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Oshodi market demolition: Security threat does not justify forced eviction

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We have seen govt carry out many demolitions and argued that they constitute security threat. That does not in any way justify demolition.

Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, the Lagos State Governor [above] backed with armed policemen led the demolition of Lagos Owonifari market at Oshodi.

Mr. Steve Ayorinde, state commissioner of information justifies the action on security threat on a statement issued on behalf of the government on the 5th day of January 2016. 

The commissioner claims victims of the demolition have been relocated to the Isopakodowo market stalls at Bolade area, Oshodi.

We are worried that, the Owonifari market which has been in existence for over 40 years suddenly became a security threat and the state government has resorted to demolition as a way of security check. 

However, in global practice, which Nigeria is not in isolation, before any demolition can be carried out the authority (Lagos State Government) ought to:

•        Tell the victims what their business premises will be used for after demolition which must be for public good other than nothing less.

•        Consult them about alternative to demolition and consider all options they will put forward

•        Give them adequate notice when the demolition will take place in writing or in a way that will be easily understood by them

•        Allow them enough time to list any possession or wages they will lose due to the demolition and compensate them

•        Give them adequate opportunity and time to challenge the demolition in the court, tell them about all the legal remedies and provide legal aid if they need it

•        Consult them on the location they might be moved to before the demolition

•        Provide them with adequate alternative location and documents confirming they can use the location

•        Make sure they can afford to trade in the place provided and provide the essential services

The demolition of Owonifari market by the Lagos state government as a security threat without adherence to due process is a clear violation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

Fundamentally, international human rights law, corroborated by the African Charter, evictions can only be seen as lawful if they are considered to be necessary mainly in “exceptional circumstances.” 

And when such “exceptional circumstances” are real, due process has to be followed which includes State is in obligation to ensure before evictions that all possible alternatives are worked out together with the persons affected. 

And where demolition occurs without due process it is regarded as forced eviction.

We have seen government carried out many demolitions and argued that they constitute a security threat. That does not in any way justify demolition.

Liberty Oseni, Arm of Hope Foundation, www.armofhope.org.ng 

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