Owonifari Demolition: Security Threat or Forced Eviction?

Published on 8th January 2016

Demolition of Owonifari market           P.Courtesy
Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, the Lagos State Governor backed with armed policemen led the demolition of Lagos Owonifari market at Oshodi. Mr. Steve Ayorinde, state commissioner of information justifies the action citing security threats and saying that victims of the demolition have been relocated to the Isopakodowo market stalls at Bolade area, Oshodi. We are wondering how Owonifari market which has been in existence for over 40 years has suddenly become a security threat prompting demolition by government as a security check. 
 
In global practice, before any demolition can be carried out, the authority ought to:

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

• Consult stakeholders about possible alternatives to the demolition and consider all options they will put forward

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

• Allow the key players 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 those about to be evicted on the location they might be moved to before the demolition

• Provide those to be evicted with documents confirming they can use the new location

• Make sure that those evicted can afford to trade in the place provided and provide the essential services
 
The demolition of Owonifari market by the Lagos state government 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 observes that  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 ensure that all possible alternatives are worked out together with the persons affected. Where demolition occurs without due process it is regarded as forced eviction.
 
By Liberty Oseni

Arm of Hope Foundation
http://www.armofhope.org.ng/


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