Informal settlements clean their environment in celebration of World Habitat Day
On Monday, October 7, 2013 the Social and Economic Rights Action Center (SERAC), the Lagos Marginalized Communities Forum (LAMCOFOR) and their partner communities will set out on the streets of Ijora-Badia to clean up their environment and raise awareness about the need for access to basic services within their communities.
These activities will coincide with countless others around the world in celebration of United Nations World Habitat Day (WHD), one day every year designated for reflection on the state of human settlements and the right of all people to adequate housing or shelter. It also aims to remind people that they are responsible for the habitat of future generations.
This year the theme of WHD is urban mobility. According to Dr. Joan Clos, Executive Director of the UN Settlements Programme,
“Mobility is at the core of equitable access to basic goods, services and activities – such as work, education, medical care, shopping, socializing – and to enable people to participate in civic life.”
Of course, where urban mobility is difficult or limited – e.g. when public transportation systems are costly or non-existent – the urban poor are disproportionately impacted.
In Lagos, informal settlements – such as Makoko, Iwaya, Ajegunle and Badia – are often largely ‘off the grid’ of public transportation, far away from quality schools and medical facilities, and isolated by persistent flooding. These communities are too frequently denied access to basic services, and adequate support to improve their living environment and security of tenure is not regularly forthcoming. As a result, little public infrastructure is extended to informal settlements. Roads and drainage channels that do exist are generally in need of great repair. Waste removal is infrequent or entirely non-existent. Instead – using the infrastructural disrepair, presence of waste, and frequency of flooding as their justification – the government often resorts to demolitions and forced evictions, generally accompanied by massive human rights violations.
For these reasons, SERAC and LAMCOFOR, with the support of Lagos State Waste Management Authority, have teamed up with slum dwellers across the city to take action to change their environments. By rallying together to pick up trash, these communities demonstrate their commitment to their urban habitat, and desire for a more inclusive Lagos.
The rally will begin at 10am at Sari Iganmu and will move through three communities to end at Badia East.
August 12, 2013 Lagos, Nigeria
HIGH TIME FOR JUSTICE IN BADIA EAST
SERAC and Amnesty International publish joint report condemning forced evictions in Lagos; SERAC calls for reparations and a better way forward in Badia East
The Social and Economic Rights Action Center (SERAC) and Amnesty International have published a joint report on the February 23, 2013 mass forced eviction of at least 9,000 persons from the Oke-Ilu-Eri and Ajeromi villages of Badia East, Lagos. Building on SERAC’s longstanding engagement with the affected community, the report marshals evidence given by victims, Lagos State Government officials, and other witnesses.
Beyond documenting the devastation of thousands of lives, the report analyzes Lagos State Government’s systematic non-compliance with domestic and international law that requires procedural safeguards for any eviction. The Government has also ignored its obligation to follow World Bank resettlement policies, jeopardizing the continuation of the $200-milliion Bank-funded Lagos State Metropolitan Development and Governance Project (LMDGP).
Since the demolition, SERAC has worked with the affected community to try to prevent further mass human rights violations, advocate for reparations and to seek a better way forward for Badia East. Nearly six months later, the Lagos State Government has yet to genuinely consult with community, to provide compensation, resettlement or any emergency relief for the thousands who were left homeless and destitute after the forced eviction.
Sadly, the Ministry of Housing project planned for the demolished area does not respond to these concerns. What little information has been made public about the project reveals that it will only exacerbate Lagos’s massive housing shortage. In an area that was previously home to nearly 2,000 households, the project will include only 266 housing units. The price tag on these units will be beyond the reach of the vast majority of affected persons from Badia East.
The affected community, in partnership with SERAC and other supporters, thus continues to call for Government to return them to the land from which they were forcibly evicted, to rebuild their homes and businesses, and to provide compensation, relief and reparations.
In light of the Government’s repeated threat to demolish the remainder of Badia East, the community has also organized a participatory enumeration and mapping exercise, laying the groundwork for development of a holistic, community-led in situ upgrading proposal as an alternative to further evictions. The hope is for Government to hear the many voices calling for it to find a better way of working with communities for people-centered development.
April 9, 2013 Lagos, Nigeria
LAGOS STATE JUDGE CHIPS AWAY AT STATE’S DEMOLITION PRACTICES
Demolitions: Not Authorized Under Environmental Sanitation Law
For years, Lagos residents have watched their homes and businesses demolished – with little or no warning, no compensation and no resettlement – purportedly in enforcement of the State’s environmental sanitation laws. Any structure dubbed “environmental nuisance” by the Ministry of Environment would be issued a 48-hour “abatement notice” and its owners could then expect to see the Task Force on Environmental and Special Offences or the Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI) Brigade at their doorsteps with bulldozers, armed police, and “area boys” ready to demolish.
Countless Lagos communities have experienced such horror – from Ijora Badia in 2003 and again in February 2013 to Makoko in 2005 and 2010 – and thousands of Lagosians have been left homeless and further impoverished as a consequence.
In a judgment issued on March 5, 2013, Justice O. O. ‘Femi Adeniyi of the Lagos State High Court has put the first judicial dent in the State’s ruthless demolition practices. The judge reinforced the fact that the Environmental Sanitation Law of 2001 does not authorize demolitions. Rather, a person who fails to comply with an “abatement of nuisance” notice can only be penalized with a statutory fine. And such a penalty can only be imposed after a fair hearing before the Special Offenses Court.
The clear implication of the recent judgment is that countless of demolitions carried out by the Lagos State Task Force and KAI Brigade following issuance of “abatement of nuisance” notices over recent years are patently unlawful – and courts may be ready and willing to subject the lawlessness of executive agencies to scrutiny.
