I am an evictee from Badia East,” was the opening testimony of Bimbo Oshobe to World Bank officials during the institution’s recent Spring Meetings in Washington, D.C.
“The first we heard of the World Bank was when the government agency came to burn our homes,” recounted Bimbo. “We are now homeless and people are sleeping on the streets. Women and girls are prone to rape. It was like stripping us naked. Our means of livelihood was taken away from us.”
Bimbo Oshobe is from Badia East, an informal settlement in Lagos, Nigeria. Her community was one of the nine areas that were supposed to benefit from a USD 200 million World Bank — financed project, the Lagos Metropolitan Development and Governance Project (LMDGP). According to Bank documents, the objective of the project was “to increase sustainable access to basic urban services through investments in critical infrastructure.” For Bimbo and over 10,000 others, the project instead left them homeless as the government carried out a series of violent forced evictions over 2012 and 2013, razing a huge part of Badia East.
World Bank policies require the engagement of communities in any project that might involve displacement. Communities must be resettled in a way that ensures the same or better living conditions and that people’s livelihoods are restored. In Badia East, these requirements were ignored. According to Justice and Empowerment Initiatives (JEI), a local organization in Nigeria, contrary to the promises detailed in project documents — with no prior notice and no consultation, compensation or resettlement, hundreds of houses were burned in March 2012 and razed by bulldozers in February 2013.
“There was no notice and there was no Resettlement Action Plan until a year after we were evicted,” says Bimbo. “We were never resettled. What little money they gave us wasn’t even compensation as it didn’t come till over a year after we were evicted and it wasn’t even enough to rebuild what we lost.”
Forced evictions and failed resettlement are not new to the World Bank. As reported in its own internal audit leaked March 2015 as well as investigations by independent journalists, in the past decade the World Bank has physically or economically displaced nearly 3.4 million people from their homes and livelihoods. The audit found serious failures noting that “[t]he sizeable gaps in information point to significant potential failures in the Bank’s system for dealing with resettlement.”
In hopes of rectifying the wrongs inflicted on Badia East, in September 2013 Bimbo Oshobe’s community filed a request with the World Bank’s independent complaint mechanism, the Inspection Panel, to investigate the case. However, rather than conduct a full investigation, the Panel applied an experimental approach designed to resolve complaints more quickly through negotiations rather than a full investigation. In July 2014, this “pilot process” for Badia East concluded with an assessment by the Panel that the communities’ grievances had been adequately dealt with. When Bimbo and other other community members appealed asking for a full investigation, their request was denied.
In meetings with World Bank leaders, Bimbo recounted her story.
In a dimly lit room in February 2014 — one year after their homes and livelihoods had been destroyed — Bimbo and the other evictees were required by Lagos State government officials to sign a document before receiving the small funds the government claimed was compensation. They were not permitted to read the document and were told to sign. Only later when someone was able to sneak out a copy of the document, did they realize they had signed away their rights to challenge the eviction or to ask for further compensation.
“I came to Washington, to the World Bank, and now I hear them saying that the pilot process was a success,” Bimbo explained to World Bank officials. “Pay a visit to Badia and see what is the outcome, see how people are living.”
In response to the resettlement failures detailed in the World Bank’s internal audit, the Bank responded with an Action Plan, criticized by many for being short on details. Now a year later tangible results have yet to be seen and felt, particularly by negatively affected communities like Bimbo’s. The Inspection Panel recently published its own evaluation of World Bank-financed projects involving displacement. The analysis Emerging Lessons on Involuntary Resettlement identifies major faults in World Bank management of its projects and confirms the troubles identified by the internal audit.
In Washington, Bimbo urged the World Bank to stop rewarding human rights violations by governments like that of Lagos State, explaining that following the evictions in Badia East, the World Bank approved another USD 200 million loan to the Lagos State Government, without taking any measures to ensure that future evictions do not take place. Bimbo and JEI are asking the Bank to work with the government of Lagos state to ensure that the evictees from Badia East are rehabilitated before any further funding is disbursed.
The next benchmark of the World Bank’s stated commitment to rectify its resettlement practices will be the release of a new resettlement policy as part of the Bank’s ongoing review of its environmental and social safeguards (ESF). Unfortunately — instead of strengthening the policy — the latest draft of the policy eliminates key procedural protections such as the requirement for disclosure and resettlement plans prior to Board approval and weakens provisions for oversight and supervision.
As part of the consultation on the policy, the people of Badia East produced a video, “Reality Check: Community Voices on the World Bank Safeguards Review” to share the painful lessons learned from Badia East. The communities call for the World Bank to have clear penalties to borrowing governments for serious breaches of safeguard policies. They also call for the World Bank to solicit and receive independent information from affected communities and civil society to check the veracity of the environmental and social impact assessments and resettlement action plans prepared by governments.
Although the World Bank’s Lagos Metropolitan Development and Governance Project was closed in September 2013 and was reviewed by the Bank as “moderately unsatisfactory”, three years on Bimbo and her neighbor continue to struggle for real justice.
The World Bank and the Government of Nigeria have a responsibility to the communities that suffered unimaginable losses of their homes and livelihoods, with serious impacts for their personal security, health, and children’s access to education, when such suffering was instigated for a project that never brought development.
As originally posted in International Accountability Project’s (IAP) Medium Account. Annabel Perreras serves as the Policy Coordinator for IAP.