*Decry death of loved ones who died after demolition
*We are homeless, dying of hunger
From Paul Obiajunwo, Port Harcourt
Victims of Rivers state demolition policy yesterday took to the street to protest what they described as “continue delay by the Rivers State government to address their plight” after demolishing their shanties ten months ago.
The protest which attracted victims’ family members including children took place at Uruala Street, near Uruala waterfront Mile 1, Diobu, in Port Harcourt City Local government area of Rivers State.
The protesters were led by some non-governmental organization, such as the Centre on Housing Right and Eviction (COHRE), Centre for Environment Human Right and Development (CEHRD) and Social Development Integrated Centre.
Some of the effected landlords that join the protest include Main Eagle –Island water front, Andoni village waterfront, Calvary Temple waterfront, Redeemed Village waterfront, and the rest of them.
Speaking during the protest, the leaders of the affected waterfront villages said many of them are still homeless and devastated over the shock of what happened to them ten months ago.
They said what they want is for the Rivers State government to openly address them and work out adequate compensations to cover their losses and trauma they were subjected to.
Mr. Michael Ogotogute, the leader of Eagle Island victims of demolition said they lost their wives, husband, children and relatives staying with them during the demolition because some of them could not cope with what they saw.
He said the government destroyed their houses and properties without informing them to pick their belongings, adding that many of the victims were forced out of the waterfront and were left with only the cloth they are putting on before the demolition.
Ogotogute said: “ We are suffering, government has refused to listen to the plea and cry of this poor people. They most stop further forced eviction because it amount to flagrant shelter. They should work out adequate compensation for the families that lost their loved ones.
“We are calling on the state government to rebuild the demolished communities and assist the people to go back to their communities or alternatively relocate us to alternative places that would be acceptable to us. We cannot continue to sleep outside, we are tired.
A 16-years-old victim, Grace Mercy West told The post that she was almost raped when the government demolished their house because she was sleeping outside.
She said her father and cousin sister who was pregnant dead few days after the demolition, stressing that since the incident occurred her family has not recovered from the shock.
She called on government to consider the plights of children and women who are seriously affected by the demolition policy.
The Community Officer, Social Development Integrated Centre (Social Action) Mr.
Jim Tom-George said, the political leaders should realize that forced evictions are not only illegal and unjust but invariably counterproductive to genuine human development.
He said those engineering the government to evict residents of the waterfronts in the state are clearly the enemies of the masses and humanity, adding that waterfronts communities do not need demolition but justice, development, better lives.
Tom-George said: “it is our task to keep reminding government to undertake genuine consultations with all affected house owners and tenants. We want adequate alternative housing to all those who are forcibly evicted from waterfront communities.
“The eviction of waterfronts settlers in Rivers State was a wrong approach to tackle the problem of insecurity. The victims are still homeless and left to fend for themselves even in the present of economic hardship.”