Development and Peace is concerned by a growing threat to human rights defenders in Nigeria after employees of its Nigerian partner Social and Economic Rights Action Centre (SERAC) were beaten and arrested by police for allegedly contravening a new traffic law passed in 2012.
On March 26th, a SERAC vehicle and the vehicle of SERAC’s Executive Director were pulled over by police for an alleged traffic violation and the passengers were forcibly pulled out of the cars. The drivers were beaten, and the passengers, drivers and vehicles were taken into police custody. The drivers were detained and only released on April 9th, while the vehicles remain impounded.
The incident occurred after SERAC filed a petition with the World Bank expressing concern regarding the recent demolitions of homes undertaken by the Lagos State Department as part of an urban development project being co-funded by the World Bank. The Lagos Metropolitan Development and Governance Project, is set “to increase sustainable access to basic urban services through investments in critical infrastructure,” but so far has led to the forced expulsions of 150,000 people from their homes. There have been no provisions made for those who have lost their homes and who are meant to benefit from this project, which is valued at $200 million USD and meant to upgrade the city’s infrastructure.
In February 2013, SERAC launched a public awareness campaign concerning this project after thousands of people were put out of their homes in the community of Badia. This was the third community (out of nine communities involved in the project) to experience forced expulsions.
The public awareness campaign alerted local and international media to the situation.
The petition sent by SERAC prompted a visit from a World Bank inspector to verify compliance with the Safeguard Policies and the Resettlement Policies Framework adopted for this project. Shortly thereafter, staff of SERAC were detained following the above-mentioned incident.
Development and Peace reiterates its support for SERAC’s work with groups threatened by forced expulsions in Nigeria, particularly in the city of Lagos, where the urban poor represent an estimated 70 percent of the population. Development and Peace has written a letter to the World Bank as well as to the Lagos State Government expressing concern regarding the forced evictions and urging that an investigation into the demolition of houses in the affected communities be put in place.
Development and Peace continues to stand in solidarity with SERAC and to support its courageous struggle to defend the human rights of the urban poor in Lagos.