Reported by National Union of Tenants of Nigeria
Photo-Report on Njemanze Street demolition (6-7 November 2009)
by: National Union of Tenants of Nigeria
The destruction of Njemanze Street that lasted till Saturday 7th November 2009, razed down several buildings, including living houses, commercial premises and religious places, which provided accommodation to over 15,000 users notably residential tenants, business owners and church worshippers.
1. Background Information
At about 1100 hours on Friday, 6th November 2009, the Rivers State Governor, through his urban development commissioner, in a bid to fulfill his part of the business deal between him and Mr. Ben-Murray Bruce of the Silverbird Group, doled out almost a score of heavily armed policemen with two swamp-bogie bulldozers to destroy all the buildings at the leftwing axis of Njemanze Street to pave way for a business of private interest (see figures 30 and 31 at pages 34 –36 of the Report of UN-HABITAT fact-finding Mission to Portr Harcourt for further details or visit the NEXT publication website at : http://234next.com/csp/cms/sites/Next/Home/5458156-146/Silverbird_caught_in_Rivers_demolition_scandal.csp for Mr. Bruce emphasis on the demolition).
The destruction of Njemanze Street that lasted till Saturday 7th November 2009, razed down several buildings, including living houses, commercial premises and religious places, which provided accommodation to over 15,000 users notably residential tenants, business owners and church worshippers. In other words, the destruction has brought about sudden damages to the social, economic and spiritual life of the occupants as a price for the personal gain of the state governor and his business ally, which said damages can hardly be repaired by self effort. Photo-analysis of the destruction, as presented below, gives true picture of this fact:
2. ANALYSIS OF THE AREA DEMOLISHED
(1) Photos 1, 2, 3 AND 4 (at pages 4 and 5 of this Report)
Shows the building located at #3 Njemanze Street. At the upper floor of the building existed five law firms with average staff strength of five persons while the lower floor has, in it, an NGO and other offices that provided employment for more than fifteen persons. Behind the building is an extension of the premises, which provided shelter for twenty-eight tenants living with an average family of five persons. In all, the building provided accommodation for 180 users, all of who were victims of the demolition. Behind the premises is a down-below, being part of Njemanze Waterfront that was demolished on 28th August 2009. At the terminal end of the waterfront is the Shell Petroleum development Company (SPDC), being one of the multinational business organizations that have peacefully co-existed with Abonnema Wharf and Njemanze Waterfronts for the past thirty years.
(2) Photos 5 and 6 ( at page 6 of this Report)
Shows the building located at #1 Njemanze Street. At the upper floor of the building existed a Computer Skill-Acquisition Institute that provided employment for upto sixteen persons and a learning opportunity for upto eighty youth while the lower floor has in it, an evangelical church that provided living accommodation for about six persons, employment opportunity for six persons also and a worship place for about two hundred and forty persons. Behind it, are residential premises that provided shelter for upto sixteen persons, each maintaining an average family strength of five persons. In all, the building provided accommodation for 422 users all of who were victims of the demolition. Behind the building is a down-below, being part of Njemanze Waterfront that was demolished on 28th August 2009 while at the terminal end of it rests Abonnema Wharf Waterfront, which is twice larger than Njemanze Waterfront in terms of population and size and forms part of the 2km radius of the Silverbird Showtime project marked for demolition by the end of this year. At the right wing was situated the premises known as #14 Abonnema Wharf Road that was demolished along with the National Union of Tenants of Nigeria’s Office on 13th February 2009.
(3) Photos 7, 8 and 9 (at pages 7 and 8 of this Report)
The demolition of #14 Abonnema Wharf Road and #1 Njemanze Street brings out clearly Mr. Bruce’s dream for his pet project. While Photo 7 shows the premises that are to be used as a parking-space his customers, photo 8 gives the true picture of the business environment sought by Mr. Bruce from the governor. Photo 9 shows the 180o ring-road linking the pet project of Mr. Bruce to Port Harcourt–Aba expressway, upon which basis All the buildings at Awgu and Elechi Beach Waterfronts as well as those at the Njemanze, Iloabuchi and Azikiwe Streets axis of Port Harcourt are to be demolished and expanded to four lanes . This arrangement is being made without any relief plan for the affected occupants.