The judgment was rendered in a matter, Agbodemu & Ors v Lagos State Environmental Sanitation Enforcement Agency & Ors (M/710/2011), brought by the Social and Economic Rights Action Center (SERAC) on behalf of four Ebute Metta communities threatened with demolition that would have rendered hundreds homeless. In the aftermath of major flooding in July 2011, the Lagos State Ministry of the Environment marked houses and business places in Otto Rail Line, Otto Central, Otto Ilogbo, and Ilaje Otumara for demolition and issued a handful of “abatement of nuisance” notices. No attempt was made by the Government to consult with residents or explain their intentions.
Anticipating what would inevitably follow – indiscriminate demolitions without proper notice, consultation, compensation or resettlement – SERAC filed suit on behalf of affected residents for enforcement of their fundamental rights. The suit sought to protect residents through a variety of injunctions, declarations and orders. Sadly, in March 2012, the Lagos State Government proceeded to demolish Otumara Market in Ilaje Otumara, in flagrant disregard for the ongoing litigation based upon which both parties should have respected the status quo.
In the face of such rampant impunity, SERAC sees the recent judgment a small but meaningful achievement in the struggle to protect the social and economic rights of all Lagosians, uphold the rule of law, and curb executive lawlessness.
Attack on Human Rights Defenders: Lagos State Government Uses Punitive New Traffic Law to Harass the Social and Economic Rights Action Center (SERAC)
Under the ruse of enforcing the notorious new Traffic Law of 2012, the Lagos State Government has imprisoned two staff members of the Social and Economic Rights Action Center (SERAC) and impounded two vehicles, one belonging to SERAC and the second to its Executive Director, Felix Morka, The move comes just days after a visit from the World Bank, occasioned by an urgent complaint filed by SERAC, to investigate the Lagos State Government’s massive demolition and forced eviction of the Badia East community on February 23, 2013.
On Tuesday, March 26, just after 3pm, the two-car caravan was stuck in traffic on CMD Road after the gate of Magodo Phase II residential estate and just before the entrance to the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. As is often the case in heavy rush hour traffic, ordinary citizens were in the junction helping to direct traffic. As they signaled the line of traffic to move, the car immediately in front of the SERAC caravan appeared to have stalled. Following signals, the two-car SERAC caravan pulled out and around the vehicle to make the turn onto the Expressway. No sooner did they start to merge back into traffic than a police vehicle sped up and blocked the two cars, insisting that they reverse onto the curb on the opposite side of the road to make way for an oncoming official convoy that suddenly appeared from the opposite direction.
The police vehicle continued on down the road, followed by a second and then an official Range Rover, which slowed and stopped next to Mr. Morka’s vehicle. Mr. Morka looked over and recognized Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola inside. The two men made eye contact and, as they have known each other for more than a decade, Mr. Morka alighted from his vehicle to greet the Governor. As he approached the car, the Governor’s vehicle began moving and he suddenly saw six or seven policemen come running back over a distance of at least 30 feet, leaving their vehicles behind and carrying guns. The policemen forcibly pulled all the passengers, including Mr. Morka’s four young children, out of the two cars and started beating the two drivers. One fared worse than the other and was beaten severely on his legs with the butt of the policemen’s guns, while one passenger’s phone was smashed in the chaos.
All the passengers, the two drivers, and the two vehicles were taken into custody and immediately carried to the office of the Lagos State Task Force on Environmental and Special Offences, which sits directly behind the Office of the Governor in the Alausa area of Lagos. Everyone remained at the Task Force office for several hours into the evening, while the drivers were detained and forced to write and rewrite statements.
The two drivers are being charged under provisions of the new Traffic Law of 2012 that carry a disproportionately punitive penalty: one year’s incarceration and forfeiture of the vehicles to the State. The matter is before a magistrate sitting in the so-called “Special Offences Court,” a court employing summary procedures that is housed in the Task Force premises directly behind the Office of the Governor.
Late on Wednesday, the magistrate set near impossible conditions for bail: each of the accused must provide a N200,000 bond, a N100,000 deposit with the Registrar of the High Court, and two sureties, one of whom must be a senior civil servant (Grade Level 12), one of whom must have landed property in Lagos State and both of whom must show 7-years tax clearance in Lagos State. Despite tireless efforts from SERAC to meet these onerous conditions before the end of Thursday, the two men have been remanded in prison for the four-day Easter weekend. To make matters worse, they have been transferred to prison in Badagry, a couple hours drive from Lagos in traffic. The two cars remain impounded at the Task Force office.
Looming in the background of what the Lagos State Government wants to call “routine traffic enforcement” is SERAC’s recent high-profile advocacy efforts over the massive forced eviction of thousands of residents of the Badia East community on February 23. Thanks to press statements and photographic/video evidence from SERAC, the matter has been widely condemned internationally, including in the pages of the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Associated Press and by Amnesty International and other human rights groups.
SERAC also led the fight to stop the July 2012 violent demolitions and forced evictions of thousands of residents on the Makoko Waterfront, a community where it has worked for 17 years.SERAC’s media and advocacy campaign culminated in a protest march that brought thousands from Makoko to the Office of the Governor after the fatal shooting of a community leader by the police on July 21, 2012. Combined with an international outcry, the Lagos State Government had no choice but to halt the demolition and change its plans for the waterfront.
More recently, a team from the World Bank was in Lagos in response to a SERAC petition to investigate the Badia East demolition, which displaced thousands of intended beneficiaries of the $200 million World Bank-funded Lagos Metropolitan Development and Governance Project (LMDGP). Badia is one of nine host communities for “urban upgrading” a under the LMDGP. The Badia East demolition cleared a huge area directly next to a canal only recently constructed by the LMDGP. Following a meeting between World Bank, LMDGP and SERAC on March 15, a World Bank official just last week visited the demolition site in Badia to verify the devastation and reportedly met with a senior official of the Lagos State Government.
