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Illegal owners gradually taking over Zuma estate

This is the situation with the residents of the Zuma Estate, a housing estate situated just after the famous rock it was named after, believed…

This is the situation with the residents of the Zuma Estate, a housing estate situated just after the famous rock it was named after, believed to be owned by the Niger State government.

A visit by Weekly Trust to the estate revealed that a lot of residents there are occupying the apartments for free, being former Abuja residents who were hit by extreme housing challenges in the federal capital territory which was occasioned by the demolition era and high cost of accommodation.

Some of the residents have been living in the area for as long as five years. Many of the residents had consents of agreements of usage of the properties from property-owning families. Others received their approval to stay temporarily from some state government officials while other sets of residents are security personnel .i.e mobile policemen and other regular policemen who work or have their units in the FCT or some in Madallah and Suleja, both in Niger State.

Most of the residents of the estate told Weekly Trust that they are actually making alternative arrangements. “We are making conscious efforts to vacate because we have been told that the government wants to continue work on the site and also that the owners want to claim their properties in order to put them into proper utilization,” said Adamu John, a resident.

John added: “I remember two weeks ago, I saw a gentleman strolling around the estate, obviously in search of an address and as a security personnel, I approached him to demand what his mission was. He then told me that he is actually the owner of some flats in the estate and as such, decided to come around and inspect the properties and ascertain the condition of infrastructure in the estate. He then showed me some documents to that effect.”

Appalled at the great number of  homeless people in Abuja, who have resorted to the Zuma Estate, another middle-aged man who claimed to have property in the estate said it is not their priority to start sending these disadvantaged people packing for now.

Zuma Estate is located in a serene and beautiful environment, just close to one of Nigeria’s untapped tourism destinations, famous Zuma Rock but is yet to be constructed up to 100 percent. The road networks within the estate are not yet finished, the electricity is still not connected, there is no fenced wall but the `free residents’ still enjoy water supply from a central water reservoir in the estate.

Another resident of the estate, Dauda (not real name), who also acts as a security personnel within the vicinity, said they learnt that the government will visit the place soon but they don’t know what the next line of action would be. “Someone told us that the governor will be coming next week. So we’ll wait until he comes. We don’t know what his decision will be. We hear that some of the houses have been sold but some of them still belong to the government.” The government in question is that of Niger State, which when reacting through the state Commissioner for Lands and Housing, Alhaji Hassan Abdullahi, said they have concluded plans to deploy a new contractor to the place on an assessment visit.

Abdullahi said the visit is expected to herald the commencement of work in the estate which he said is largely work-in-progress as a result of the termination of contract of the initial developers. He said that following the disengagement of the first construction company from the place, work on the site has since been placed on hold, pending an appraisal of the work done. “After the visit, the contractors are expected to draft an MoU which will be subject to our approval before work commences in the place in the shortest possible period of time”, he said. Hassan expressed displeasure at the development, saying that the state government had earlier alerted the police, saying that they have been given the mandate to evict the occupants.

As for the illegal occupants, most of who escaped from the harsh economic reality of Abuja to dwell amidst porous security and the darkness of the uncompleted estate, what becomes of their accommodation status in the weeks ahead? Some of them pleaded that the government should allow them some grace or even assist them to continue staying there while the work is on-going as they have been duly maintaining the buildings to the best of their abilities.

Shelter or housing is one of the most basic of human needs. In most developed countries of the world, the governments spend a very large proportion of their budget on provision of housing to their people, either directly or through public-private financing. In many Third World countries, the responsibility for housing is supposed to lie with the various governments, due to the very nature of the mode of governance and the socio-economic considerations of such societies. The story is however different in Nigeria. The country has not been able to take care of the housing needs of its teeming population.

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