Squatting is a pretty simple concept. It’s setting up camp on a parcel of land or moving into an abandoned or unused dwelling. (However, moving into a house that has a family still living there is considered home invasion, not squatting.)
There are a number of different situations that can give rise to squatting. The poverty-stricken commonly build shantytowns on property that doesn’t belong to them. The homeless may take refuge in an abandoned home for a few nights — or years. Some people use squatting to make a political statement about the economic gap between the rich and poor. To others, squatting simply represents a way to buck authority. Even a houseguest who won’t leave and a tenant who continues to stay past the expiration date of a lease both qualify as squatters.
Squatters who take over land or dwellings have the law to contend with. Since the establishment of property rights in the U.S. (which were founded around the time the nation formed), disputes over squatting have favored the landowner. But there are plenty of legal loopholes that squatters can take advantage of to help him or her take ownership of a property.
The life of a squatter is fraught with pitfalls and confrontations at each turn — and so is the life of the landlord who has to deal with the unwanted resident. There are concurrent laws that give rights to squatters as well as provide a process for landowners to get rid of them.
In general, squatters fall in two broad categories: there are those who, desperate for somewhere to live, take the chance of occupying any empty land seen. The other category comprises persons who are professional squatters. These are the persons who go from community to community, parish to parish, occupying mainly government land, usually prime land, with the hope and expectation that Government will regularise their occupation of these lands by providing utilities like water and electricity and infrastructure, including roads.
Many squatter communities are breeding grounds for criminals. These communities usually need criminals to protect them from members of adjoining communities who might oppose their presence. They also need criminals to protect them from political opponents and, in some instances, from the owners of lands on which they are trespassing.
A squatter community is usually a safe haven for criminals. The irregular development comprising initially blue tarpaulins, zinc fences, winding tracks, lack of street lights, lack of roads, lack of street names and the absence of addresses and, indeed, no proper names for occupants all create a mixture of impossibilities and nightmare for police personnel who are required to enforce law and order in these communities.
The police cannot patrol these communities with motor vehicles or even with motorbikes. They are, therefore, required to enter on foot and to do that at nights, bearing in mind that there are no street lights, is like sending police officers on a suicide mission.
Squatter communities are potential breeding grounds for dons, extortionists, prostitutions rings and drug peddlers. Guns are often stored in these communities and it is from here that dons dispatch members of their criminal gangs to neighbouring communities where they carry out extortion activities, demand protection money, commit robberies, shootings, rape and murders. It is all but impossible to trace and monitor members of these criminal gangs in the squatter communities.
We should appreciate that not only are there no well-laid-out streets with address numbers in these squatter communities, but most of the residents are more often than not known by aliases instead of their proper names. There is also a culture of silence, either out of fear or because some of the members of these communities are beneficiaries of the proceeds of crime.
It must also be recorded that politicians on both sides of the fence encourage squatting as a means of bolstering their electoral support and, in some instances, rely on squatters to establish a garrison-like constituency in which they are confident the squatters will always vote them across the threshold into electoral victory.
Thus the concept of upgrading squatters in Nigerian cities can be likened below as to the cost and benefits;
1. Squatters are allowed to apply for housing benefit. There is no guarantee that you will get any housing benefit, or that it will cover your payments
2. Landlords usually won’t carry out any repairs for a squatter. However, if you have been given a ‘use and occupation’ book by the Housing Executive or a housing association you may be able to get some repairs carried out.
3. Squatters can be evicted more easily than most other people and in most cases the landlord doesn’t have to get a court order first. If a court order is needed, the property owner can apply without giving you any notice. In most cases the court will automatically give the owner the right to get back into the property.
4. Squatters don’t pay tax or any utility bills associated with government revenue or monetary policies.
5. Squatters have the advantages of low price cost in Nigeria as If you were squatting in Housing Executive or housing association property you may be given a ‘use and occupation’ book if the court orders you to leave. This means that you are allowed to live in the accommodation but you don’t have the same rights as secure Housing Executive or housing association tenants.
The cost and benefits associated with squatter uprading in nigeria cities can be traced to inadequate housing policy by the nigeraia government. Here lies various scattered squatters around the various cities in Nigeria wanting government attentions and upgrading. This can only be done if there is the political will of the government and the grand reduction in cement prices in the country can this squatters be upgraded in Nigerian cities.
• Roberts, Chris (2006), Heavy Words Lightly Thrown: The Reason Behind Rhyme, Thorndike Press, ISBN 0-7862-8517-6
• Neuwirth, R. (2004), Shadow Cities: A Billion Squatters, A New Urban World, Routledge, ISBN 0-415-93319-6
• Reeve, Kesia, “Squatting Since 1945: The enduring relevance of material need”, in Somerville, Peter; Sprigings, Nigel, Housing and Social Policy, London: Routledge, pp. 197–216, ISBN 0-415-28366-3
• Peñalver, Eduardo M. (March 25, 2009). “Homesteaders in the Hood”. Slate Magazine. http://www.slate.com/id/2214544/.
• Pruijt, H. ‘Squatting in Europe’ – English version of Pruijt, H., 2004, Okupar en Europa, in Miguel Martínez Lopez & Ramón Adell (eds) (2004) ¿Dónde están las llaves? El movimiento okupa: prácticas y contextos sociales, Madrid, La Catarata, 35-60