The Abuja Metropolitan Management Agency (AMMC) recently served demolition notices on some residents said to have violated the Abuja Mater Plan by building their home under high tension electricity cables. CALEB ONWE, who visited some of these communities, reports
It is a universally accepted principle that for any significant progress to be made in life, people must take risks. However, what must be uppermost in the mind of a person is the implications of the risk. It should be a calculated risk.
Ironically, sometimes, Nigerians overstretch their capacity to take risks. They go beyond logical bounds, which often leads to action that would make one begin to wonder whether they are divinely endowed with death-proofs.
In fact, the risk-taking quotient of some Nigerians sometimes reach a certain crescendo that compels them to seek for comfort and survival in unusual places including danger zones, without considering the health and environmental implications of their actions.
It is often said that life has no duplicate, yet some Nigerians will under the guise of looking for shelter construct a house under high tension electrical installations.
Inside Abuja recently paid a visit to some communities in Lugbe, one of the satellite towns on the fringes of the Umar Yar’ Adua Expressway, a 10 lane road that leads to Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja.
The visit was prompted by the demolition notice which the Abuja Metropolitan Management Agency (AMMC) served on some communities that have for a very long time thrown caution to the wind, to seek comfort and survival in danger zone. The affected communities include the Lugbe building material market, Tudun Wada village and some mass housing estates.
While AMMC claim that these communities have contravened some development regulations of the Federal Capital Territory, the affected communities have a counter-claim that government officials failed to do the proper thing from the beginning.
Inside Abuja, while on fact finding mission to the affected communities to verify the conflicting claims, discovered that while there are new housing development extending beyond the 30 meters distance which experts said was a standard safety measure to such high profile danger zone, there are houses that were built on the axis of the high tension installations, before the electricity installations were contemplated by government.
Some of these ‘dangerous’ risk-takers, like the traders at Lugbe Building Materials Market, and some residents of Tudun Wada, said they were still hanging on the zone not because they lacked the understanding of how risky it is to stay close to electricity installations, but want the government to compensate them and give them an alternative location.
Minister of the FCT, Mallam Mohammad Bello, had before now declared that he would remain committed to the dream of the founding fathers of Abuja.
Though, the minister has refrained from following the legacy of his predecessors who often disobeyed court orders in carrying out demolition of illegal structures, the minister was said to have expressed bitterness that people would comfortably build and live in houses constructed under a high tension electrical installation.
As the 17th minister to manage the affairs of the Capital City, Bello had always shown the zeal to hold sacrosanct the integrity of the Abuja Master plan, but want to follow due process in clearing illegal structures, and that may be why the ‘dangerous’ risk takers living under the high tension power line have lasted there this long.
Coordinator of AMMC, Umar Shuiabu, who had earlier mobilized the Department of Development Control of the Council
to demolish several illegal shanties at the some locations around the town, reinforced by the success recorded by the exercise, had vowed to continue until the buildings under the power lines are cleared.
According to Shuiabu: “In continuation of the sensitization of the Federal Capital City, AMMC visited Lugbe and found out that no fewer than 750 illegal shanties were built directly under the high tension in Tudun Wada peace village. All such structures under the electricity facility will soon be removed, including those that breach the legally permitted 30 meters proximity to high tension. Similarly, in Lugbe, the FHA farm market and other structures are to be removed to pave way for Transmission Company of Nigeria( TCN) to start work on a transmission station”.
Inside Abuja learnt that the renewed onslaught against illegal structures in the nation’s capital was prompted by the target allegedly given to all political appointees in Federal Capital Territory by the Minister.
To further justify the demolition exercise, the AMMC Coordinator said: “Abuja is a planned city. So, if we do not control the development in the city, we won’t have met it the way it is today. Abuja is planned to be a garden city, meaning that there are some areas that we reserve for green development, so we won’t allow desecration of whatever manner.