Earlier this week, five Badia East evictees who are part of a lawsuit SERAC has filed against the Lagos State Government were arrested on false charges and detained for over 48 hours. The Government has also this week increased its harassment of the evicted persons sleeping outside or in makeshift structures around the demolished area. Task Force is now patrolling the area daily, knocking down temporary shelters and telling evictees to move on or go elsewhere.
SERAC is a non-governmental organization that has worked since 1995 to defend the social and economic rights of the urban poor in communities such as Maroko, Makoko and Badia in Lagos and elsewhere in Nigeria. Led by Mr. Morka, it has all too often been forced to confront the policies and practices of the Lagos State Government that dispossess and further impoverish Nigerian citizens in flagrant disregard for their fundamental rights. SERAC fears that its sustained defense of the urban poor has now struck one too many chords, prompting the present retaliation against human rights defenders and community members who dare to challenge the arbitrary policies and practices of the Lagos State Government.
Social and Economic Rights Action Center (SERAC)
February 24, 2012 Lagos, Nigeria
THOUSANDS FORCEFULLY EVICTED IN BADIA EAST, LAGOS
Day Two of Ongoing Demolition Looms
On Saturday, February 23, 2013, a demolition squad from the Lagos State Government began forcefully evicting thousands of residents of the Badia East community in Lagos. Over the course of the day, two bulldozers, dozens of uniformed Lagos State Physical Planning and Development Agency (LASPPDA) agents and countless others working with the Lagos State Environmental and Sanitation Task Force destroyed hundreds of homes, along with businesses, churches and community facilities.
Residents, caught unawares in the early morning hours, scrambled to remove zinc roofs and valuable possessions under the menacing watch of dozens of heavily armed members of the Nigerian Police Force. To “keep the peace,” the police arrested three unarmed young men early in the day and kept them for hours in a “Black Maria” vehicle on site. By the day’s close, the same police were chasing residents from their homes with batons and guns while the bulldozers pulled electric poles and cables down over their heads.
As night fell on the community, countless newly homeless residents lined the railroad tracks that pass through the community, abandoned to fend for themselves and protect their salvaged belongings through the night. Although the demolition squad refused to provide details, it is expected that the clearing of Badia East will continue on Sunday.
The Social and Economic Rights Action Center (SERAC) first suspected a threatened demolition on Wednesday, February 20, 2013, when the community reported that a team of Lagos State Government officials, including the Commissioner of Agriculture, senior officials of the Ministry of Housing and others, along with an armed police escort, visited Badia East. Rumors spread that the Lagos State Government was going to demolish, although no information or notices were provided to residents.
Since Wednesday, SERAC has been working with community leaders to try to learn the Lagos State Government’s intentions, including meeting with the Commissioner of Housing, calling the Commissioner of Agriculture, and sending letters to Governor Fashola and other ministries.
In a meeting on Friday, February 22, the Commissioner of Housing unequivocally denied knowledge of any planned demolition, even while he admitted that his Ministry has plans for a project to be undertaken in the community – once land is delivered unencumbered. By the close of the meeting, the Commissioner committed to raising SERAC’s concerns about the need for a more consultative planning process at an inter-ministerial meeting the following week. Flying in the face of all such denials and promises, the massive demolition and forced eviction commenced unannounced less than twenty hours later.
Badia East is an upwardly mobile informal settlement at the heart of Lagos, despite a long history shaped by forced evictions. The Federal Government of Nigeria acquired the land in 1929to build a railway. In the early 1970s, residents displaced by the nearby National Theater construction were relocated to Badia East. Neglected by the Lagos State Government – aside from periodic demolitions – the community has since 2005 been engaged with the Federal Government in planning for possible in situ urban renewal.
The ongoing demolition and forced eviction of the Badia East community illustrates, sadly, that nothing has changed in Lagos since the days of military government. The Lagos State Government still has no shame in carrying out mass forced evictions in flagrant contravention of international law and the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Nigerian Constitution – so long as those affected are poor and their homes are “shanties.”
Ironically, Badia is one of the host communities for “slum upgrade” activities under the $200 million World Bank-funded Lagos Metropolitan Development and Governance Project (LMDGP). As in other host communities, the Lagos State Government has failed to abide by the specific terms of the World Bank policies that mandate it to minimize involuntary resettlement and, when displacement is absolutely unavoidable, ensure prior consultation, adequate notice, compensation, and resettlement to those displaced.
In March 2012, the Lagos State Kick against Indiscipline (KAI) Brigade set ablaze houses elsewhere in Badia East to clear way for LMDGP activities, for which the Project has just recently paid compensation. The present demolition is many times more massive.
Indeed, if it continues as it began, the entirety of Badia East will be wiped out in a few days and more than 150,000 residents will be left homeless and impoverished. Such flagrant violations of fundamental rights and international law cannot stand unchallenged.
Please address letters and other forms of interventions to:
Babatunde Raji Fashola
Executive Governor of Lagos State
The Governor’s Office
102 Yakubu Gowon Crescent
Opposite ECOWAS Secretariat
P.O. Box 2826, Garki
Lagos Metropolitan Development and Governance Project
1 Wempco Road
Lagos Metropolitan Development and Governance Project
1 Wempco Road
October 9, 2012 Lagos, Nigeria
SERAC WINS A LANDMARK COURT JUDGMENT
Holds That Dismissal Based On HIV-Positive Status Is Unlawful
The Lagos State High Court handed down a landmark judgment in the first ever Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) discrimination lawsuit, Georgina Ahamefule V. Imperial Medical Centre & Dr. Alex Molokwu (Suit No. ID/1627/2000), on Thursday September 27, 2012.The Honorable Justice Y.O. Idowu held that the termination of Georgina Ahamefule’s employment by the Imperial Medical Centre on the ground of her HIV-positive status is illegal, unlawful and actuated by malice and extreme bad faith.
On July 14, 2000, the Social and Economic Rights Action Center (SERAC) filed the lawsuit challenging the termination of Georgina Ahamefule’s employment as an auxiliary nurse by the Imperial Medical Centre and its Chief Medical Director, Dr. Alex Molokwu, based on her HIV-positive status.
