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The Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) has expressed concern at the seven (7) day ultimatum imposed by the Government of Rivers State on residents of shanty towns in the Diobu axis of Port Harcourt to vacate as part of measures to flush out criminals in the capital city. It has thus called on the government to reconsider the decision as it failed to allow enough time for the residents to find alternative accommodation and leave the areas.

The Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) has expressed concern at the seven (7) day ultimatum imposed by the Government of Rivers State on residents of shanty towns in the Diobu axis of Port Harcourt to vacate as part of measures to flush out criminals in the capital city. It has thus called on the government to reconsider the decision as it failed to allow enough time for the residents to find alternative accommodation and leave the areas.

The residents of the water fronts are the poorest of the metropolitan Port Harcourt and Ogoni has the largest population of these residents, meaning that they would be worse hit. This, no doubt, would compound their already excruciating socio-economic hardship occasioned by the deepening economic crisis in the country.  That they suffer such deteriorating conditions and were also not expecting the decision, they are deeply unprepared and devastated by the realisation that they may be unable to afford the rental demands of alternative accommodation outside of the shanty towns. This will indisputably have adverse consequences for their means of livelihoods as well as force their children and wards to withdraw from school due to lack of shelter, a situation we believe would inflict doubt on the government's publicised policy on education.

Also, an overwhelming majority of the residents especially the Ogonis that dominate the shanty towns particularly Egede water front reclaimed the areas, built their houses and had lived there for well over fifty (50) years. We recall that some years ago, after the Ogoni people had reclaimed Ndoki water front they were forcefully evicted from the site by the then Rivers State government in questionable and controversial circumstances yet nothing was done to alleviate the impact of their condemnable eviction. In fact some of our people that were affected still suffer the implications of that unfair action of the state administration to this day.

Whilst we support the idea of ridding Rivers State especially the state capital, Port Harcourt of crime and criminals to enhance peace and public safety to foster socio-economic wellbeing of the state, we would advise an implementation approach that does not criminalise all residents of the shanty towns in order not to punish wrongly. Facts abound that crime and criminals are not limited to the water-fronts. The notorious Gambia axis of Port Harcourt has over the years remained a den of criminals yet successive governments of the state have not deemed it necessary to rid this criminals' haven of men of the underworld whose activities have inflicted pain and sorrow on the people.

It is our view that obstacles to effective provision of security through active policing are expressed in visibly absent intelligence gathering and surveillance on the part of the security agencies; and poor community participation. That information passed to the security outfits are not treated confidentially putting informants at risk has hindered public co-operation for fear of being extra-judicially executed, which is not unfounded. And until deliberate community participation mechanism, which provides adequate protection for informants is emplaced, public co-operation may remain poor while demolition of shanty towns may not provide the solution as a stand-alone-effort.

In view of the hardship that the residents would undoubtedly face and the need for a fair approach, we are moved to entreat the government of Rivers State to reconsider the eviction ultimatum including dialoguing with the leadership of the shanty towns especially regarding accord on what would be enough time to organise themselves and vacate or assisting identified residents without criminal records with alternative accommodation.

 

Signed:

 

Bari-araKpalap

Media/Public Affairs Advisor
MOSOP
19 July, 2016

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