Friday, November 06, 2009

Nigeria: Governor of Nigeria's Rivers State to go ahead with demolition of waterfront settlement

The governor of Nigeria's Rivers State says he will go ahead with the controversial demolition of a waterfront settlement in the state capital, Port Harcourt.

Criminals and militants use the homes, mostly shanties, as a base to launch attacks on the public, says Governor Chubuike Amaechi.

The action will leave dozens of women and children homeless, according to Amnesty International in a press release.

But the administration has taken steps to address the concerns, says Amaechi, and the demolition is necessary for security.

"As at the time I took over in 2007, people were being killed on the streets. In those water fronts, our mothers, sisters and wives were being raped. How would the people who issued that press statement feel if their wives or their mothers were raped at the waterfront? So I have that responsibility to protect lives and property."

The Rivers State government is flouting its own laws, says Amnesty, by forcibly taking over the settlement without providing housing for those displaced. But the governor says his administration negotiated and paid for the areas being demolished.

"We paid the commercial value for those properties. It is not even an issue of paying compensation; it is a buyback policy. They have a right to sell their properties. What is the business of Amnesty International to say don't sell your property? So we buy the property at commercial value, not at depreciation value."

The residents will be gone before demolition, he says. "We have demolished some areas for the last two or three months and we have had no crisis in terms of accommodation of houses because the land owners …are able to buy properties elsewhere or build their own houses."

The Rivers governor denies allegations that new homes on the waterfront will be reserved for the rich and influential politicians.

"It is going to be a mixed development. There will be places for the rich," he says, "if they are comfortable with the water. There will be mass housing and if they [former residents] want to buy at that point, they can.

"But first let us be able to properly plan and design the place, build houses. What you have now are shanties that, when you are coming to arrest criminals, they jump into the water and are gone."

Published with the permission of Voice of America

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