Georgina joined the Imperial Medical Centre as an auxiliary nurse in 1989. In 1995, while she was pregnant, Georgina developed boils on her skin and sought medical attention from her employer Dr. Alex Molokwu who carried medical examinations and diagnostic tests without disclosing the nature and outcome of the tests to her.Dr. Molokwu referred Georgina for further testing to one Dr. Okanny at the University of Lagos Teaching Hospital with a note in a sealed envelope. Dr. Okanny carried out various tests without disclosing the nature of those tests to Georgina.She was subsequently informed that she had tested positive to the Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV). Georgina was never provided any form of counseling before or after the tests were carried out as required by medical ethics and the law.
Dr. Molokwu promptly terminated Georgina’s employment as an auxiliary nurse at the hospital on the ground of her HIV-positive status.In the termination letter dated October 23, 1995, Dr. Molokwu explained that the hospital’s management could not compromise the facility or its patients by exposing them to risks associated with Georgina’s HIV-positive status.However, Dr. Molokwu had no hesitation to giving Georgina a letter recommending her for employment in other medical facilities.
The emotional and psychological trauma that she suffered as a result of the news of her HIV-positive status and the loss of her employment contributed to a spontaneous miscarriage of her pregnancy. Georgina was further victimized, rejected, humiliated and put at great risk when Dr. Molokwu declined to carry out his own prescribed evacuation of the miscarried pregnancy on the ground of Georgina’s HIV-positive status.Medical doctors at another hospital eventually carried out the evacuation procedure.
Unfortunately, the unfairness suffered by Georgina did not stop at the hands of Dr. Molokwu and his hospital. In 2001, on an application for an accelerated hearing of the matter, the then presiding judge in the case, Hon. Justice Caroline O. Olufawo of the Lagos State High Court, barred Georgina from entering the courtroom because of her HIV-positive status. In a shocking display of judicial ignorance, Justice Olufawo further ruled that satisfactory expert evidence must be presented in court to convince her that the judge and others would not become infected with the HIV virus as a result of Georgina’s mere physical presence in the courtroom.SERAC appealed that decision and the Court of Appeal remitted the matter back to the High Court for trial. Georgina testified in her case without further restrictions or impediments.
In 2010, SERAC demanded and secured the arrest and prosecution of Dr. Molokwu, and Shamsudeen Aileru, a law clerk in the law offices of Professor Abraham Adesanya, Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), counsel to Dr. Molokwu.Pursuant to a Legal Advice issued by the Lagos State Director of Public Prosecutions, dated September 28, 2010, the defendants were arraigned before the Lagos State High Court, Ikeja, Lagos in The People of Lagos State V Shamsudeen Aileru & Dr. Alex Molokwu (ID/50C/2011) for Perjury contrary to Section 118, and Conspiracy to commit a felony contrary to Section 516, of the criminal code law Cap 17 Volume 2, Laws of Lagos State 2003.On conviction, the offenses of conspiracy and perjury are punishable with 7 and 14 years imprisonment respectively.
This prosecution was triggered by SERAC’s executive director’s petition to the Commissioner of Police, Lagos State requesting immediate investigation and prosecution of the defendants for conspiracy to commit perjury and perjury. Professor Adesanya’s law clerk, Mr. Aileru, deposed falsely to an affidavit on oath that Georgina had died in her hometown. Georgina is alive and well.
The affidavit was filed in support of a motion seeking to dismiss Georgina’s lawsuit against Dr. Molokwu and his hospital. Relying on information supplied by Molokwu the law clerk deposed to an affidavit stating falsely that Georgina had died, and urged the court to dismiss the lawsuit being a personal action.The false declaration was one of many efforts by Dr. Molokwu and his lawyers to frustrate Georgina’s quest for justice in the matter of the wrongful termination of her employment and other violations.
The defendants pleaded ‘not guilty’ to the charge and the prosecution opened its case on July 5, 2011 with Mr. Felix Morka, SERAC’s lead counsel in the civil matter, as its first witness.Georgina and the police investigators also testified on the prosecution’s behalf. The prosecution closed its case on the December 1, 2011.After dismissing a no case submission made on the Defendants’ behalf by Professor Adesanya, the court directed the defendants’ to open their case.The case is currently adjourned to October 31, 2012 for defense.
In an epochal decision, the Hon. Justice Y.O. Idowu of the Lagos High Court held as follows:
That the purported termination of the Plaintiff’s employment is illegal, unlawful and actuated by malice and extreme bad faith.
That the Defendants’ action in subjecting the Plaintiff to HIV testing without her informed consent constitutes an unlawful battery on her.
That the Defendants’ action in not affording the Plaintiff pre-test and post-test counseling services constitute an unlawful negligence of a professional duty to the plaintiff.
That the Defendants’ action in denying the Plaintiff medical care on grounds of her HIV-positive status constitutes a flagrant violation of the right to health guaranteed under article 16 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act CAP 10 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria and article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ratified by Nigeria in 1993).
An order for 5 Million Naira (Five Million Naira) general damages for the wrongful termination of the Plaintiff’s employment.
An order for 2 Million Naira (Two Million Naira) being compensation for unlawful conduct of HIV testing without the Plaintiff’s informed consent and for the Defendants’ negligence.
This decision represents a major victory for Georgina and for all those living with the HIV virus in the country, and a major triumph of justice over illegality and unfairness. It is the first-ever judicial pronouncement on the unlawfulness of HIV-based discrimination.The decision is also significant in holding that conducting HIV testing without the individual’s informed consent is tantamount to unlawful battery. Further, it is equally definitive on the point that conducting HIV test on an individual without pre-test and post-test counseling constitutes unlawful negligence. The case also establishes the principle that denial of medical care on grounds of HIV-positive status constitutes a flagrant violation of the right to health. The monetary damages of 7 Million Naira awarded against Dr. Molokwu and the Imperial Medical Centre sends a strong signal that this kind of unjustifiable and unlawful discrimination against people living with HIV will no longer be tolerated.We salute the courage and wisdom of Her Lordship, Hon. Justice Y.O. Idowu.
