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World Habitat Day: Activists Focus On Human Right To Housing


Kenneth Amabipi


“Housing is a human right. Everywhere you live is your place,” was the focus of human right activists as they gather at No. 6 Field,Port HarcourtTownship, on Monday October 3, 2011, to celebrate World Habitat Day.

The United Nations (UN) World Habitat Day is celebrated yearly on the first Monday of October to reflect on the state of human settlements and people’s right to sufficient shelter. It also seeks to remind people that they are responsible for the habitat of future generations.

Amnesty International and Socio-Economic Rights Accountability Project, SERAP, with other Human Rights activists, combined to bring to focus, the evils of the planned demolition of the waterfronts by theRiversStategovernment.

They unanimously stated that though development is welcome, housing is a right of the people and  adequate compensation and resettlement must be effected before demolition of the waterfront communities largely owned by the Okrika ethnic group inRiversState.

Delegates from theNetherlandsandUSAwere also present to drive have the message.

A protest march was carried out from the No. 6 field, venue of the activities, to Njemanze inPort Harcourt, where houses were demolished by the state government.

According to Mr. Dennis of Amnesty International, the group would work with the waterfront communities to ensure that the government comply with human rights standards.

“We work together to ensure human rights. No forceful or illegal demolition or eviction. We saw the demolition at Njemanze two years ago and many rendered homeless. We stand for them,” he stated.

He said all over the world, people come together to stop evictions and ensure that they have access to education and health, adding that the people of the waterfronts want development, they have the right to decide the type of development meant for them.

They displayed a banner showing 70, 000 signatories in support of the right of the people of the waterfronts from the Netherland.

Heerko Dukstarhois of Amnesty International, Netherland also spoke on the right of humans to housing, with Simon Kenneth of UN Habitat.

They urged the people of the waterfronts to positively challenge demolition and that government must seek the opinion of the people in the areas they need to develop and to reconsider demolition.

Solidarity speeches were given by several people and communities including Aku Emmanuel of Niger Delta Wetland Centre in Yenagoa; Sam Dede, a renowned actor, Inemo Samiama, director SDN, Allison Emmanuel, representing the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People, MOSOP, and Ada Williams, an executive of Nigeria Labour Congress.

Others were Maria Sebo, representing the Wakirike Ijaw Women of Nigeria, leaders of Igbiksikalame, Abonnema Wharf Alase Ama, Olomuo-Ogbogbo,ElechiBeach, Afikpo, Ejike Communities among others.

Some of the placards carried read, “Njemanze Demolition Happened, This was Home,” “We are fishermen, our livelihood depend on the Rivers,” “End illegal demolitions, super development,” a Housing is Human Right. We support people live here campaign,” “land Grab causes poverty and Hunger, Ogonis Reject Private Banana Plantation Project,” “End Forced Evictions”

Tony Ojukwu, Director Legal Services, National Human Rights Commission, in his presentation, said “The primary purpose of government is the provision of adequate security and welfare for the citizens. There cannot be adequate security and welfare without adequate and suitable shelter for the citizens. Also without adequate shelter, welfare and security of the citizens, there cannot be relative peace for development. The right to adequate and suitable shelter is globally recognized. Particularly inNigeriaunder the African Chapter on Human and People’s rights which has been domesticated under section 12 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Under section 16(2)(d) of the 1999 Constitution”.

On their part, the Abonnema Wharf Community House Owners Association stated, “The Abonnema Wharf Community if demolished will rendered an estimated 23, 000 different families, their average number of persons per household is 3  7. This could be attributed to the high married persons household and high number of children and also high working age group in the informal employment. There are civil servants and oil workers in the formal sector”.

Concluding, “However powerful and competent and well-intentioned the administration of government may be, that administration and the people it governs is allowed to suffer pains of: homelessness, increased hunger, disruption of their children’s schooling, wives and daughters exposed to danger such government is seen as inhuman where human right to housing and dignity is violated. Then life for instance is meaningless”. #####

World Habitat Day: Activists Focus On Human Right To Housing


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