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Feb 28: Day FCDA bulldozers may roar in Lugbe

In a manner that suggests that the agency is running out of patience with the illegal settlers, Hamza Madaki, the FCT Deputy Director, Development and…

In a manner that suggests that the agency is running out of patience with the illegal settlers, Hamza Madaki, the FCT Deputy Director, Development and Control, last Friday dropped the bomb shell that sent shivers down the spines of several residents of the settlement. According to him, “the demolition exercise actually started in August 2009 with the removal of structures in Sauka, Todge, Gosa and many settlements along that side. Up to this zones in Lugbe, we started with Zone 8 which we removed sometimes in August 2009 and the exercise should have continued but my attention was drawn to the fact that these people were not adequately informed. That was why we shelved it. This exercise should have taken place in August last year but we just shelved it and gave them more time so that they may be able to relocate in a peaceful manner  without coming with machines to start the removal but at least to give people adequate time to relocate to other places.”

Apart from the announcement of the impending demolition exercise, Madaki and his demolition squad last week, held a town hall meeting with the residents of Lugbe where he briefed them about the proposed exercise and the need for the “illegal squatters” to relocate to other places in the FCT. In his words, “the essence of the meeting was to reach out to the people of Lugbe. You will recall that during the last removal exercise in Zone 8, I remember there were some pressmen whom I granted audience. During that time, we arranged a meeting with the residents of Zone 8 and that meeting was held.

This is just part of the human face side of the FCT administration. There are many instances in the past where the procedure is that you just serve notice in order to make people aware. But we think it is better to reach them, dialogue with them, interact with them and iron out the situation so that things can be done in an orderly and understanding way.”

But while debunking the director’s overtures, Prince Mustapha, chairman of Lugbe Development Community Association who claimed to have lived in the area for the past twelve years, accused the government of treating the residents like animals, adding that the government is to be blamed for violating the agreement the community reached with the previous administration of Aliyu Modibbo Umar on the suggestions that the community should be integrated in the city’s master plan.

The bone of contention, according to Mustapha is that “just on Monday, we heard from our children and our wives that they got a paper flying about the community around 1pm when all of us had gone to work. The content of the paper was that the officials of the Department of Development Control were coming to meet with us.

Contrary to the previous understanding we had with them, we are surprised because that was not the first paper we had received from their office and we discovered that there was a paper circulating in our community from their office asking every property owner in this community to go and pay N50,000 to a particular account.

The bank is BankPHB. We took it upon ourselves. We went to the office of the Development Control to find out whether that paper was actually from their office and all of a sudden, one of them said they were not aware of the paper. We went to the Commissioner of Police and up till this moment, I would tell you sincerely, nothing was done to unravel the operator of that account. And over a hundred people hastily went and paid that money. What happened? Then, when this present paper that gave birth to this meeting rolled into our community, most people gave us phone calls asking us whether we are aware of that paper. Then the next thing we saw was a meeting chaired by the Director of Development Control advising us to relocate.”

While speaking on the mutual understanding the community had with the FCT authorities, Mustapha explained that a proposal was sent to the FCDA on how to re design the Lugbe community into a satellite model village which would be funded by four banks under the supervision of a private developer. In his words, “they gave us forms to fill. These are some of the forms and they made us to believe that Modibbo told Hamza Madaki that those houses that were enumerated in 2006 and forms were given to prospective owners that those people’s houses would not be demolished. They said that they shall re-design them and they would be the same owners after the re-designing.”

Also speaking with Sunday Trust, a resident of the area who identified himself as Suleiman Ismail, accused the FCT authorities of deliberately trying to eliminate the poor from the city. “The government is very insensitive to the plight of the masses because, how else do you explain this kind of situation when you demolish people’s houses without making adequate arrangement for their resettlement?” he asked rhetorically.

Also bemoaning his fate, Emmanuel Odewale, a civil servant who works at the federal secretariat complex said the planned demolition is “a clear manifestation of the anti people policies of the government. What else do they want us to do? They demolished my houses in Karmo and Gossa, now they are threatening to demolish Lugbe, where then do they want the masses to live?”

When asked about plans to reintegrate the Lugbe community into the city’s master plan, Engineer Madaki told newsmen that the FCT administration does not have any plan to that effect. In his words, “, integration is not on the card of the FCT administration at the moment because actually, according to the Master Plan, there is nothing like integration. The Master Plan stipulates that those indigenes who stay here are the only one the law recognises as enshrined in the FCT Act of 1976. These are the only people the FCT met here. Therefore, it owes them a duty to resettle them whenever it is taking  over their land for any government programme. But the issue of relocation is something that came later because quite contrary to the expectations of the Master Plan, a lot of other people joined the indigenes and you have two set of people. The first set is the one law recognizes and makes provision for their re-resettlement. The second set were people who were not envisaged by the Master plan and are not part of the law to be re-settled as well as not entitled to enjoy those benefits.

But during the 2005 and 2006 removal exercise the government of that time evolved the programme of relocation and it chose some sites and allocated plots to victims of demolition but the exercise formally ended in February 2007. From that time no such programme has come again.”

While the time ticks closer to February 28, 2010, fear of the unknown grips the entire Lugbe community in anticipation of the doomsday.

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