SERAC is immensely grateful to the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Ford Foundation for their invaluable support of our work.
Felix C. Morka Executive Director
July 21, 2012 Lagos Nigeria
MAKOKO UNDER ATTACK!!! Demolition Takes a Violent Dimension - One Shot Dead and Many Wounded
This morning Saturday, July 21, 2012, the Lagos State demolition squad backed by heavily armed police and other security officials stormed Makoko in continuation of the ongoing demolition of the community. the demolition team began burning down houses on water as armed police fired shots indiscriminately to get residents to flee their homes. The Lagos State government introduced eviction by fire to accelerate the pace of destruction of the community. In the last hour, one individual was shot dead by the police while some have sustained gunshot wounds. Many residents have been arrested and detained. Others have suffered other forms of violence at the hands of the demolition squad and the police.
The demolition commenced on Monday , July 16, 2012 after barely 72-hour quit notice issued to the residents by the Ministry of Waterfront Infrastructure Development . The notice unequivocally conveyed the government's intention to grab the waterfront in favor of affluent developers. The government has also stated that it does not intend to compensate or resettle the evicted residents in violation of both Nigerian and international law.
At a meeting with Mr. Oniru, Commissioner for Waterfront Infrastructure Development in his office yesterday, Friday, July 20, 2012, the Commissioner told SERAC's Executive Director emphatically that he intends to complete the demolition of Makoko. He stated that the residents should leave Lagos and return to wherever they came from. When Mr. Morka suggested to him that his statements amounted to some form of "ethnic cleansing" in violation of the Constitution and international human rights and humanitarian law, he responded, "I don't care".
So far, over 30,000 people, including women, children and the elderly have lost their homes and over 120,000 face imminent displacements. These evictees are further endangered as many of them are now forced to live and sleep in their canoes. SERAC is currently investigating reports of the drowning of 3 children of a family when their canoe capsized as they slept during the night on Wednesday.
Makoko is one of nine slum communities target by the 200 Million US Dollars World Bank-funded Lagos Metropolitan Development and Governance Project (LMDGP) of the Lagos State government. Under the project, it is impermissible to demolish peoples' homes and properties without the provision of effective remedies.
At the moment, a protest has been called by the residents of Makoko and the Social and Economic Rights Action Center (SERAC). The march is scheduled to be held on Monday, July 23, 2012 at 11:00am. The protest march will take off from the Connector Road between the Ikeja Shopping mall and the State Secretariat, Alausa-Ikeja and end at the Governor's Office at Alausa-Ikeja.
All patriots are urged to join this protest to save Makoko and its people from destruction at the hands of the Lagos State government.
Kindly share this information on your networks.
Felix C. Morka Executive Director June 29, 2012 Port Harcourt, Nigeria
Abonnema Wharf Community Demolished By the Rivers State Government in Flagrant Disregard of Judicial Process
The Social and Economic Rights Action Center (SERAC) strongly condemns the on-going demolition of Abonnema community by the Rivers state government.The invasion and destruction of the homes, properties and businesses of residents of the community without the due process of law is callous, unjust, illegal and a reckless affront to constitutional governance.
On Wednesday June 27, 2012, at about 6.00 am, the Rivers state government’s demolition squad assisted by heavily armed police and other security forces invaded the Abonnema Wharf community located on the Port-Harcourt waterfront.Without warning, bulldozers began to tear down homes and other structures in the community as residents that were rudely awakened by the violence fled in utter consternation. Residents that attempted to salvage personal properties were brutally beaten by members of the demolition squad.The demolition continued until about 7 pm.
At the time of this press statement on June 29, 2012 the Rivers state government has continued its ruthless forced eviction of the Abonnema Wharf community destroying several hundred homes, properties and livelihoods of an estimated 25,000 families without any safeguards or resettlement.
The demolition of Abonnema community is being carried out in flagrant disregard of judicial process.On behalf of the community, SERAC obtained an order of interim injunction restraining the Rivers state government from destroying the community on November 11, 2011 in Jim George & Others vs. The Executive Governor of Rivers State & Others (Suit No. PHC/2286/2009).A ruling on a contested application of the government to vacate the interim order of injunction was fixed for July 2, 2012.Despite the pendency of this lawsuit and a subsisting order of interim injunction, the Rivers state government has proceeded, lawlessly, to destroy the community.
The government’s suggestion that Abonnema Wharf is being demolished in order to rid the community of criminals is as unconscionable as it is absurd.Nowhere in the laws of Nigeria is demolition authorized as a crime fighting strategy.This is yet another pitiful excuse to justify the indefensible action of the government.
At the core of the decision to destroy Abonnema Wharf community, like it destroyed Njemanze and other waterfront communities in 2009, is Governor Rotimi Amaechi administration’s unbridled quest to acquire prime waterfront lands in favor of private businesses for upscale entertainment and other investments.Under the guise of public-private partnerships, the government has continued to utilize taxpayers’ resources and state instruments to advance the parochial interests of its affluent business collaborators to the extreme detriment of desperately poor citizens of the state.Since his inauguration, Governor Amaechi has vigorously pursued a land grab policy that has resulted in the painful displacement of hundreds of thousands of poor citizens.
Forced eviction entails the removal of people from their land and homes against their will and without the provision of, and access to, appropriate forms of legal or other protections. The forced eviction of Abonnema Wharf constitutes a brazen violation of the human rights to adequate housing, dignity of the human person, private and family life, fair hearing and, indeed, the right to life as guaranteed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and other human rights instruments.
