Organization: Women Environmental Programme
Contact person: Priscilla M Achakpa
E-Mail: info@wepnigeria.net
Address: Block E Flat 2 Anambra Court, Gaduwa Housing Estate, Apo, P.O.Box 10176, Garki Abuja Nigeria
Comments: 2007 World Habitat Day

“A Safe City is a Just City”


Women Environmental Programme (WEP), Abuja – Nigeria

1.0 Background to Celebration
Every first Monday in the month of October the world marks World Habitat Day, a day set aside to reflect on the state of human settlements and the basic right to adequate shelter for all. It is also intended to remind the world of its collective responsibility for the future of the human habitat.
One of the most significant causes of fear and insecurity in many cities today is crime and violence. Clearly, crime is a growing and serious threat to urban safety all over the world. The threats to urban safety pose a huge challenge to both national and city governments. This is the reason behind the United Nation’s choice of the theme A Safe City is a Just City for the 2007 WHD. The UN chose this year’s theme to raise awareness and encourage reflection on the mounting threats to urban safety and social justice, particularly crime and violence, forced eviction and insecurity of tenure, as well as natural and human-made disasters. The theme was to highlight and induce positive reflection on issues of anti-social behaviour and general insecurity occasioned by man- made and natural disasters that accompanies rights to land and homes in the cities, which has assumed international significance.
In Abuja Nigeria, Women Environmental Programme (WEP) has been at the forefront of developmental and environmental issues in the FCT and its environs especially as it concerns women and children. The Organisation has in the past four years worked actively in promoting community sustainable development in urban and semi urban settlements in the FCT. The Organization has paid advocacy visits to the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) aimed at highlighting its activities in the area of sustainable development. WEP was also nominated to serve on the One Thousand Affordable Housing Scheme of the FCTA. WEP also implemented a project with the funding support of Misereor on Promoting Community Participation in Sustainable Settlement Development in FCT. It was instituted to collaborate with Community Based Groups and Faith Based Organizations resident in some target communities to design a programme of capacity building that would empower them politically and economically
, and enable the people have platforms under which advocacy campaigns can be launched and a development agenda fashioned out for the communities to implement in the spirit of Community Driven Development (CDD). Amongst other achievements, the project was able to offer succour to victims of the demolitions and evictions in Abuja, particularly women and children.

The FCT had in the recent past experienced series of mass evictions and demolitions of slum communities. Evictions began on a mass scale in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), of which Abuja is a part, with the appointment of FCT Federal Minister Mallam El-Rufai in 2003. Since then, evictions have taken place in nine communities, of a total 49 settlement areas earmarked for demolition. The communities affected by these demolitions include: Wuse, (2004), Mpape (2004), Dantata (November 2004), Old Karmo (November 2004), Jabi/Kado (April 2004), Chika (November 2005), Idu Karimo (2005-2006), Kubwa (June 2005-April 2006), and Dei-dei (April 2006).

Implementation of the Master Plan, which seeks the “beautification” of the Federal Capital City, was undertaken without adequate community consultations. The Development Control Department of the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) carried out demolitions in all districts of Abuja, including the exclusive neighbourhoods of Maitama and Asokoro, and in the central districts of Wuse and Garki. The six communities along the Airport Road Chika, Karimajiji, Kuchingoro, Alerta, Piwoyi, and Pyakassa, with predominantly low-income residents, have all being razed to the ground.

2.0 The 2007 WHD Celebration by WEP: Highlights
WEP commemorated the 2007 WHD on 5 October 2007 at the Center for Arts and Culture with a drama theatre in Abuja targeting the people living in slums in Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory (FCT), traditional leaders, policy makers and government representatives to create awareness on the theme. Communities represented included Jiwa, Idu-Karmo, Pegi, Kubwa, Karu and Jikwoyi. A total of over 600 community members, government representatives, representatives of development agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Nigeria, friends of WEP and journalists participated in the event.
Key to the commemoration was the inauguration of a network of community members called the Federation of Urban Poor (FEDUP). The rationale behind this was to provide a base for networking community members to strategize on how they can live, work and own the process of the development of their domains, a platform for government engagement with the communities and people in FCT. This network was made possible with the facilitation of WEP and it comprises of different categories of community development associations (CBAs), women groups, grassroots associations, youth, Mai Ruwa (water vendors), people whose houses were demolished, commercial motorcycle riders, scavengers popularly called “Yan Bola” etc.
In her speech the Executive Director of WEP Priscilla Achakpa stated that the celebration of WHD by WEP was aimed at drawing the attention of the policy makers and the government of Nigeria to know that “development is about people, and there cannot be development when the people are not at the centre of it” and therefore the need to have a strategic plan that will involve them in all ramifications of development that concerns them cannot be over-emphasized if headway is to be made especially in the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the year 2015. Highlighting the raison d’etre of the formation of the Federation of the Urban Poor, she added that the event is special to WEP in a double fold, first that WEP has marked its 10th Anniversary and secondly that after working so hard in the last four years in FCT, the organization could categorically state that it has achieved the goal which is the creation of a platform where communities can i
dentify issues of governance and development while collaborating with the government and all other stakeholders in development. She also commended the FCT communities in their support to WEP.
There was a video presentation of the message of the Executive Director of UN-HABITAT, Anna Tibaijuka. In her message she stated that the UN-HABITAT has set a 3-point agenda to tackle urban challenge and this challenge is anchored on developing capacity for local crime prevention strategies that are gender and age sensitive and which address root causes of crime in a holistic and inclusive way, building safer urban spaces as hubs of social development and safety, and the mainstreaming of urban safety in all aspects of housing and urban development. She said this agenda is compelling and urgent, and calls upon specific partners both within and outside the UN to embrace the urban challenge.

