Nigeria rapped for mass evictions

By Caroline Duffield
BBC News, Lagos

Image caption,
Demolition has triggered violent - even fatal - clashes in Port Harcourt

The rights group Amnesty International has criticised Nigeria's government over mass evictions in the oil-rich Niger Delta.

Plans for urban development and slum demolition have been a violently contested issue in Port Harcourt.

Amnesty is warning that continued development may leave as many as 200,000 people homeless.

Sprawling and chaotic, the city of Port Harcourt is Nigeria's oil capital in the Niger Delta.

Its shanty towns and slums are home to tens of thousands of people all scraping a living in a city pumping billions of dollars worth of oil.

Live rounds

In 2009, the Rivers State government began plans to rebuild parts of the city.

They are demolishing slums on the waterfront as part of the "Greater Port Harcourt master plan".

Forced evictions regularly spark demonstrations there and police have even fired live rounds at protesters. Several civilians have been killed.

Image caption,
For some, the demolitions have already begun

The local government hopes to develop the area to create jobs, stimulate the local economy and build better roads - all of it urgently needed.

They hope to build an eight-screen cinema, a shopping mall and hotels.

They are following a buy-out scheme, paying those who own the properties to move.

But most of the residents on the waterfront are poor tenants who get no compensation and have nowhere to go.

Many of them now sleep outdoors under bridges and in the streets.

"These planned demolitions are likely to plunge hundreds of thousands of Nigeria's most vulnerable citizens further into poverty," said the group's Africa deputy programme director, Tawanda Hondora.

"The government should halt the waterfront evictions until they ensure they comply with international human rights standards."

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