ABUJA, THE POLITICIANS AND SOCIAL HOUSING
Sunday 19th August 2012 was marked as the International Humanitarian Day by the United Nations, a day set aside to remind members of the human race about the essence of being good to each other as members of same human family irrespective of ethnic, religious, political, racial and cultural differences.
This year's celebration of World Humanitarian Day was beautiful and exceptionally solemn in that one of the World's best known talented Musical Icons Miss. Beyonce Giselle Knowles in collaboration with the song writer Dianne Warren donated the entire proceeds of a special commemorative song they originated to mark this Year's world Humanitarian Day.
Beyonce Knowles was born only on September 4th 1981 in Houston, Texas, the United States of merica, but this young woman has made a mark for herself as one of the World's best recognizable Music stars that have successfully garnered several awards and indeed she has made tremendous success for herself in terms of wealth and investments.
But on Sunday August 19th 2012 infornt a World audience, she humbled herself to perform one of the best songs which she dedicated to humanity and in that beautiful song she pointedly told members of the human race to strive to leave one legacy for humanity and to always do that which is good no matter how big or small.
Beyonce who was on stage at the United Nations General Assembly in New York where she performed the special song did that alongside a dozen global aid groups. She said her goal and that of the aid groups is to reach at least one billion people around the World with one message: "Perform good deed, no matter how big or small, to help another person".
In an interview with Anderson Cooper of the Cable News Network, Beyonce stated that the theme of her song "I was Here" was a demonstration of her determination to leave her footprints in the sands of time.
Beyonce said: "We all want to know that our life meant something, and that we did something for someone else, and that we spread positivity no matter how big or how small".
She vowed to use social media to spread this message to one billion persons around the World.
The United Nations Secretary General Mr. Banki Moon stated that this year's World Humanitarian Day presents a historic opportunity to bring one billion people from around the world to advance a powerful and proactive idea: people helping people".
As I read and monitor all these wonderful performances on the television and also through the social media from the small comfort of my room in Abuja, one thing struck me about the general impressions created by Beyonce's song and also the message of the United Nations Secretary General which can be summed up to mean a call for humanity to endeavor to make doing good deed the center of their existence on earth.
Try as I could to link the message to Nigeria and the Political office holders in Nigeria and their attitudes towards the people of Nigeria and I could not pin the message down. In Nigeria what the political office holders have spread is the hate message of 'people killing people'. In Abuja as well as in many other places, Government officials have made spreading hardship through corruption, greed, avarice and high handedness as the high points of their agenda.
Abuja is particularly interesting because about the same day that the World Humanitarian Day is being marked, the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory Alhaji Bala Mohammed defended the harsh decision of the Abuja administration to pull down over ten thousand, two hundred and eighty eight [10,288]houses of the poor residents of Mpape and Lugbe in the surburbs [so-called satelite towns] of the Federal Capital.
As the Government planned and has indeed begun this forceful eviction of poor residents to make way for the rich elite including Senators and serving ministers to set up their palatial estates, there is no policy in place to erect social housing estates for the benefits of poor income earners in the nation's capital.
To even remember that the minister of Abuja used the solemn day like August 19th 2012 the day the rest of the civilized world is marking international humanitarian day to defend this illegal forced eviction is despicable, reprehensible and totally out of tune with the mood of the celebration which ought to be used to address matters connected with helping the less privileged members of the Nigerian community to overcome their economic adversities.
The minister of Abuja was even in breach of subsisting court matters challenging the planned forced eviction and yet he did not only proceed to pull down some of those houses [not minding a letter from the Federal Attorney General and minister of Justice of Nigeria asking him to stay action] but he has continued to address the media on the same subject matter before the competent court of law in which he is a prime respondent/defendant.
If this is not impunity of the highest order, what is it then?. I believe strongly that a Government that professes that it was put in place by democratic exercise of the fundamental right of the citizens to choose who should preside over their political affairs, must therefore do those things and carry out those policies that have the overall inerest of the people in mind because the constitution stated clearly that the welfare and security of the people shall be the primary purpose of Government.
Government is obliged to introduce alternative scial housing schemes that are affordable and transparently managed by registered social landlords like non-profit-organizations and the Area councils to be rented or leased out to the poor residents at heavily subsidized and discounted rate before embarking on the total removal of those structures considered as shanties by Government because the poor people resort to erecting shanties because the Government has demonstrated notorious inclination to always and only protect the very rich and to carry out policies that targets the extinction of the poor.
The Abuja administration must introduce social housing scheme and ensure that the many land speculators that work as political aides and private staff of politial office holders do not hijack these houses to maximize profits and thereby furher annihilate the poor people. If we are now being made to believe by the media spin doctors of the Abuja minister that the Mpape houses of the poor are to be demolished because illegal aliens have converted most of the houses to become their hideouts from where they plan and perpetrate dastardly criminal acts of terrorism including the failed plot recently to bomb the Kuje, Abuja medium security prison facility, then the Government is not allowed to inflict general punishment and pain on innocent Nigerian poor residents on the nebulous ground that the shanties harbour criminal elements from neighbouring countries.
This is a big indictment on the Immigration and the customs of Nigeria who are charged with the constitutional duties of protecting our international borders but who now turn their faces to other places and businesses while illegal aliens and arms importers invade Nigeria in their thousands.
Government must restructure the customs and immigration services, train the staff properly, equip them with modern facilities and erect formidable electric fence around the nation's borders to stop the inflow of illega arms importers and terrorists from the neighboring countries.
What Government ought to do is to embark on right-based house- to- house seach to fish out undesirable elements and allow the law abdden people who are Nigerians and are engaged in legal activities in Abuja to continue to stay in their houses or if Government consider those houses as shanties, then Government under chapter two of the contitution is obliged to set up social housing scheme for these poor citizens. The solution is not to make them homeless. There is no where in the World whereby Government believes that the panacea to crime committed allegedly by illegal aliens is to demolish several thousands of houses of the poor citizens so as to get at these illegal immigrants.
I asked Miss. Nneka Okonkwo a legal consultant that works closely with our non-Governmental group the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria whether forced eviction was legal and she totally stated that it is illega and unconstitutional.
According to her, forced eviction involves the “Involuntary” removal against their will of individuals, persons, families and/or communities from their homes or land, directly or indirectly attributable to the state, and without the provision or other protection. (General Comment No. 7, ICESCR)
Citing varied legal authorities, Nneka Okonkwo reasoned that given the interdependence of all human rights, Forced evictions frequently violate and contravenes human rights, under section 37 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution which guarantees the Fundamental rights to privacy and Family life. Enjoying these rights is essential to realizing the human right to adequate housing enshrined in Article 11(1) of the International Convenant on Economic, Social and cultural Rights (ICESR), which is binding on Nigeria.
Nigeria's housing policy formally recognizes both the right to housing as consistent with essential human need and the government's corresponding obligation to ensure all person's access to adequate housing (Section 16((d) of the Nigeria's Constitution.
According to this young lawyer, the need for a renewed commitment by the International Community and Government finally to abolish forced evictions is indisputable. Should the necessary initiatives fail to materialize, the basic human right to a place to live, in peace and dignity, will continue to be actively denied to millions of people throughout Nigeria and the world at large.
+Emmanuel Onwubiko, Head, Human Rights Wrters' Assciation of Nigeria, blogs @www.huriwa.blogspot.com.