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

Syrian Rebels Poised for Anti-Russia Collaboration

Forty-one insurgent groups issue joint statement vowing retaliation for Russian air offensives More

Political Maneuver Revives Export-Import Bank's Chances

Parliamentary tactic gets bill out of committee, but it faces opposition in the Senate More

Beijing Warns US on S. China Sea Patrols

Warning follows news reports Thursday that US military is planning to sail warships close to artificial islands Beijing has been aggressively building More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs