In August, the Housing Land and Property (HLP) sub-sector received requests to respond to eviction cases involving IDPs living in rented accommodations within host communities, particularly in Borno State. This was attributed to the inability to pay rental charges and the influx of IDPs to host communities and settlements, incurring charges from landowners, as many official camps are already congested and stretched beyond capacity.
To raise awareness on HLP rights, the sub-sector organized trainings and activities in August including a two-day training for 25 IDP women groups from various camps across Borno State, in collaboration with the Borno State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development. The training aimed to increase women’s understanding of HLP rights and how to exercise these rights.
A three-day training for ACTED Camp Coordination and Camp Management/Shelter staff aimed to strengthen mainstream HLP rights, to ensure the sustainability of interventions with an emphasis on services provided in informal camps.
In Adamawa State, the sub-sector in collaboration with the state branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) organized a one-day HLP/Access to Justice workshop on resolving HLP disputes for IDPs and returnees and the role of the NBA and legal practitioners in general. Key recommendations include, the need to: intensify advocacy on IDPs and returnees’ rights to HLP restitution; raise awareness on the Kampala Convention; collaborate with the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) and other CSOs to step up awareness on HLP needs of IDPs and returnees; and for the NBA to engage with Ministry of Justice to develop priorities and guide justice sector reforms related to IDPs.
The sub-sector also held an interactive session with land officers in Adamawa State to address the lack of documentation/record of rights/titles for housing and lands which were not necessarily needed before the crisis, but have now become important evidence of property ownership, particularly for IDPs returning from displacement locations. Norwegian Refugee Council's Information Counselling and Legal Assistance (ICLA) unit provided HLP legal assistance services to 575 IDP returnees on the recovery or replacement of lost documentation in Damboa and Gwoza LGAs of Borno State.
The sub-sector is reviewing eviction guidance tools to effectively mitigate and manage eviction issues. The sub-sector participated in the HLP Evictions & Relocations Interest Group meeting on the 20 August, which explored measures to protect the rights of tenants/occupants and ensure they are clearly informed of their eviction, and are given a “reasonable notice” of departure to enable them to find alternative housing solutions. For ‘informal’ evictions and departures, negotiation for reasonable notice by landlords/landowners – with period of reasonable notice to be determined by the tenant and ideally be around 15 days to one month – was proposed.
In Madinatu camp, Jere LGA of Borno State, some 11 households were evicted from the land they had been occupying for over two years by the land owner on the premise of wanting to put the land to personal use. The HLP sub-sector was able to facilitate access to alternative land for the affected IDPs. Sub-sector partners provided the IDPs with NFIs and building kits for the construction of shelters.
The sub-sector continues to identify eviction cases through field visits and referrals from community leaders, sector partners and NNGOs/CBOs for HLP legal assistance due to inability of IDPs to pay rent. Most of the eviction cases are from Borno and Adamawa states, and are largely attributed to the lack of livelihoods to generate income for rent, and the economic hardship exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. With limited donors funding “cash-for-rent” interventions, the existing gaps remain huge, leaving many IDPs at risk of forced evictions.
The sub-sector will continue monitoring informal IDP sites to mitigate and prevent evictions, while also responding to cases of threats of eviction and actual eviction through engagements with traditional/community and government stakeholders.