerian elite and foreigners and they have taken their case to court.  

A lawyer representing the communities, Wahab Olatoye, accuses government officials of using city planning as an excuse for taking land from the poor and giving it to the rich.   

Mpape resident Johnchuks Onuanyim, a journalist who advocates for the community, says if the court does not grant an injunction, the sudden homelessness of masses of people will cause crime rates to soar.

“I do not know how the government is going to manage it," he said. "It is going to cost our security because this is an injustice. Even someone who is not known to crime. Over night you just demolish his property?  Probably what he has gathered in his life.” 

Officials say the residents are exaggerating and that they will find rental properties after the demolition. Onuanyim says businesses are already failing in the marked villages, and rents are soaring in Abuja and surrounding towns in anticipation of a housing rush.

You May Like

Photogallery Snowstorm Sweeps Northeastern US

update 'This is nothing like we feared it would be,' New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says; he had warned storm could be one of worst in city history More

Millions of Displaced Nigerians Struggle With Daily Existence

Government acknowledges over a million people displaced in 2014 due to fight against Boko Haram insurgency More

Facebook: Internal Error to Blame for Outages

Temporary outage appeared to spill over and temporarily slow or block traffic to other major Internet sites More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid