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The Nigerian government plans to demolish the Abuja slum of
Mpape. The government contends that this high crime area operates as a
base for the terrorist group Boko
Haram. In addition, the slum predominantly consists of shanties built
illegally. In other words, Mpape is both a public nuisance and a national
On the other hand, to those living in Mpape, it is their
home. Some have purchased the property where they reside. Given the abject
poverty of the slum's residents, to demolish their shanties would leave them
homeless. Where will these hundreds of thousands of people go?
Nigeria's Constitution provides that "The State shall
direct its policy towards ensuring...that suitable
and adequate shelter, suitable and adequate food, reasonable national
minimum living wage, old age care and pensions, and unemployment, sick benefits
and welfare of the disabled are provided
for all citizens." Nigeria
Const. ch. II, §16(2)(d) (1999). While it may be debatable whether
living in a slum is "suitable," clearly making Nigerian citizens homeless is
not providing "adequate shelter."
Although the government is in the process of building
low-income public housing, there is no indication that this would adequately
shelter those currently living in Mpape or that many of the slum's residents
could afford to pay for such housing regardless of the amount of rent. Nor does
there appear to be adequate educational and medical facilities available to
replace those planned for demolition in Mpape.
Complicating matters further is the fact that the peaceful indigenous Gbagyi reside
within Mpape. After a history of enslavement and other human rights abuses, to
render the Gbagyi homeless would unconscionable.
National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is investigating the planned
demolition of Mpape and the demolition of other slums. In addition to the
potential human rights abuses, of particular interest is the allegation that
the real motive driving the demolition is confiscation of the land for the
purpose of selling it to others who have the financial means to buy and develop
For now, the demolition of Mpape is on hold. The courts have
ordered the demolition by the Federal Capital Development Authority postponed
until October. It remains to be seen whether this delay will become permanent.
Now would be an ideal time for the Nigerian government to
address its stated issues with Mpape without wholesale demolition. For example,
increased law enforcement (with military assistance where necessary) could
reduce crime and remove the Boko Haram threat.
If the courts authorize the demolition, such should occur
incrementally, and only after those residents being displaced have alternative
housing, schools, and hospitals available so that their lives are improved by
relocation. To do otherwise, would be to apply the rule of law to violate
fundamental human rights.
Human Rights Commission Probes Proposed Slum Demolition, VOA (Aug. 29,
Rights Commission to investigate planned demolition of Mpape,
ChannelsTV.com (Aug. 29, 2012)
Demolition - Mpape Residents Fault FCT, AllAfrica.com (Aug. 30, 2012)
Human Rights Commission to Investigate Demolitions, AllAfrica.com (Aug. 7,
Federal Capital Territory