Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Nigeria Shows Ugly Side Ahead of Beauty Pageant; 'So Far 1,000 Houses Have Been Destroyed'

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Nigeria Shows Ugly Side Ahead of Beauty Pageant; 'So Far 1,000 Houses Have Been Destroyed'

Article excerpt

Byline: HUGH DOUGHERTY

THE Miss World contest faced further controversy today as host nation Nigeria was accused of human rights abuses.

Police in two cities have been accused of demolishing shanty towns and rounding up homeless people as they try to "clean up" the country's image in the run-up to the contest.

The claims are the latest to overshadow Miss World, which is being boycotted by a series of finalists in a bid to save the life of Amina Lawal - an unmarried mother sentenced to death by a Nigerian court for committing adultery.

In Abuja, where the beauty pageant is to be staged next month, police have been accused of trying to "clean up" the city by destroying shanty towns where the poorest live, and beating up those who refuse to move.

Journalist Ben Mkpuma told how he had been assaulted by police as he reported on the clearances of slum areas in the centre of Abuja, the Nigerian capital.

He said: "A group of policemen beat me up. They were in the process of destroying these houses, which they call an illegal structure. Other people who live in them are being beaten up if they do not move. So far 1,000 houses have been destroyed or razed since Monday, when it started."

Mr Mkpuma, of the Nigerian Financial Standard, said police were expected to continue the "cleanup" exercise until the Miss World finalists arrived in the city three days before the contest on 7 December.

A spokeswoman for Human Rights Watch deplored the action, and added that it was in line with previous moves by the Nigerian government.

"There are many areas in Nigeria where the rule of law is not strong, and these kind of things have happened," he said.

The last major event held in the country was the final of the African Cup of Nations football tournament. During and after the game, at the Lagos stadium, police used violence against football fans.

Miss World competitors and their massive entourage are currently staying in the southern city of Calabar, where similar reports of human rights abuses have emerged. …

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