…Decry Inhuman Living Conditions in the Country …Wants Urgent Action to Mitigate Housing Crisis, Forced Evictions United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Adequate Housing, Ms Leilana Farha says imposing taxes on vacant houses in the country may go a long way in alleviating the terrible housing challenges faced by Nigerians. This is
…Decry Inhuman Living Conditions in the Country
…Wants Urgent Action to Mitigate Housing Crisis, Forced Evictions
United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Adequate Housing, Ms Leilana Farha says imposing taxes on vacant houses in the country may go a long way in alleviating the terrible housing challenges faced by Nigerians. This is coming at a time President Muhammadu Buhari is calling for global partnership and multilateral action to tackle widespread poverty in Africa. .
Presenting her report on Monday in Abuja, at the end of a 10-day fact finding visit to the country, Ms Farha expresses concern over the human rights crisis posed by the inhumane living conditions in Nigeria’s informal settlement, which houses 69 percent of the urban population.
The UN Special Rapporteur notes that Nigeria’s housing sector was in a complete crisis and existing programmes have not been able to address the ever-growing housing need.
She said, “Most residents in Nigeria’s ballooning informal settlement live without access to even the most basic services like running water and they lack any security of tenure forcing them to live in constant fear of being evicted.
“I was shocked to see that the communities most in need of protection and assistance by the state are instead persecuted, harassed, extorted and even arrested and jailed without having ever committed a crime.”
She observes that economic inequality in Nigeria has reached extreme levels and is playing itself out clearly in the housing sector.
The UN Rapporteur pointed out that Nigeria has estimated housing shortage of 22 million units while newly built luxury dwellings are springing up throughout the cities – made possible often through the forced eviction of poor communities.
She quips, “Nigeria’s housing sector is in a complete crisis. There is no current national housing action plan or strategy. Coordination and communication between federal and state governments seems lacking.”
Speaking on the rent control bill that failed in the National Assembly, the UN official says the bill died because it wasn’t ripe.
“The idea of controlling rent caps is hotly debated in many countries. New York just tried to have rent control laws passed; Barcelona is close to getting rent-free as rent is actually frozen for some period of five to seven years.
“So, in many jurisdictions, they have started to impose vacant home tax.
“I support that kind of move from a human rights point of view only where that money from the tax is directly put into the creation of affordable housing.
“In the case of Nigeria, it could be used as a fund to upgrade informal settlements,” Ms Farha stated.
She then urged the government to address the grossly inadequate housing conditions with the urgency and rigour befitting a human rights crisis of this scale.
“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 that all evictions are compliant with international human rights law.”
Ms Farha will present a comprehensive report of her visit to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2020.
Speaking at the UN General Assembly in New York on Tuesday where he solicited for global action against poverty in Africa, President Buhari observes that “Current attempts to help develop Africa by industrial countries are un-coordinated and plainly incremental.”
“We have the skills, the manpower and the natural resources, but in many instances, we lack the capital – hence my plea for industrial countries to take a long-term view of Africa, come and partner with us to develop the continent for the benefit of all,” he says.
Positing that no threat is more potent than poverty and exclusion, Buhari pleads that “Africa charges you with the singular task of initiating the effort we are calling for.”
“The United Nations has in place processes for promoting collective action to combat global threats. No threat is more potent than poverty and exclusion. They are the foul source from which common criminality, insurgency, cross-border crimes, human trafficking and its terrible consequences draw their inspiration,” he notes.
“Poverty in all its manifestations remains one of the greatest challenges facing our world. Its eradication is an indispensable requirement for achieving sustainable development. In this regard, Nigeria has developed a National Social Investment Programme – a pro-poor scheme that targets the poorest and most vulnerable households in the country,” Buhari contends.
Photo: A slum settlement in Makoko, Lagos