A drama theatre was presented by a drama troupe from the Karu community; highlighting the social problems of urbanization in an imaginary African capital city, the kernel of the drama is contained in a scene where the Minister of Urban Affairs calls for a Town Hall meeting to involving community leaders, women and youth groups to address the raising crime and discuss the way forward. Unless something urgent is done, says the minister, the city will become the laughing stock of foreign countries. After an almost rowdy session the traditional ruler intervenes and saves the day: compromises are made by both the minister and the community leaders for the development of the city and the future of the unborn children: the minister promises that the City Council and the communities will clean up the heaps of rubbish, provide affordable houses and design a relocation plan before demolitions are carried out in future. The community on its part promises to partner with the civil autho
rities in this drive.

2.1 Goodwill Messages
The Minister of Environment, Housing and Urban Development, Halima Tayo Alao, in her message stated that man’s survival on earth requires the following key basic needs: food, shelter and clothing and adaptation of man to his habitat is one of the fundamental principles of life. The situations where these basic needs are not met undermine the survival of man on earth. She added in the same vein Federal Ministry of Environment is mandated to work assiduously to ensure a favorable environment for sustainable living in the Country.

To address the problem of squatter’s settlement, inadequate housing and other environmental factors such as environmental pollution by oil spillage and gas flaring, poor environmental sanitation practices associated with indiscriminate waste disposal, poor drainage system, flood disaster, deforestation etc. having contributed immensely to high rate of outbreak of communicable diseases, infant and maternal mortality and morbidity and low enrolment of children at school. All these culminate in abject poverty and high rate of crime in urban centers.

The minister stated that World Habitat Day is significant in that it draws attention to the many ills that befall urban residents, particularly the poor. It has been established that the poor urban dwellers bear a greater brunt of crime and violence as well as other negative outfalls of urbanization. Similarly, women and children bear disproportionately greater consequences of the prize nations have to pay for urbanization.

The rate of urbanization far out-paces the provision of necessary infrastructures in many towns and cities such that slums develop rapidly. The slums are characterized by absence of adequate sanitary facilities, which in turn undermine public health. In a bid to address the slum problem, many people are forcibly evicted and in most cases without alternative accommodation and this compound the problem.

According to the minister, the theme underscores the need to make our towns and cities safe as a matter of human right. As a result, the Federal Government is putting up measures to address the problems of rapid urbanization. The Lagos Mega City Project is one of such measures in which physical planning, security, traffic and transportation, infrastructure and disaster management, environmental sanitation, slum upgrading and urban renewal, funding and institutional arrangement are adequately addressed to ensure that Lagos is transformed into a world class city in ten years.

Similarly, a National Housing Data Bank Committee was inaugurated by Ministry of Environment, Housing and Urban Development in April 2006 to work closely with all tiers of government to establish the actual national housing stock with information on quality, quantity, types and preferences.

She added that the Federal Government has initiated a Social Housing Pilot Project. Under this project, the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) in collaboration with the Project implementation Committee has evaluated the housing needs of those displaced as a result of restoration of the Abuja Master Plan with a view to assisting them to eventually own their homes.

She commended WEP initiative in using the opportunity of World Habitat Day to launch the Federation of Urban Poor (FEDUP), which will serve as an umbrella body that will employ the principle of collective bargaining to better their communities.

Mr. B.A Oladunmoye represented the Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development. He noted that the ministry is kin to collaborate with WEP looking at the kind of activities the organization has carried out and the ones they are currently implementing. He urged the organizers not relent in their effort in making sure the less privileged are not ignored.

His Royal Highness Emmanuel Yepwi, the Sa’karuyi of Karu, in his remarks on behalf of traditional and community leaders appreciated the work WEP is doing in their communities and the benefit derived from the organization by their community members. He cited the example in which he has benefited from WEP programmes in South Africa on a Slum Dwellers programme and Ghana this year on another Slum and Sustainable Development programme. He encouraged communities to cooperate and unite to achieve the aim of the network under which all the communities can work to achieve their common goal. On the part of traditional leaders, he said it is clear for them to support an organization that has a good vision for their community development.
3. 0 Launching of the Federation
In a colourful ceremony, the Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP) was inaugurated by a representative of the Steering Committee. Each group came forward with a banner highlighting their designation and the theme of the WHD. In her speech prior to the inauguration, Edith Tonye on behalf of the steering committee said chronic violation of rights through forceful eviction has resulted in under-development, insecurity and poverty. She called on the government to re-appraise its policy of relocation of existing communities and rather strive to re-integrate the residents of such communities. She stated that the launching would provide an umbrella under which all communities will come together to fight a common cause and applauded WEP.
4.0 Recommendations & Conclusion
The theme of 2007 WHD highlights the miseries which come with insecurity, violence and deprivation as a result of social inequalities, social exclusion and lack of institutional and social order. These are all familiar to people living in cities. WEP therefore calls on national, city and business leaders to listen to the voice and experience of urban dwellers, especially the millions living in abject poverty, and make a reality of the Millennium Goals. Without a radical global reappraisal of priorities, millions will continue to live in extreme poverty.
We recommend that the government in partnership with communities establish safer city programmes whereby steps will be taken to combat crime through broad community based participation and policing.
One of the most pressing challenges in the housing sector is the inadequacy and limitations of housing finance mechanism. The mortgage finance system in Nigeria is still relatively young and undeveloped and thus many people cannot rely on the conventional housing finance mechanisms to meet their needs. To this extent, it is for CSOs and development partners to initiate processes or assist poor urban community members in financial schemes that are targeted at empowering them to, among other needs, own affordable houses.