(4) Photos 10, 11 and 12 (at pages 8 and 9 of this Report)
Shows the building located at #5 Njemanze Street. At the upper floor of the building existed a church with upto 120 worshippers and staff strength of about four persons while the lower floor has, in it, an electronic show-Room that provided employment for seven persons. At the leftwing of the building were lock-up stores used for commercial activities that provided self-employment for several persons, especially widows and the youth who were upto fourteen in number and maintained an average of three workers each. Behind the building is also an extension of the premises, which provided shelter for thirteen tenants living with an average family size of five persons. In all\, the premises provided accommodation for 234 users, all who were victims of the recent demolition of the street.
Note : the leftwing of Njemanze Street has more than twenty-five of the buildings described in this paragraph, all of which were destroyed between 6th and 7th November 2009.
3. IMPACT ANALYSIS OF THE DEMOLITION
Given the fact that occupants of the building along Njemanze Street in port Harcourt were not issued any notice or offered an opportunity for alternative accommodation before carrying out the demolition, the state government has, therefore, invaded the affected persons’ right to a standard of living adequate for the health and wellbeing of themselves and their families under the international human rights treaties – noting that:
(1) considering the magnitude of accommodation shortage in Port Harcourt and the resultant high cost of rentals in the city, the demolition of Njemanze Street undertaken by the governor without provision of any alternative, is counter-productive to the attainment of the occupants’ right to housing, not to mention that it violates not only the right to spiritual upliftment, but also the right to health and to means of economic livelihood as well as the right to enjoyment of such social services as employment and children’s education etcetera.
(2) the particular demolition of the buildings along Njemanze Street without formal notice or opportunity for alternative accommodation brings to fore a further violation of the occupants’ right to private and family, which violation is indivisible from breach of the right to life, human dignity, fair hearing and, above all, the right to freedom from forced evictions, all of which are an embodiment of the international human rights treaties, to which Nigeria is a state-party.
4. THE WAY FORWARD
Of important note – the 2km radius of the Silverbird project, which the state governor has committed himself to demolish before the end of December 2009 and give to Mr. Bruce to do his business, from our recent assessment– covers upto half of the total land area of Diobu in terms of size and population or about one-third of the totality of Port Harcourt main city.
Demolishing, therefore, this magnitude of land area without provision of any alternative to the affected persons could be historic and a practice that deters full and progressive realization of Nigeria’s commitment towards the Habitat Agenda, which, inter alia , forbids government from carrying out any eviction that is contrary to the international human rights law. On this very note it is hereby appealed to:
(1) the Honorable Minister of Housing and Urban Development, the Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission, the Special Rapporteur of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing and the Executive Director of UN-HABITAT to persuade the President of Nigeria to call for immediate moratorium of the unlawful forced evictions in Rivers State, as prescribed by the UN-HABITAT, and to direct the urgent implementation of the 18-points Recommendation set out in the Report of UN-HABITAT Mission to Port Harcourt.
(2) the international human rights organizations to subscribe to the IAI initiative to protest to the embassies of Nigeria across the world, demanding their persuasion of Nigeria President to declare immediate moratorium of unlawful forced evictions in Rivers State, as prescribed by the UN-HABITAT, and to urgently restore the rights of those already evicted.
These appeals are grounded upon the fact that the housing rights violation being perpetrated by the Government of Rivers State is absolutely in pursuit of the governor’s personal interest and is taking place under the jurisdiction of the Federal government of Nigeria, being a state party to the international human rights being violated by the state government.
This Report Dated this 7th Day of November 2009
C. W. ENWEFAH
NATIONAL UNION OF TENANTS OF NIGERIA