News / Africa

Nigerian Town Takes Demolition Fight to Courtroom

Nigerian Town Takes Demolition Fight to Courtroomi
X
April 08, 2013
Most Nigerians living in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, don’t live in the city center, much of which resembles a high-income city in the United States, like Beverly Hills. Instead, they live in makeshift towns that regularly are demolished as the capital expands. Heather Murdock reports for VOA about how the residents of one such town are fighting in court to keep their homes.

Nigerian Town Takes Demolition Fight to Courtroom

TEXT SIZE - +
Heather Murdock
— The Nigerian capital, Abuja, is rapidly expanding with construction sites around every corner. Most Nigerians in and around the capital, though, can not afford to live in any of these new buildings. Instead, they live in makeshift towns that are regularly demolished as the city expands. One town has headed to court to try to keep its homes.

Driving through central Abuja, it’s hard to believe that most Nigerians live in abject poverty. The roads are smooth and the buildings are shiny. A giant mosque and a giant church make the skyline look like gold.
 
But most Nigerians in this town live away from the city center. People live in places like this settlement, called Mpape. Most of the roads are not paved and there are hardly any city services.  

Abuja's meticulously planned city center began developing in the 1980s when officials decided to name the city Nigeria's new capital. The city is in central Nigeria making it accessible to both north and south. (Heather Murdock for VOA)Abuja's meticulously planned city center began developing in the 1980s when officials decided to name the city Nigeria's new capital. The city is in central Nigeria making it accessible to both north and south. (Heather Murdock for VOA)
x
Abuja's meticulously planned city center began developing in the 1980s when officials decided to name the city Nigeria's new capital. The city is in central Nigeria making it accessible to both north and south. (Heather Murdock for VOA)
Abuja's meticulously planned city center began developing in the 1980s when officials decided to name the city Nigeria's new capital. The city is in central Nigeria making it accessible to both north and south. (Heather Murdock for VOA)
Displacement fears

Sylverline Egeonu sells nuts and traditional chalk on a quiet road in Mpape. She said she moved here and built her house after she was thrown out of her last home by city developers in 2006.
 
Some buildings were already destroyed when the court ordered a halt to the demolition last summer. Lawyers for Mpape are expected to present a human rights argument rather than dispute the legal ownership of the land. (Heather Murdock for VOA)Some buildings were already destroyed when the court ordered a halt to the demolition last summer. Lawyers for Mpape are expected to present a human rights argument rather than dispute the legal ownership of the land. (Heather Murdock for VOA)
x
Some buildings were already destroyed when the court ordered a halt to the demolition last summer. Lawyers for Mpape are expected to present a human rights argument rather than dispute the legal ownership of the land. (Heather Murdock for VOA)
Some buildings were already destroyed when the court ordered a halt to the demolition last summer. Lawyers for Mpape are expected to present a human rights argument rather than dispute the legal ownership of the land. (Heather Murdock for VOA)
“Before, government come there and demolished that place," she said. "After that time they tell us if we are coming to Mpape we are coming at our own risk. That’s why we come to Mpape. They say that: Mpape, we will not demolish.”  

Now, she said, her new home is slated to be demolished.
 
John Odewale, who heads the Mpape resident’s association, said security forces came to town last summer and marked almost every building with a red ‘X,’ indicating that it was coming down.
 
“T’was 4 p.m. We saw fully armed policemen, militiamen and others like that and a lot of vehicles working down towards the valley there. They came down. They started marking house like that. So people [were] panicking,” said Odewale.

John Odewale, who heads the Mpape resident’s association, says the town was marked for destruction last summer by hundreds of armed men. (Heather Murdock for VOA)John Odewale, who heads the Mpape resident’s association, says the town was marked for destruction last summer by hundreds of armed men. (Heather Murdock for VOA)
x
John Odewale, who heads the Mpape resident’s association, says the town was marked for destruction last summer by hundreds of armed men. (Heather Murdock for VOA)
John Odewale, who heads the Mpape resident’s association, says the town was marked for destruction last summer by hundreds of armed men. (Heather Murdock for VOA)
But Mpape was never torn down, he said, because local activists took their case to court. The demolition was supposed to start last August but the judges ordered it delayed until they hear the case, starting on April 15.
 
City planners say they are still hoping to demolish Mpape, because instead of tin-roofed shacks, they want clean roads and sturdy buildings, like nearby neighborhoods that are packed with mansions and lush gardens.


Government services

In one such neighborhood, the Development Control office stands firm in its belief that taking down Mpape will improve the city for everyone. Spokesperson Josie Mudasiru said the people being displaced always knew they were living on the land illegally and would one day have to move.
 
“We cannot allow some few people to take the law into their own hands and build illegal shanties all over the place. And that is why we want to clean up the place,” Mudasiru said.
 
She said the lack of city services, like sanitation, in Mpape is dangerous for everyone.
 
“Mpape is going to be planned like the city center. It’s going have a mixture of residential, commercial. You are going to have institutions. You are going to have schools,” said Mudasiru.

Rent outstrips salaries

Residents say they can’t afford to move into the planned parts of town, however, where rents often are more than their salaries.

Families in Mpape say they struggle even to keep their children in school and cannot afford to move. (Heather Murdock for VOA)Families in Mpape say they struggle even to keep their children in school and cannot afford to move. (Heather Murdock for VOA)
x
Families in Mpape say they struggle even to keep their children in school and cannot afford to move. (Heather Murdock for VOA)
Families in Mpape say they struggle even to keep their children in school and cannot afford to move. (Heather Murdock for VOA)
Florence Olokun, the secretary of the Mpape Women’s Association, said residents would happily move if they were compensated or given somewhere else to go. She said more than one million people could be forced to leave, leading to despair, and just moving the problem elsewhere.
 
“They will now have insecurity in Abuja metropolis because if you push people out, and they don’t have anywhere to stay, they are bound to stay anyhow and do anyhow,” said Olokun.
 
She said rich capitals all over the world have nearby slums that house low-level government workers and manual laborers. More city services would be welcomed in Mpape, she said, but if she has to move out, she doesn’t know else she could go.

You May Like

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Turkish Law Gives Spy Agency Controversial Powers

Parliament approves legislation to bolster powers of intelligence service, which government claims is necessary to modernize and deal with new threats Turkey faces More

Video Face of American Farmer Changing

Average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Face of American Farmer is Changingi
X
Mike Osborne
April 18, 2014
The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid