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Can mass evictions be justified?

Africa HYS team | 12:56 UK time, Thursday, 28 October 2010

Plans to develop the waterfront areas of Port Harcourt in Nigeria are threatening to make 200,000 people homeless according to a new report by Amnesty International.


The plans, which include the demolition of slums on the waterfront, are part of the government's "Greater Port Harcourt master plan". 

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

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

Forced evictions are common across the continent, with governments often citing urban development as the reason for them.  But can they ever be justified?

To take part in our LIVE debate on air at 1600GMT message us your number.  It will not be published.


  • Comment number 1.

    I do really have problem with the concerned authorities.Before the people settled,what did they tell them? They are not going to relocate but evict them which is quite sad and I believe the people wouldn't take it easy,and so they will definitely protest.I think they should relocate them.[Personal details removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 2.

    Am confused. Africa is usually portrayed as ridden with slums and sub-human living conditions. But now, this article is complaining that the government in Nigeria wants to clean up those areas. Are we saying the government should not aspire to make Port Harcourt a beautiful city?

  • Comment number 3.

    As with most decisions taken by any government, you could argue that this can only be to the good of those concerned. But as with anything the Nigerian government does, you only need to scratch the surface to reveal a cruel scam of one sort or another. I have visited the slums and know a few people who live there. The fact that any government would allow it (or indeed, any similar hell-hole) to exist says a lot about the character of the individuals serving in that so-called government. So, on the surface, you could argue that anything is better than such places. But the tragic reality is that those wretched souls will literally be kicked out to make way for swanky new waterfront apartments for those with much stolen wealth in their pockets - without any thought given to where they should go next. It happened only a few years back - in Lagos.

  • Comment number 4.

    Force eviction is not justified in any sense unless in a situation of probable cause. however i believe that a redevelopment plan is not a force eviction and people must have been served notices before now.
    It will be very bad of the government to wake up one morning and start demolishing peoples' houses without prior notices and proper compensation . There should be a peoper arrangement for traffic flow in all major road in and out of Portharcourt because these dsiplaced individuals will now go to suburban arears of the Portharcourt to seek for accommodation.

  • Comment number 5.

    Mass eviction can not be justified, it is a way for the government official to occupy and do the "bussiness as usual", sell the land to those who stole ahead of them. even if buildings are erected, it will still go those who are connected, the politicians
    This is another means of stealing from the poor to pay the rich few.
    The oil-rich land in Nigeria have always been in the news for over 20 years, but that is it, no positive effect on the poor, the less priviledged, the un-educated and the land itself.
    so, who really cares?
    is it UN, WHO or OAU? or could it be the educated Nigerians, who will rather sell "Nigeria" (the whole country) for them to buy a piece of property in UK or USA? even the local people care less, as long as you can give them some cash that will give them "pride" over fellow Nigerians for a few days.
    Those that cares are the "big corporations" - Shell, Elf, Chevron, Agip and others - that they see the situation as opportunities for them to rake more cash in billions, if not trillions, as they impoverish the land the more.
    But guess what, this is their season, their time, of the big corporations, another season will come someday

  • Comment number 6.

    It is actually a devasting thing to be homeless but on the other hand, those people should not have been there in the fist place. If it was approved by someone in the local government, then, they should not be punished for in ept govenment official. If not, the government is justified for demolition. The slums breeds thuggery, vagabonds and societal ills.

  • Comment number 7.

    When our African brothers illegally get to Europe and the law enforcement agencies there deal with them according to law, we (Africans) are quick to condemn the Europeans and demand that they should deal with the law-breakers with 'a human face'. If we expect Europeans to deal with our brothers who have broken their laws with some dignity, the least we can do to our fellow countrymen is to find alternative accommodation for these people if we must evict them. Who wouldn't want to stay in a mansion in a plush area? These people stay there not because they want to, but because they have to as a result of bad policies (e.g. the neglect of our rural areas) that successive governments implement.

  • Comment number 8.

    Of course mass eviction is justified as long as legitimate landowners are duly compensated. I say legitimate landowners because squatters are not entitled to compensation. Goverments around the globe excercise their eminent domain right all the time.
    Amnesty International and other NGOs should be working with the appropriate authorities to provide affordable housing and not simply condemn development effort. Nigeria and the rest of African countries should have a well-planned development instead of the current situation of mansions sitting right next door to slums, ghettoes or shanty towns.

  • Comment number 9.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 10.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 11.

    Mass evictions are inevitable if urban development is ever to be achieved but it must be done right. Knowing Nigerians I suspect they were given adequate notice to vacate but as we know they were perhaps waiting for 'The Lord' to intervene. I know legitimate property owners will be adequately compensated. Those who are crying blue murder are the illegal occupants who have neither a certificate of ownership nor a tenancy agreement. These are the people who build on railway lines and flood planes and on roads; they are paying the price for their inability to follow due process. Poverty is not always a good enough excuse, respect the authorities.

  • Comment number 12.

    Making a decision without taking into account the consequences of the action either by underming or ignoring is practically unjust. There should have been a plan B in terms of temporal accomodation for the tenants. You cannot pay off the landlords and forget about the tenants. That is inhuman and evidence of insensitive government of Nigeria.

  • Comment number 13.

    In this situation i don't blame anybody both the government and the masses,we need change,nigeria need development,in order to accomplish this, few heads must roll and this heads must be celebrated as heros in order to balance the situation, if not the matter of justificatio will arise.

  • Comment number 14.

    Truly speaking mass eviction is painful especially when there are no plans in place to caretar for the evicted,and when government also renege in their plans for carrying out mass eviction,evidence abound that government plans for evicting are merely smokescreen it ends up as a white elephant projects.so to justify mass eviction the authorities should create an alternative for those who are to be evicted before they embark on it.

  • Comment number 15.

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