Rivers State government is yet to decide on the demolition of the waterfronts in-spite of the call by the Diobu vigilante that Obidanso, Nwachukwu, Anozie, Echue, Egede, Abba, Elechi, Timber, Akukwa and Irona waterfronts should be demolished as they harbour criminals operating in the Diobu axis of Port Harcourt.
This is coming just as the Amnesty International (AI), Nigeria has urged residents of the waterfronts not to panic as the demolition without an alternative accommodation is a violation of their human rights.
The commissioner for Urban Development and Physical planning, Dr. Reason Onya told TNN in an interview that the government had not taken the decision to demolish the waterfronts, pointing out that the demolition of any part of Port Harcourt has stringent bureaucratic processes.
He disclosed that although they had heard reports of the area harbouring criminals that government would not act on hearsay, adding that it was usually investigated by the intelligence unit of the ministry.
“On the calls about demolition of Diobu waterfronts, I have received calls on that but no official complaints yet. Most cases, I act on official complain”.
“Then, in few cases, I act on verbal complain after investigation. Port Harcourt is divided into 15 zones. If it happens in Diobu, the director in-charge of the zone will go and investigate and get back the report.
“The report will be studied and there will be a general assessment by a team of all the directors. A combined team of directors will go back to the same site and come up with their independent reports. Based on the technocrat report or seasoned town planners report, I act”.
“As in terms of the waterfronts in Diobu, we haven't seen any official report and I'm yet to send the officials there. We are believing God that the officials may be sent there in early November because we don't just send, until we get our intelligence report.
“The intelligence team is in the field and I'm believing strongly that by the end of the month, they would have come up with their findings and when they do that, then the person in-charge of that team will be sent there”.
“Based on the security report that is available to me, I will send him with the template of that. If his report collaborates with that of the intelligence unit, which in most cases they do, I will now call a meeting of all the directors and ask them to go to the same site again and come up with their independent reports”.
“The juxtaposition of the reports of all the directors, the director in-charge of the zone, the compliant team of that zone and the intelligence report, will be studied and after a comparative analysis of the three reports, then, I will still call a meeting of all the technical directors including the Permanent Secretary. We will deliberate on it.
“After that, I will call a meeting of all the directors to inform them this is what the ministry intends to do because of X,Y,Z. Then, such report will now be sent to His Excellency about the intention of what we want to do. If it is what they say we should do, we will go ahead and comply”.
In a separate interview, the Country Director of Amnesty International, Nigeria, Mrs. Osai Ojigho had said human right was very vital and that one cannot, on the basis of the activities of a few criminals, punish the entire residents without respecting their fundamental human rights to accommodation.
“When we talk about security and we also talk about the human rights of the residents, who are threat of eviction, we need to look at it holistically. You cannot say in the name of security, you violate someone's right. Even though ultimately, the purpose of security is to secure life and property. What we need to be addressing is whose right are being violated? Where is this criminality occurring?
“The state has the duty to protect every citizen and every property in the land and in carrying out that security duty, they cannot violate the rights of those people in the community and if the need arises that you need to move the people as a result of development or as a result of tackling issue of insecurity, then the law also provides that you need to make adequate alternative measure. You cannot leave the people under the sun and the rain”.
“Sometimes in the work that we do, people stigmatize certain area in order to push certain agenda. What we should be asking ourselves is have they done an assessment of the area? What risk does it pose? And if an eviction is necessary, they have to do it within the confines of the law. We need to seek alternative accommodation for those people”.
“There need to be adequate compensation. And if it turns out that there are indeed security elements there, the police need to derive help from their special forces in order to investigate and fish out those people who are terrorizing the community in order that overall everyone can benefit from their full people’s and political rights, economic, social and cultural rights”.