Demolitions are not new in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) but the spate at which it occurs now worries residents. The reoccurring demolition exercises have thrown residents in disarray as they contend with the modalities and manner of the exercise. While the government is not backing down on its decision to sanitise the city, residents are worried over the socioeconomic implications of the exercises that have affected most low-income earners and small business owners. Daily Trust Saturday reports.
There is public outcry over the demolition of what the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) calls illegal structures and attachments within parks, markets and road corridors in the nation’s capital.
The FCTA had tagged the exercise City Sanitation and set up a taskforce comprising of the Abuja Metropolitan Management Council (AMMC), the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB), the Directorate of Road Traffic Services (DRTS), the police and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC). The taskforce is being coordinated by Ikharo Attah, the senior special assistant on monitoring, inspection and enforcement to the FCT minister.
The taskforce had carried out massive demolitions in Jabi Park, Utako, Gwarinpa, Dutsen, Kwali and Kuje, among many other areas, and had listed Abaji, Nyanya, Bwari, Kubwa as some other areas to be touched.
Daily Trust Saturday observed that in most of the places affected by the exercise, operators of small and medium enterprises were mostly displaced as their shops were pulled down.
The FCTA has continued to base its action on the need to sanitise the city and restore its master plan, as well as curb the growing insecurity in the territory, but many of the victims said they were not provided with alternatives.
In Jabi Park alone, many shops were pulled down while scavengers leveraged on the victims’ goods.
Victims cry out
The affected shop owners have decried the way, magnitude and manner at which the exercise is being carried out, saying that many of their goods were lost.
One of the victims at Jabi Park, Joy Johnson, described the exercise as frustrating.
“I don’t feel good; other traders too are not happy. It is frustrating. We are very angry because we don’t know what the country is turning into. Does it mean the government wants us to be roaming in the streets?,’’ she asked.
A motor spare parts dealer popularly called Ejo, who claimed to have been operating at the park for the past 30 years, said his shop was affected and he had been left with no alternative.
“For God’s sake, I am a family man, where do they expect me to go and start from at my age? It is unfair.
“They failed to provide us with alternatives. How can they do this to the people they claim they are governing?’’ he asked.
The same scenario played out at Dutsen-Makaranta in Bwari Area Council when the demolition team visited the area. Structures, mainly small business shops, which the authorities claimed were built on water ways, were pulled down.
Affected residents also claimed they were not provided with alternatives, adding that they have been thrown into the streets.
“We have been in that area for long and nothing has been happening, so why are they disturbing us now?’’ one of the affected residents asked.
In Kwali and Kuje area councils, many shops close to the road were also destroyed and small businesses mostly affected. Many operators claimed those were their only means of livelihoods.
Ishiaq Abiodun, who has five children and a wife in Kwali, said he survived on the kiosk pulled down by the taskforce.
“Where do I go from here? It is disheartening. We are managing ourselves here without minding what is going in the government, but they are interest in destroying our lives,’’ he said.
FCTA must trade with caution – Residents
Residents have appealed to the FCT authorities to trade with caution in the ongoing demolition exercise.
A cross section of residents who spoke with Daily Trust Saturday pleaded with the taskforce to provide alternatives to small business owners whose shops are mostly affected in the exercise.
Mr Jamiu Iyanda, a civil servant, said FCT authorities needed to come to the reality that both the lower and middle class individuals now live in the country’s capital; hence their sources of living should be protected.
“This is the fact they need to realise. The FCT is no longer for the upper class alone as they planned it. Other residents’ legitimate interests must be protected also,’’ he said.
A public affairs analyst, Toyin Ajayi, said the FCTA must not overlook the contributions of small business operators to the development of the territory.
‘’Many people, including the so-called big people, patronise these businesses because their services are relatively cheap when compared to what is obtainable in some big shops. So, even if those in government don’t need them, the ordinary civil servants and private operators patronise them,’’ he said.
Ajayi said that even in advanced countries like the United Kingdom and the USA, there were provisions for small business operators.
“If the way they are presently operating in the FCT is not acceptable to the government, then they should provide the alternatives they think is the best for them instead of throwing the residents into the streets,’’ he suggested.
Ajayi, who is also a security analyst, further warned that it is risky to throw youths into the streets considering the security situation of the country.
He advised the authorities to provide a place for special market for those affected by the exercise.
Victims properly informed – Taskforce
The Taskforce on City Sanitation has insisted that there will be no going back on the ongoing efforts to clean up the country’s capital of illegal structures, saying the affected victims were informed on time before the exercise.
Ikharo Attah said the exercise was under the minister’s directive and with the guidance of the FCT police commissioner, Sunday Babaji, and other security heads in the territory.
He added that the minister had not been comfortable with such illegal structures as extreme contraventions in multiple places make the city unclean and unsafe.
He explained that the essence of the cleanup was to remove all illegal structures and restore the original master plan of the territory.
He also explained that most of the buildings failed integrity test while others could not be allowed to stand because of contravention.
“The FCT minister, Malam Muhammad Bello, has given the demolition team the mandate to bring about sanity by removing all illegal structures to restore the master plan of the city,’’ Attah further said.