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Nigeria’s Ogoni claim new oil industry abuse over demolition of shantytown

16 May 2005

Thousands of Ogoni and members of other minority communities have been evicted from their homes in a Port Harcourt shantytown. The Rivers State government and the Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC) are accused by the communities of demolishing their waterfront homes to facilitate planned company expansion and relocation from Lagos to Port Harcourt waterside, without notice or compensation. Some residents have suffered a second displacement since they were living in the shantytown following earlier destruction of their village homes due to military activities in Ogoni territories.

The demolition was completed in April 2005 despite strong opposition from residents groups and rights organizations including the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP). They stated that the shantytown, known as Agip waterside or ‘Ogoni Village’, had been demolished with inadequate notice and no compensation for residents, many of whom had lived in the shantytown for over 10 years. According to MOSOP, residents have been left to fend for themselves by the Rivers State government, and have been forced to move to other shantytowns or return to villages where their future is uncertain.

MOSOP representatives have raised the issue as a matter of urgent concern at the recent UN Commission on Human Rights (CHR) where they spoke of armed groups moving into the area to threaten and frighten residents in April. On 9th April one resident was reportedly killed in an attack by youths, while a number of others were left with machete wounds. Reports have indicated police involvement in the harassment and the arbitrary arrest of residents. Agip have denied any involvement in the demolition and clearing of the land, which borders its existing premises.

Minority Rights Group International (MRG) is supporting the attendance of a representative of the evicted communities at the United Nations Working Group on Minorities in Geneva from 30th May. MRG stated that this issue will be raised directly with UN experts including the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, and representatives of the Nigerian government. MRG joins Nigerian human and minority rights groups in calling on the Rivers State government for a full investigation into the demolitions and evictions and the actions of government authorities, the police and the Agip Oil Company.

Nigeria should take into account its obligations under international and domestic law, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), and the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights. Article 11 (1) of the ICESCR states that: ‘The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions. The States Parties will take appropriate steps to ensure the realization of this right’.

Notes for editors

Read MRG’s Micro Study ‘The Ogoni of Nigeria: Oil and Exploitation‘ to find out more about the Ogoni in Nigeria.