In Nigeria, the government of Rivers State says it has no plans to evict thousands of its citizens so it can develop a waterfront property.A Geneva-based international rights group, the Center on Housing and Evictions (COHRE), said it had gained access to government plans to demolish a two-radius part of town known as the Abonima Wharf.COHRE says if the plans are carried out, more than half a million families will be affected.
“These allegations are ridiculous to begin with,” says Magnus Abe, Secretary to the state government.
“A lot of international organizations have been here (to evaluate conditions) and they have been to this area…we are talking about.”
There isn’t enough room for half a million families in Abonima Wharf, says Abe, referring to the current population.
“The area is a little group of shanties by the waterside, where there is no sanitation; the place is not habitable, and people who are saying this (that the government will evict citizens) [would] not agree to spend an hour there, not to talk of living their lives there. It’s a place infected with crime.”
Abe denies claim the government has no plans to re-settle families affected by the development or pay compensation to those currently claiming ownership of the land.
“We are paying the value of the property, so they will have cash not only to relocate their family but probably improve their lives with the capital that they would never have been able to get. So the government is not irresponsible; these are our citizens.”
COHRE says previous evictions by the government led to violations of human rights, use of excessive force and destruction of homes.
But Abe denies the claim.He says the administration has made tremendous gains in the overall development of infrastructures that have direct impact on the lives of the people.
“If you come to Rivers State and see the state of improvement that we have made [in education and infrastructure] within the past three years, you will be amazed. We are currently building 750 ultra-modern primary schools across the state. We are building 160 health centers. We have trebled the number of doctors in the employment of the state within the last three years and nurses, too, with health centers spread across the state.”