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Residents protest as Plateau govt demolished houses in Jos

The residents of a section of British American Junction, behind the Area Command of Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NCDC), located in Jos North…

The residents of a section of British American Junction, behind the Area Command of Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NCDC), located in Jos North Local Government Area of Plateau State, watched with grief as bulldozers reduced their buildings to rubble. Millions of naira worth of properties were razed down during the demolition exercise.

According to the residents of the area, the government demolition team, accompanied by security operatives, had arrived at the community on Friday, and started demolishing their houses without any justifiable reason or prior notice to that effect. 

The residents said they stood in silence, watching as bulldozers destroyed their homes, which had taken years to build. The sound of crunching concrete was everywhere as the very foundations of their lives were reduced to rubble. They said they had invested their hard-earned money, sweat, and tears into these structures, and now it was all being torn down in a matter of minutes, leaving behind only memories and a deep sense of loss in their minds.

The affected residents accused the state government of deliberately attempting to force them out of the area, explaining that the plots of land on which they were building were duly purchased from a former chairman of Langtang North Local Government Area, Mr Alfred Gono, and that they were provided with all the necessary documentation after acquiring the land. The residents also accused the government officials of being selective in the exercise, adding that only houses belonging to the Hausa parentage in the area were demolished.

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But the General Manager of Jos Metropolitan Development Board (JMDB), Architect Hart Bankat, denied the allegations, adding that they were unfounded.

The affected residents in an interview with journalists in Jos, on Sunday noted that both the JMDB and the Ministry of Land and Survey had acknowledged the purchase of the plots, in 2021, pointing out that it was the same ministry that issued the site plan before they began building in the area.

Shamsudeen Ismail, one of the victims, said: “JMDB arrived in the area without giving us any notice. They didn’t enquire how and when we bought the plots of land. They just started demolishing our houses. If they’re claiming we’re building on the waterways, go and see for yourself. What about the other houses that were built far from the waterways? Why were they also demolished? That is why we are attaching meaning to what they are doing.”

Another resident, Khamis Sa’idu, whose house was demolished said: “I have never seen the kind of humiliation like what we saw on Friday. The person that sold this land to us is alive. It was legally acquired. We have all our papers which were verified by JMDB, Ministry of Land and Survey and even traditional rulers of the community in 2021. The local government has also certified the papers. We have followed due process to acquire the plots. What is our offence? We don’t even understand why this action was taken against us.”

Sa’idu said they have lost millions of naira to the demolition.

“I lost over N30 million to the incident. I know what I have spent from the beginning to the end. It could be more than that. Look at the cost of building materials in the market. A bag of cement is sold between N10,000 and N12,000 now. What I have done for years has now been destroyed. Where should I start from? Where can I get the money again?”

Another victim, Bala Muhammad said: “I lost over N7 million to the incident. This house is the only thing I have in my life. I suffered a lot before getting the money. What is the possibility of getting this money again. You know how difficult it is to get money now. With the current economic situation, how can I start? Government should rethink over their decision.”

Mannir Lawal, another developer said he spent over N14 million to build his house. “It is painful to lose this just overnight because it wasn’t easy to acquire the money at this time considering how difficult it is to money now.”

Nazir Ahmad, also a victim, said: “JMDB was not right to demolish our houses. Any demolition is always carried out with the court order or notice from government authority. The day they came, that was the day they demolished the houses. Go and see the meters between the waterway and the building. If building on the said plots is illegal, what is the difference between our offence and that of our Christian brothers who also built in the area and their houses were not demolished? It is unfair.”

Houses built on waterway – JMDB

Responding to the development, the JMDB general manager, Jos Metropolitan Development Board, Architect Hart Bankat, said the government demolished the buildings because they were done on the waterway.

While speaking at the community, the general manager said: “When people remain recalcitrant, it is to go ahead and dare the government. We are not just doing this as a show-off or making a statement. We are telling anyone who is building on waterways to know that we are not joking. The governor in his magnanimity gave three months’ grace for anyone to regularise their paper. Anybody who doesn’t have an approval, we get their structures off. We are not joking about it.”

On the issue that the developers have acquired the plots legally with all the necessary papers issued to them, Bankat said: “They bought the plots illegally and due process was not followed because the entire land is a government property. Apart from that, even before the houses were demolished, those building the houses were fully informed. On the issue of the houses that were not demolished during the exercise, I assure everyone, and people should write it and keep, that we will also demolish them. We will not leave out anyone.”

Also responding to the incident, the Commissioner for Information and Communication, Ibrahim Musa Ashom, said, “People don’t want to adhere to rules. People want to behave as if this is a banana republic. But in the new Plateau State, people must be governed because there must be a government in place. The houses were built on waterways. The lives of people are sacrosanct to us as a government.”

 

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