SERAC demands an immediate end to the ongoing demolition of Abonnema Wharf community.We further demand an end to the violence and brutality that is being perpetrated against innocent citizens of the community.
We strongly urge the government of Rivers State to immediately provide emergency shelter and other services to the displaced population, and take expeditious steps to provide adequate compensation or resettlement to affected residents.
We further urge Governor Rotimi Amaechi to observe observance of the rule of law in dealing with these populations, and to bring his strayed administration back on a path of constitutional democracy.
Executive Director February 13, 2012 Lagos, Nigeria
Pandemonium, Bloodshed Trail the Joint Task Force's (JTF's) Manhunt for Boko Haram Sect's Members in Budum Community, Maiduguri, Borno State
The Social and Economic Rights Action Center (SERAC) is deeply concerned about the growing threats to fundamental rights and freedoms in Budum community in Maiduguri, and other areas that have been the prime targets of the Joint Task Force's anti-insurgency operations. On the night of February 12, 2012, pandemonium, fear, anxiety and bloodshed characterized the Joint Task Force's (JTF's) manhunt for members of the Boko Haram sect in Budum community, located near the place of the Shehu of Borno.
The JTF soldiers allegedly invaded the community at about 9:00pm, shooting sporadically, burning buildings as they conducted a house-to-house search for members of the Boko Haram sect. Fearing violent attacks by the soldiers, many families fled their homes and sought refuge in a local mosque in the community. Several residents of the community alerted SERAC about the armed invasion, and the attendant threats to, and actual violations of the human rights of local populations, especially women and children. "Please come to our help. Villages and young men are trooping to the mosque. Deafening gunshots have caused residents, especially our women and children to scamper for safety. Soldiers are moving from house-to-house looking for men, and burning down some of our houses", the Imam (Spiritual leader) that lives beside the mosque told SERAC.
The JTF routinely applies a combatant policy that designates any area by the sect to perpetrate their operations as a military target. "Persons who allow their surroundings or frontage to be used by the Boko Haram sect to attack people or security agencies would be considered as collaborators, and will be treated as criminals. "JTF told SERAC in July 2011. In response to a major bomb blast that wounded three soldiers on Saturday, July 23, 2011, a similar reprisal attack by the JTF in Budum community left three men - Late Mallam Goni Tijani, (55), Late Babakura Zakariya (18), Late Idris M - dead. They were allegedly shot dead in front of their homes by the JFT solders following a violently rigorous house-to-house search.
Ostensibly corroborating the accounts by community sources, the JTF confirmed the incident, explaining that some of their men had been attacked and killed by the Boko Haram sect hiding among residents within Budum community in Maiduguri. Two soldiers were allegedly, severely wounded and hospitalized, thereby necessitating a house-to-house search to fish our the assailants. We are rescuing the women and children first....But they must produce their husbands", said JTF.
About five houses have been burnt down in Bundum community. Several persons were arrested and taken to an undisclosed location while many families still await the return of their loved ones and family members. The number of dead casualties remain unknown, but it hovers between 12 and 15.
Between July 24-27, 2011, the Social and Economic Rights Action Center (SERAC) conducted a fact-finding mission in Maiduguri to gain first-hand information into the root causes of the Boko Haram insurgency, as well as governmental responses to the growing insecurity in the north eastern part of the country. As stated in the mission report, ....In the Killing Fields of Maiduguri", the Nigerian Government must take urgent and concrete measures towards reviewing and re-directing the operational methods, processes and procedures of the Joint Task Force to be in tune with the democratic environment and attributes of the rule of law, due process and respect for human rights. When the state fails to prevent systematic denials or violations of citizens' rights, paying due regard to the special need of women and children especially in periods of emergency, this failure is a fundamental human rights violation.
Absolute mistrust, suspicion, and fear characterize the relationship between the security operatives and the local populations, undermining intelligence undertakings that would lead to the definite identification and extirpation of the sect's members and activities. Areas lived by the poor are often criminalized and labeled as Boko Haram hideouts to justify the extreme security surveillance and violent incursions by soldiers. Often, these incursions are accompanied by severe violence, with victims on many occasions arrested, detained and in some cases, killed.
Based on the sentiments shared by several persons interviewed in Bundum Community in July last year, SERAc found that the greater the force employed by the JTF in the areas designated as military targets, the greater the sympathy those affected communities have for the Boko Haram sect, to the extent that majority of them are hesitant or outrightly unwilling to provide information to the police on the hideouts and activities of the sect members.
While acknowledging the bravery and commitment of the JTF soldiers towards stamping out vicious elements behind the violence, insecurity and fundamentalism witnessed in the northern part of the country, concrete steps must be taken to integrate and embed respect for human rights into their engagement strategies, peacekeeping and peace-building efforts. Most importantly, strengthening respect for human rights is a critical step towards the re-establishment of a climate of peace in the region.
SERAC strongly condemns the burning of private homes as a combatant strategy, considering the suffering, displacement, devastation and the massive social and economic rights deprivations that are caused by such actions. SERAC urges the National Security Adviser, the Acting Inspector of Police, and all security agencies to investigate claims of human rights abuses by members of the Joint Task force, and ensure that the offending officers are brought to justice.
We also call on all human rights groups, the media and well meaning Nigerians to vigilantly monitor the coherence between human rights principles, and security interventions in the states where a partial or full state of emergency has been declared.
Victoria Ohaeri Program Coordinator
"Leave Abonema Wharf Community Alone", Court Order
A Rivers State High Court sitting in Port Harcourt has just issued an order of interim injunction against the Rivers State Government (RSG) after hearing an exparte application brought by the Social and Economic Rights Action Center (SERAC). The interim order granted today, November 11, 2011 by Justice S.C Amadi restrains the Rivers State government and its agents, privies and officials from evicting and demolishing the homes, businesses, churches, schools and livelihoods of Abonema Wharf Community residents in Port Harcourt, Rivers State until the substantive suit is heard and determined on its merits. SERAC filed the substantive suit, JIM TOM GEORGE Vs RSG (Suit No: PHC/2286/2009) in November 2009, on behalf of the Abonema Wharf community.
