A Non-Governmental Organization ‘ Lawyers Alert’ has raised alarm on the FCT Administration’s Joint Task Force actions over the last couple of weeks which seek to criminalize conduct related to the performance of life-sustaining activities targeted at the indigents within Abuja metropolis.
The organization expressed its displeasure in a press release issued in Abuja.
According to the group, “Just last week, about 480 homeless persons were arrested within the Abuja metropolis. While these actions by the Joint Task Force may be applauded due to the high level of insecurity in the country and within the Metropolis, the facts remain that most homeless persons living in public places and uncompleted structures within the metropolis are constrained to adopt these measures owing to an inability to afford befitting abodes and do not pose a threat to society. ”
Earlier this week, some petty traders and homeless persons’ houses and business premises were demolished by the Federal Capital Administration around the Durumi-Gaduwa and Jabi axis of the metropolis.
“The Director Legal, Lawyers Alert, Bamidele Jacobs, disparaged this increased use of force as an extrajudicial weapon of authority stating that “it is worrisome and amounts to the legitimized brutal treatment of the urban poor and minorities in the society. Nothing justifies brutally evicting the homeless from public spaces and destroying their belongings. Homeless people should be as protected as any other citizen against the invasion of their privacy and dwellings, regardless of the place of abode,” he complained.
“While the FCT Administration may seek to justify its actions via bylaws and policies, it is evident that bylaws inadvertently discriminate against some of the most vulnerable members of society, such as homeless people, sex workers, and petty traders. Given their socio-economic situation and reliance on the informal sector, these groups are at risk of sinking even further into the same or new types of illicit activity. Additionally, occasional bouts of violence have been recorded in the course of enforcing these bylaws.”
“Furthermore, the attendant arrest of these persons not only aggravates prison congestion but also stimulates a range of adverse consequences for detainees and their families”, he added.
Lawyers Alert also called on the FCT Administration to put an end to the cycle of criminalization of poverty in Abuja, while creating an alternate process for dealing with petty offenses, and striving to provide alternative accommodation for displaced or homeless persons.
The group is also pleading with other Civil Society Organizations to join the effort to draw attention to the plight of homeless persons, particularly within the FCT, so as to halt the cycle of criminalization and incarceration.