Slum demolition plan ups tension in Nigeria oil hub
Armed robbery, gang violence and kidnappings are frequent in and around Port Harcourt -- home to offices for oil firms including Royal Dutch Shell and Chevron -- and the state government says the shanty towns harbour criminals.
"A Shell worker was abducted just a few days ago. A few hours ago there was shooting in the Waterfront," Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi told reporters. "If we have to end shooting in Port Harcourt, the Waterfront must go."
Bundu, one of the main communities in the Waterfront area, is also one of the largest voting wards in the state and Amaechi's plans risk inflaming tensions before elections.
"We are not opposed to the development, as the governor wants the world to believe. What we want is that the people of Bundu be carried along in the process," Williams Addah, head of the Bundu community development committee, told Reuters.
Amaechi's government has said it wants to provide decent accommodation and basic facilities and has promised to pay commercial rates for any building that has valid documentation.
Some residents hold temporary occupancy licences, but many are tenants with no such paperwork.
Few believe the pledges to provide better housing. Thousands were forcibly evicted from Njemanze, another Waterfront community, last year and part of the land has been set aside for the construction of a multi-screen cinema, not housing.
Amnesty quoted one 15-year-old boy as saying he had been forced to live under a flyover since the demolition and had been regularly harassed and beaten by the police and older boys. Continued...