This order became necessary in light of the renewed efforts by the Rotimi Amaechi-led Rivers State Government to demolish waterfront communities without an order of a court of competent jurisdiction, and in contravention of the state’s own laws and policies, particularly the provisions of the Rivers State Physical Planning and Urban Development Law 2003. If carried out, the demolitions would leave over twenty thousand people homeless, and push them deeper into poverty. The neigbouring community, Njemanze was demolished in August 2009 in a brash demolition exercise that displaced over ten thousand families, especially women and children.
Among other declaratory reliefs in the substantive suit, SERAC is praying the court to declare that the RSG’s scheduled demolition of Abonema Wharf community and the impending forced eviction of itsresidents without recourse to statutory safeguards, constitute massive violations of human rights, especially the rights to property, privacy, housing, human dignity, health and life, all of which are guaranteed by the 1999 Nigerian Constitution and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The suit is also challenging the Rivers State government’s “private property buy-out scheme”, under which landlords were to be paid some value for their properties that would then be pulled down to accommodate a private business owned by the Silverbird Group of Companies. Ordinarily, this seems fair except that landlords had no choice in the matter.It was faitaccompli.The landlords that objected had no opportunity to opt out of the buy-out program. Refusal to accept the offer meant that the landlords would lose everything.It was a take it or leave it situation.
However, rather than furnish a justifiable legal or public interest purpose for its actions, the RSG merely labeled the threatened communities as hideouts and haven for “agents of cultism, violence and criminality.” This has become standard modality for states to engage in blackmail and negative branding in their efforts to justify illegality and unwillingness to abide by decent and democratic norms.
The court order represents a significant step forward in the community’s quest for housing justice, and reinforces confidence in the judiciary as the last bastion of hope for the common man.
Victoria Ohaeri Program Coordinator September 13, 2011 Lagos, Nigeria
Ogoni Families, Communities Oppose Land Acquisition and Banana Plantation Project
The Social and Economic Rights Action Center (SERAC), Social Action (SA), Ogoni Solidarity Forum (OSF) and Ogoni Civil Society Platform (OCSP) are deeply concerned about the grave human rights and due process breaches attending the Rivers State Government's acquisition of 200-hectares of farmland to enable a Mexican investor, Union De Iniciativa S.A De C.V undertake a commercial banana plantation project.
Over 700 land-owning families in the Nyokhana, Tai and Babbe Kingdoms of Ogoniland, presently stand to be affected by the Rivers State Ministry of Agriculture's land acquisition. All these families, whose farm land fall within the area marked in the Ministry's recently completed survey exercise, have not given their consent to the proposed project and are opposed to the acquisition of their land. The above-name organizations are outraged that the deliberately exclusive consultations undertaken by state authorities have significantly failed to take into account the widespread opposition in the affected communities, including Zor Sogho, luusue Sogho, Barakaani Sogho, Teka Sogho, Okwole, Ueken, Korokoro, and Kaani.
The Federal Government had originally wanted to take large portions of Ogoni land to establish a military base. However the communities had refused, stating too many of their lands had already been taken for various reasons. The Ministry of Agriculture has now acquired their lands claiming that it wants to create a large commercial banana plantation. Members of the community question the purposes put forward by the state government and suspect that the land grab is in fact, a punishment on the Ogoni communities for refusing to allow further oil exploitation.
Human Rights Atrocities Soar in Maiduguri, Borno State
The Social and Economic Rights Action Center (SERAC) strongly condemns the human rights atrocities going on in Maiduguri, Borno State capital, North East, Nigeri where thousands have been killed either in the name of religion or "restoring order". Fundamental human rights and freedoms have been taken a back seat, while terror and bloodletting have assumed frighteningly alarming dimensions.
No week passes without the sounds of blast and explosions ripping through various parts of the town leaving in its trail a cesspool of blood and countless casualties. An Islamic sect, Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awati wal-jihad popularly know as Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for most of the violent attacks that had targeted security officers, military facilities, community leaders and clerics in the northeastern part of the country. Equally worrying is that some of the attacks are purported being carried out with the connivance of fundamentalist from such radicalised nations as Sudan, Niger Republic and Somalia with the intent of destabilizing the nation and creating the impression of general insecurity.
The Joint Task Force (JTF) constituted by the Federal Government of Nigeria in June 2011 to quell the Boko Haram insurgency in Maiduguri have also perpetrated massive human rights violations, by particularly launching direct attacks on civilians as prohibited under national and international law. See full statement>>> Click to view short video: http://bit.ly/ocbaWX April 13, 2011 Lagos, Nigeria
Where is Waheed Saka's Corpse?
The Social and Economic Rights Action Center (SERAC) wishes to express its deepest dismay and shock at the sudden disappearance of the corpse of Mr. Waheed Saka, aged 30, from the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) morgue, operated and managed on LASUTH's behalf by T.O.S Funerals Limited. The body of late Saka is the subject matter of a coroner inquest before a Lagos Court.
Waheed Saka was shot dead by men of the Nigeria Police Force that accompanied the Lagos State Environment and Special Offences (Enforcement) Unit, popularly known as the Lagos State Government Taskforce on the Environment, to Makoko to carry out a demolition exercise on December 23, 2010. On that day, the taskforce squad invaded Wright Street, Adekunle Makoko¸ Yaba Local Government Area of Lagos State and demolished homes and properties of poor residents living on a private land that is still subject matter of pending lawsuits before Lagos High Courts:Suit No M/475/2010 and Madam Ayinke Ajayi V. Mesu Moses (Suit No. LD/3010/97). The demolitions and ensuing evictions were executed despite the taskforce’s knowledge of a subsisting order of injunction of the Lagos High Court made on November 3, 1998 "restraining all parties "from going or doing anything whatsoever on the land, including passing of any interest on the land..."See full statement>>>
January 20, 2011 Lagos, Nigeria
SERAC Wins 2010 MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions
The Social and Economic Rights Action Center (SERAC) has received the 2010 MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions (MACEI) in recognition of the organization's consistent work in the advancement and protection of economic, social and cultural rights in Nigeria. SERAC is on of the 11 organizations from six countries cited for the 2010 MACEI Award. According to Robert Gallucci, President of MacArthur Foundation, "these exceptional organizations effectively address pressing national and international challenges and they have had an impact that is disproportionate to their small size."
