From Lemmy Ughegbe and Terhemba Daka, Abuja
NHRC probes Makoko residents’ eviction
FORMER Federal Capital Territory Minister, Dr. Aliyu Moddibo Umar, has cleared the air over the genesis of the controversy surrounding the plot of land allocated by the FCT Administration for building the continental secretariat of African First Ladies Peace Mission (AFLPM), saying he indeed allocated the plot to AFLPM in 2008.
The clarification came as the National Human Rights Commission yesterday began investigations into claims of alleged forced evictions received from Makoko waterfront communities in Lagos, charging federal and state governments not to breach the peoples’ rights in their quest for urban development.
According to Moddibo, who served as Minister of FCT between 2007 and 2008, it was his successor, Alhaji Adamu Aliero, who changed the concept of the land and re-allocated it to Women and Youth Empowerment Foundation (WAYEF) belonging to former First Lady, Hajiya Turai Yar’ Adua, two years later.
The former minister spoke in an interview with the Hausa Service of the Voice of America yesterday. The report was monitored in Abuja, according to a statement made available to The Guardian by the FCT Minister’s Special Assistant (SA) on Media and Public Affairs, Nosike Ogbuenyi.
According to Moddibo, there was no controversy about it as the land in question was allocated to ALPM and a Certificate of Occupancy (C of 0) prepared for the Mission.
Moddibo said in the interview: “When I became Minister, I brought the idea for the building of the secretariat as a legacy the former First Lady would leave behind. I consulted the former President (late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua) and advised him on the project, and after the wife became the leader of the African First Ladies Mission. I told him that the NGO needed a secretariat to build an edifice just like the Women Centre built by late Maryam Babangida and the National Hospital built by Maryam Abacha.
“He (Yar’Adua) agreed and told me to look for a land. When I eventually found the land, I prepared a Certificate of Occupancy and the Structural Design of the proposed secretariat before I reported back to him. He appreciated the effort and directed me to meet her with the proposal. After a discussion, she accepted the idea and set up a committee which comprised the FCTA and Foreign Affairs officials as well as Maryam Abacha, late Murtala Muhammed’s wife (Ajoke) and Patience.”
The former FCT Minister said that the late President Yar’Adua warned him not to allocate any land to either his wife or children. He clarified that he allocated the land to an NGO (AFLPM) and not an individual.
Efforts to get the response of Moddibo’s successor, Aliero, to explain why he allegedly re-allocated the same land to Turai for her private NGO, WAYEF, were not successful as his two numbers were not reachable.
In a statement made available to The Guardian by Director of Public Enlightenment of NHRC, Mr. Ladan Mohammed, the commission asked government at all levels to “adopt a rights based approach to urban development.”
According to the statement, the Commission’s Executive Secretary, Prof. Bem Angwe, while leading a team of investigation officers for on-the-spot investigation in Makoko, Lagos, said “governments should take proactive measures to prevent the growth of urban slums and when they are allowed to grow, especially for many decades, careful planning, sensitization and adequate alternatives must be put in place before rebuilding such communities”.
The statement also read that “during an interactive session with the inhabitants of Makoko, Lagos State, the Baale, Mr. Steven Aji, alleged that his people who have been living in the area since 1890 were given only 72 hours to leave. He further alleged that at the expiration of the three-day notice, armed marine policemen came and demolished their houses without any alternative arrangement for resettlement.”
“Mr. Aji said an unspecified number of persons was rendered homeless during the exercise. He also alleged that the Deputy Baale of Makoko, Mr. Timothy Humpojonwa was killed by one of the marine policemen while three babies also died during the exercise. The deceased children, according to Aji, include Christy Dansu, Humer Hunge and Zansi Ayide,” he added.
Responding, Angwe promised the victims that “the Commission will fully investigate all the issues raised and meet with all government agencies concerned, in order to arrive at an informed decision on the matter.” He assured the complainants that the decision of the Commission is binding on all the parties, as provided for in the NHRC Act 2010.
Angwe also observed that the poor sanitary condition and overcrowded nature of the settlement constituted health and environmental hazards and called on the Lagos State government to immediately undertake a health audit of the area in order to forestall outbreak of epidemic as well as determine the health needs of the people living in the communities. He said the entire settlement was unsuitable for human habitation and a violation of the rights of the inhabitants to a clean and protected environment.
Earlier at a meeting with the Attorney General of Lagos State, Mr. Ade Ipaye, Prof. Angwe urged the state government not to embark on any further demolition until adequate arrangements are made for the resettlement of the affected persons. He also called for the immediate prosecution of the police officer accused of killing Mr. Humpojonwa.
Ipaye told the Executive Secretary that it had become necessary to reclaim part of the Lagoon which was taken over by illegal settlements leading to increased flooding in other parts of Lagos.
He explained that the Lagoon is a critical resource where water drains from all over Lagos. He expressed regret that such an important facility was put in jeopardy due to illegal fillings with garbage and erection of make-shift shelters by the ever-increasing population at the waterside.
He, however, promised that no further demolition will be carried out until adequate arrangements are made for compensation/resettlement of the affected persons that were earlier identified and enumerated by the government.
Angwe, had earlier this week summoned the Director Development Control, FCT Abuja, in connection with the planned demolitions in Mpape village in the FCT and is due to visit waterside settlements in Port Harcourt, another community allegedly affected by recent demolition exercise across the country.
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