Socio-economic Rights Initiative (SERI) has taken the case of forced evictions and illegal demolitions of properties at Ugwuomu and Ngenevu Zone in Ogbete and Coal Camp Areas of Enugu North Local Government Area (LGA) of Enugu State to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) for adjudication..
The residents in an allegation leveled against one Eric Chime and Enugu State Capital Development Authority in a petition dated July 14, addressed to the Executive Secretary of the NHRC and signed by their Counsel C. A. Umeh of SERI are seeking among other reliefs an order restoring them to their homes from which they were evicted by the respondents and N1bn as special and general damages.
They also want an order for the release of those who are still being detained in connection with the matter. The petition said one Elizabeth Eke and 19 others are the complainants in the petition while Eric Chime, Enugu State Capital Development Authority, Hon. Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Enugu State and the Commissioner of Police, Enugu State are the first, second, third and fourth respondents respectively.
According to the petitioners, “On 16th and 21st of January 2015, the 2nd Respondent backed by over 50 men and officers of the Enugu State Anti-Robbery Squad, agents of the 4th Respondent, without any prior notice or an order of court, mobilized several bulldozers and earth moving machines into the settlements occupied by the Petitioners and demolished their houses. “In the process property belonging to the petitioners were destroyed.
The petition said that the action was based on the claim that the victims built their houses on a 55.99 hectares of land belonging to Enugu Coal Corporation which the Ist Respondent bought from the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE), pursuant to the privatization policy of the Federal Government of Nigeria.”
The Petitioners further allege that during the demolition exercises, amidst wailings and cries of distress, they were flogged, beaten, maimed, injured and arrested and were not even allowed to rescue their academic certificates, title documents and other valuable personal effects “ Even reports made to the police were ignored”.
According to the complainant action of the respondents amounts to forced eviction which violates several sections of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999; several articles of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights as well as Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural rights in which Nigeria is a state party.
In pursuit of their right, the Petitioners had on July 3, staged a peaceful protest to the Zonal Office of the NHRC in Enugu followed up with another peaceful protest on Monday July 27 2015 at the premises of the Federal High Court, Enugu, venue of the Public Inquiry into Cases of Demolitions and Evictions in Nigeria, South South and South East zones organized by the National Human Rights Commission where their petition was among those listed for hearing.