“If we have been leaving illegal developments within the city, this city would have been inhabitable for people. Abuja is the pride of the nation. So, we want to maintain a beautiful city for ourselves. We have a situation where people are given plots for residential purpose, but they convert them into night clubs, so much so that the neighbours are always complaining. We cannot allow them to continue cheating their neighbours, disturbing them in the night and not allowing them to sleep.
“We served them notices but they refused to comply. So, we have no choice but to pull down those structures. We will not stop at removal of all illegal structures across the Territory, but we will submit for relevant measure that is necessary for that type of action. So, it is not only the pulling down, we are now submitting a report, even if it means for the plot to be revoked, because we did not allocate those plots for the use in which they are doing.
“And that is why it is necessary that whenever you plan, you have an area for residential activity. You have an area for commercial activity and have an area for industrial activity. Wherever it is residential, you don’t use it for commercial; wherever it residential, you don’t use it for a hotel or any activity that will injure your neighbours”
Occupants demand compensation
While some of the occupants of this illegal structure understand the high risk involved in the environment where they stay, they are insisting that government must compensate them and relocate them to a ‘ safer’ environment.
Festus Obieze, is the Chairman, Lugbe Building Material Market, one of the affected communities earmarked for the demolition. He told Inside Abuja that FCTA was not fair in the hasty arrangements to demolish the market on the allegation that their trading facilities encroached on the right of way of the power line.
Obieze, said that it would be fair judgement for government to adequately compensate the traders and possibly relocate the market to another place where they will continue to contribute to the building of the nation’s economy.
Inside Abuja gathered that the Lugbe Building Material Market had been operational in that place before 2003 when the high tension power line was constructed.
Obieze also claimed that the traders had been paying revenue to the Abuja Municipal Area Council ( AMAC) and that it would be an act of injustice to remove the market without providing the traders with alternative.
According to him, the traders were not resisting on any move to remove the market, but will resist forceful eviction from the place they have been carrying out their trading before the power line project was ever conceived.
He also confirmed to Inside Abuja that officials of AMMC had hinted them about the demolition plans.
“Sometime last year, some government agents came and told us that we are staying under high tension electrical installations. We were later invited by some FCDA officials for further talks over the matter. The officially informed us that the market would be removed. We told them that it won’t be proper to be displaced without being relocated to another place where we can continue our trading.
“We demanded for compensation because the market has been existing in this place before 2003 when the high tension installations were carried out. When the work started, on our own volition, we decided to remove some of our make shift shops to pave ways for the construction work.
“Nobody was compensated. If they actually compensated anybody, I am not aware. We left FCDA without resolving the matter. Already there is a place we are negotiating with AMAC to be relocated to. We also disclosed to them that we have been paying revenue to AMAC.
“It was AMAC officials that demanded that we pay revenue under the high tension. We started paying revenue to AMAC without any amenities provided for the traders in the market. We pay revenue and yet to not get any form of benefit from the government.
“We negotiated with AMAC officials and agreed that the transport unit of the market, that is the trucks that convey goods in the market should be paying revenue to AMAC instead of our union in the market.
“That was how AMAC started collecting revenue of N50, N100 and N500 respectively from the trucks, depending on the truck capacity and the revenue has been on a daily basis. AMAC wanted us to be paying revenue for the makeshift shops but our union refused. So, we have been hearing of the demolition but we believe that the demolition cannot be carried out without due diligence. Otherwise, there will be trouble if our shops are pulled down without relocating us” Obieze said.
A resident at Tudun Wada village, Madam Esther confirmed that many of the houses at the village were built before the power line project begun. She said that many of the affected residents were not compensated, and because they have no means to relocate, they are still living in the place considered to be unsafe.
She however, denied receiving any demolition notice from AMAC. According to her, their area which is directly under the high tension power line might be spared by the demolition squad.
Like the former respondent, she also stated that it would be fair for government to compensate the affected residents before throwing them out of the place.
One other discovery that would rattle any rational being was the fact that some private schools and church buildings were also cited directly under the high tension power lines without considering that probability of disaster.
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