The Department of Development Control of the Abuja Metropolitan Management Council (AMMC) has begun clearing structures built on waterways in contravention of approved building plans in Lokogoma District of the Federal Capital City.
The Director, Development Control, Alhaji Mukhtar Galadima, who spoke with our reporter after the flattening of the structures, most of the houses, fences, kioks and shanties, said the exercise was carried out to avert flooding disasters which have been recurring in the district with devastating impact.
Flooding in the Lokogoma area has killed more than four people including Tuesday Bala who died in last year’s incident at EFAB Estate, Lokogoma.
An unnamed man and his two children were also victims of the flooding which inundated homes and washed away property. Since the flood, which has heightened in the past two years, the Development Control Department has marked more than 50 houses and several other buildings for demolition.
Houses including a church were demolished in EFAB Estate, Bethel Jubilation Estate and other estates in 2019. The government in a proactive measure ahead of the 2020 rainy season has continued the demolition exercise on Thursday.
Galadima said the exercise was informed by the need to clear all structures on waterways and widen the channels to pave way for free flow of water.
Galadima stated that if the illegal structures are not well cleared, flooding will persist in the area, claiming lives and destroying property.
He called on the residents to cooperate with officials of the development control to carry out the exercise successfully.
The director said there are ongoing plans by the engineering department of FCDA to provide infrastructure in the areas thus cleared. He explained that the waterway areas will be restructured for profitable activities.
The department also cleared some shanties and unapproved structures at Piwoyi, Tundun Wada near Peace Village in Lugbe, on Saturday.
He said structures built against the master plan will not be allowed to stand.
According to him, such structures if allowed would be hideout for criminals as well as affect the original master plan.
He said: “The demolition is an ongoing exercise. This recent one in Piwoyi and Lugbe is the continuation of demolition of illegal structures, and we are advising people to desist from unapproved construction.
“Development without approval is criminal activities, when you build and people don’t occupy, you build a hideout for criminals, that is why we have to enforce our standards, rules and regulations,” he said.
But residents of the estates are apprehensive about the exercise. They expressed concerns that the demolition alone cannot stop the flooding in the area.
The chairman of Saraha Main Estate Residents Association, Augustine Davos, said six structures were pulled down by the building regulations department. He also said nine houses were marked for demolition in Saraha Estate while 63 houses were marked in Peace Court Estate in Lokogoma.
Davos said the government ought to have compensated the residents before demolishing the structures, adding that widows, widowers and children were rendered homeless by the demolition exercise.
“We think that it is unfair; government is claiming that they want to create 40 metres buffer, on a space of land that people had built and had been living for the past 10 years. This looks inhumane so we are pleading with them to take five metres,” he said.
He said over 121 houses were to be pulled down. “We think that will kill people the more. The government insisted that the houses were without approvals. But it was the government that gave the whole Abuja population the belief that they were partnering with developers to construct houses under the Mass Housing Scheme. Now, the same government is saying that individuals went to buy houses wrongly because they don’t want to pay compensation.”
He said people have been staying in the houses for more than 10 years while some have been sold several times and there was never a notice of illegal construction until last year.
He appealed to the government to “bring in human face. Instead of demolishing 40 metres, they should take five metres on both sides so the people will be able to salvage something. This is a tough period. If they won’t compensate, they should reduce the impact of the action.”
The chairman of the Lokogoma Estate Owners and Residents Association, Dr. Joseph Nnorom, also faulted the government on the demolition exercise, adding that the association has been working with development control officials for over three years.
“It looks like government will always be government, you cannot hold them to their promise. They have marked several houses for demolition in some estates and nobody is saying anything on the issue of compensation,” he said.
He said the government ought to have involved the developers that sold the portion of land to the off takers and not making the residents to be the sole victim.
“The government said the developers have absconded. Those are the issues. Now, the developer is a ghost and spirit and nobody can apprehend them. It is the off takers who will lose property without compensation. All these are very sad,” he said.
Nnorom said that most of the houses on the waterways were already demolished. “Most of the houses on the waterways have been cleared and it did not solve the problem. The volume of water keeps increasing.”