"I would like to thank the MacArthur Foundation for the recognition and honor that this Award represents. It is a remarkable footprint on the long road to achieving and bringing the fullness of human rights to bear in the lives of the world's impoverished majority", said Felix Morka, SERAC's Executive Director.
SERAC's work over the last decade and half, has helped to deepen understanding and practice of economic, social and cultural rights, and has contributed to creating solid social and economic rights jurisprudence in Africa and globally. Its work on behalf of Nigeria's urban poor and engagement with state and non-state entities has helped to reduce the vulnerabilities of Nigeria's poor and bolstered their will and capacity to challenge violations of their human rights. Its people-centered approach to human rights advocacy has helped many marginalized communities, groups and individuals to find their voice in important decision-making platforms on matters that affect them.
We view the award as an affirmation of the value of the work of all human rights organizations and defenders in Nigeria and around the world. It is also a stark reminder of the urgent necessity to place human flourishing and security firmly at the center of development and governance policies and practices. Human rights offer a rational, equitable and even pragmatic basis for ensuring the well being of the most vulnerable citizens of our world.
SERAC will commit the Award's prize money of Three Hundred and Fifty Thousand US Dollars ($350,000) to the development of a Resource and Documentation Center on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights that will be dedicated to the advancement of knowledge and practice of economic, social and cultural rights in Nigeria.
We wish to express our profound gratitude to our partner communities, supporters, donors, friends, associates, civil society organizations, and the media for their continued and valued support of our work. The task of achieving respect for the dignity of the human person has only just begun.
Victoria Ohaeri Program Coordinator
May 11, 2010 Lagos, Nigeria
The Illegal Demolition of Makoko Community
The Lawlessness, Indiscipline, Impunity and Brutality of the Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI Brigade)
The Social and Economic Rights Action Center (SERAC, is deeply concerned about the recent acts of lawlessness, indiscipline and brutality perpetrated by officials of the Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI) Brigade. Between Monday April 19 and 22, 2010, officials of the KAI Brigade assisted by the heavily armed policemen invaded a section of the Makoko community, in the Yaba Local Government Area of Lagos and forcibly evicted the residents by destroying their homes, properties and livelihoods. As a result of this action, over one thousand people, including women, children and elderly were rendered homeless and pushed deeper into chronic poverty. This action was carried out without adequate notice, consultation, compensation or the provision of alternative accommodation in violation of the rule of law and the fundamental rights of the affected residents. See full press statement>>>
March 8, 2010 Lagos, Nigeria
The Planned Demolition of Lugbe Community, Federal Capital Territory, (FCT) Abuja
The Social and Economic Rights Action Center (SERAC, is deeply concerned about the recent plans by the FCT Department of Development Control to forcibly evict, and demolish the homes of Lugbe residents, a suburb of the FCT located along the International Airport Road, Abuja. The demolitions, previously scheduled to commence on February 28, 2010, is targeting non-indigenes in Lugbe and its environs. This latest trend of demolishing structures belonging to non-indigenes in the FCT started in August 2009 following the then demolition of "illegal structures" in Sauka, Todge, Gosa and many human settlements along that corridor. See full press statement>>>
October 13, 2009
Port Harcourt, Nigeria
SERAC Condemns the Repressive Acts of the Rivers State Government and the Nigerian Police in Bundu ama Waterfront, Port Harcourt, River State
most unexpected fashion, violence broke out yesterday, October 12, 2009 at the Bundu waterfronts of Port Harcourt Rivers State when the Police, Joint Task Force (JTF) and the army stormed Bundu on a supposed mission to mark houses for demolition. This scheduled demolitions of Bundu ama waterfronts is the latest in a series of forced evictions and demolitions sweeping through the entire state to pave way for the actualization of Amaechi's dream of a greater Port Harcourt ultra-modern city. Under a similar urban renewal agenda, under the state-ordered forced evictions, Njemanze waterfront, in August 2009, was felled by Amaechi bulldozers, rendering thousands of residents homeless, impoverished and desperate. Yet, over forty waterfront communities stand at the mercy of the rampaging bulldozers. See full press statement>>>
October 5, 2009
World Habitat Day 2009: Planning our Urban Future
Acting on a recommendation of the Commission on Human Settlements, the United Nations General Assembly in 1985, passed a resolution (resolution 40/202 A), designating the first Monday of every October as World Habitat Day. In keeping with this tradition, World Habitat Day is being celebrated all over the world today, October 5, 2009 with the theme: Planning Our Urban Future. This theme gives us the opportunity to reflect on the current conditions of our towns and cities and the basic right to adequate shelter for all.
SERAC files Maroko Communication before the African Commission
On December 3, 2008, the Social and Economic Rights Action Center (SERAC) in collaboration with a US-based leading law firm, Debevoise and Plimpton, filed another landmark communication before the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights. This Communication is brought against the state of Nigeria on behalf of the victims of the July 1990 brutal demolition of Maroko Community in Lagos state, who were forcibly evicted from their homes and businesses by the government of Nigeria in violation of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights. Maroko evictees have pursued their claims in the Nigerian national courts and other independent bodies for more than 19 years but are yet to obtain any relief, remedy or redress, making legal action in Nigeria both futile and unduly prolonged.