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

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border From Mexico

    In remote areas of the Sonoran Desert, which straddles the US-Mexico, thousands of migrants face arid desolation

    Video Recycling is Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    It's an ancient craft that stretches back millennia - but despite Lebanon’s trash crisis providing a lifeline, remaining glass blowers face an uncertain future

    Meet the Alleged Killer of Cambodia’s Kem Ley

    What little is known about former soldier, troublesome Buddhist monk and indebted gambler, raises more questions than answers

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora