Housing crisis in Nigeria

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Nigeria is gripped by a crisis that leaving Africa’s most populous country ill-equipped to properly house its inhabitants, said a United Nations rapporteur who called for an end to forced evictions of communities.

The United Nations estimates Nigeria’s population is set to double by 2050 to around 400 million people, which would make it the world’s third-largest nation behind India and China.

Against this backdrop, there is a lack of adequate housing in a country where most inhabitants live on less than $2 a day despite the nation having Africa’s largest economy, said Leilani Farha, special rapporteur on adequate housing.

“Nigeria’s housing sector is in a complete crisis,” said Farha. “Existing programmes will hardly make a small dent in addressing the ever-growing housing need.”

Farha, who addressed journalists in Abuja, noted the last census was in 2006 and said there was a lack of official data for government to develop an effective housing policy.

“Informal settlements are ballooning where conditions are inhumane and perhaps the most severe I have seen worldwide,” said Farha at the end of a 10-day visit that took in Abuja, the south-western commercial hub Lagos and southern oil city Port Harcourt.

North-east Nigeria has for the last decade been gripped by the insurgency waged by militant Islamist group Boko Haram that forced around two million people to leave their homes. That, she said, added to the housing crisis.

The rapporteur criticised the use of force by state government authorities and property developers to evict entire communities.

The practice is often carried out in cities, most notably Lagos, to make space for luxury housing unaffordable for the majority of locals.

Farha said hundreds of thousands of Nigerians, mostly women and children, were evicted from their homes in the last few years by people using firearms, arson and arbitrary arrests.

“A national level moratorium on forced evictions should be declared by the Federal Government, until adequate legal and procedural safeguards are in place to ensure all evictions comply with international human rights law,” she said in her recommendations.

Nigerian authorities previously said shanty towns were demolished because they were home to criminal gangs, making them a security threat as well breaching building regulations. The state government in Lagos, which attracts thousands of people in search of work from across Nigeria and neighbouring countries, repeatedly denied reports of brutality and violations of human rights laws.

The UN rapporteur said a national commission should be established to investigate alleged human rights violations with the power to provide compensation.