With FCTA renewed efforts to clear illegal settlements in Abuja, more than 65 structures have been pulled down in Utako, 134 in Apo and others.
The FCTA’s bulldozers head for Gishiri as hundreds of houses have been marked for possible demolition.
“I am the owner of the houses marked for demolition. I am an indigene of this place, a Bwari by tribe,” Madina Mohammed, who lives at Gishiri, a suburb in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja said.
“The lands are my inheritance through customary ownership. My father owns all the land.
“I am surprised that they marked my houses for demolition. That is the more reason I want to go to court.”
Recently, houses in a part of the community, referred to as Casablanca, and the primary schools area, were marked for demolition by the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA).
It was gathered that the houses were marked on September 25, 2020, after which members of the community were given 21 days to vacate or face demolition.
This action triggered panic and cry as many residents of the community are low income earners. Many of the residents who spoke to Daily Trust Saturday said the action of government came at a wrong time as many of them were struggling to feed and did not have money to rent new houses.
Trust Lawal, a resident of the community said, “I feel very sad. As you can see, people here are crying that there is no money. There is no food to eat, not to talk of money to rent another house.”
Lawal, who said she came from Jos in Plateau State two years ago to live at Gishiri, also lamented that government would not allow people erect temporary structures since they could not afford decent accommodation.
“Government should help and compensate us because many people are running up and down, no money to eat, no work; and many of us who are doing small businesses cannot continue because we lost our capital during the COVID-19 lockdown,” she said.
Another resident of the community, Aese Peter, who said he had been staying in Gishiri for the past 10 years, added that he is a house agent and that things had not been easy. According to him, with the planned demolition, things will get worse.
“I am worried about the planned demolition, especially as it is coming at a time when things are very hard. Even if the demolition would be carried out, government should give us more time. They should not push us out of our houses like chickens. It will cause more hardship because we have nowhere to go,” he said.
It was gathered that few people are running up and down to see if they could find an alternative while those who cannot afford an alternative are live with fear.
Daily Trust Saturday, however, observed that the area marked for demolition has better buildings and spacing, compared to some other parts that are not at the risk of demolition.
It was also observed that the road to the community, where you see many shops with different goods, is in a terrible state. This is after a few meters drive from some beautiful structures by the entrance with the only tarred sections of the roads.
After the commercial area, the roads leading into the residential areas are narrow, tiny and of depreciated quality.
Within the part visited by our reporter, there is serious competition for space as there is an endless struggle among motorists. Two vehicles cannot pass any of the road at the same time; one has to wait for another to go.
Daily Trust Saturday noted that many people preferred the community because of its proximity to the city centre.
Despite the shortfall in the community, house rent is quite expensive. A room self- contained goes from N150,000 to N200,000 annually, a one-bedroom flat costs between N350,000 and N380,000 while a two-bedroom flat goes from N500,000 to N600, 000 per annum.
At the time our reporter visited the community, the 21-day notice had expired by almost two weeks but the demolition had not taken place. This is likely due to the alarm raised by the woman whose houses were affected.
Hajiya Madina, a former adviser to the FCT minister on ethics and values, said her check revealed that Gishiri village was not included in the places they are supposed to demolish; hence she has taken the matter to court.
She maintained that the houses were marked for demolition without any reason by the authorities. “Before then, the Department of Development Control came and said they would come for us to sit for a meeting. I never saw them, only for them to come and mark my houses in my absence.
In the last few months, the FCTA has renewed efforts to clear illegal settlements in Abuja.
According to the authorities, among other reasons, the ongoing demolitions are to correct all infractions and abuses of the Abuja master plan.
Since the COVID-19 lockdown was eased, the FCT government has demolished structures in Utako, Apo and Kyami districts. Business owners were removed from road corridors in Apo, Gwarimpa and Katampe.
More than 65 structures were said to have been pulled down in Utako and 134 houses demolished at the Apo NEPA area, with scores of people and business owners displaced.
In September, the FCTA also commenced the demolition of 2,400 shanties in rural grazing settlements at the Kukwuaba-Wuye district, along the corridor leading to the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport.
It was reported that over 1,000 shacks were removed during the exercise by the Department of Development Control of the FCTA, which was carried out under a heavy security presence.
The authorities explained that the shanties were becoming a serious environmental hazard within the railway corridor and it must not be allowed to continue.
In the past, most business owners always went back to erect temporary structures after every demolition exercise, largely due to the fact that they had grown their customer base within the area.
The authorities said this would not happen again as the exercise would be sustained, with a weekly monitoring to ensure that occupants of the affected shanties do not reassemble.
When contacted for his reaction, the director, Department of Development Control of the FCTA, Malam Muktar Galadima said, “We have been directed not to speak on the issue until the demolition process is over. I cannot speak on the issue until maybe next month or after.’’
The other side of the community, which was also marked for demolition, is known as Las Vegas, behind the primary school.
It was gathered that the place was the first to be marked on June 19, 2020, under heavy security presence, consisting of men of the Federal Road Safety, Civil Defence and others.
Some residents told Daily Trust Saturday that there had been rumours that it was marked because the place is not supposed to be a residential place, but a road.
Speaking on the planned demolition, Victor Orji, who is also a landlord for about four years in the area, said demolishing the houses would be an act of terrorism as there is nothing different between what they have planned to do from what the terrorists are doing.
“When you demolish people’s houses and you do not make an alternative for them, then you are a terrorist, whether you are the government or otherwise,” he said.
Orji, who said the planned demolition came as a surprise to them, further said, “We are not asking them not to demolish, but let them relocate and compensate us adequately.
The one we will not tolerate is coming to pull these structures down without doing the right thing.
I do not know the arrangement they have with the indigenes. We did not just come here, they brought us here under certain consideration. We pulled money from our pockets, so for anyone coming to say they are coming to demolish, they should do the right thing.”
For Anita Nwafili, another resident in Las Vegas, the government is not supposed to do that, considering the current situation in the country.
“They are not supposed to be going about thinking of how to demolish people’s residences when they are not doing anything to improve the lives of those people, especially here, which is recognised as a rural area despite being in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Life has not been easy with the citizens,” she said.
She said the people, especially those in Casablanca, were already traumatised over the planned demolition.
Some have looked for uncompleted buildings to put their things, thinking government would make good its threat on the said date.
“You cannot mark someone’s house and say you are giving him or her 21 days to move out. Move to where?
“I feel the government should give people more time and create job opportunities. If you had money and somebody asked you to move from here, you would gladly do that and look for a better place to go, but there is no money,’’ she said.
They should reconsider their plan. Demolition is not the option. They should create infrastructure. In many places there are many Federal Government estates lying fallow; they should ask people to move in there so they can demolish here for whatever they want to do with it,” she said.
Another resident, Emmanuel Ogbonna, said everyone knew it’s not easy in the country now, so embarking on demolition without properly putting things in place to make life easy for the people is not the right thing to do.