In this piece, Anule Emmanuel presents the hardship of Nyanya residents, a suburb in the nation’s capital, especially during the raining season
Gradually, the rains are here heralding another cropping season. For many settlers of Nyanya, a satellite town located a few metres away from the nation’s capital, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), which is described by the UN HABITAT in 2006 as a slum, the return of the rains is nothing but a season of nightmares. The reason for the fear of the rain, which for most farmers is a desire never to delay, is not faretched.
This settlement, which serves as a gateway into Nigeria’s capital city, Abuja, linking the seat of power with most central part of the country, including Lafia, Makurdi, Jos, Jalingo, Bauchi and as far as towns in the South such as Enugu, Nsukka and Onitsha, has no single infrastructure. Worse off, there are no good roads, no drainages, no potable water while electricity supply is highly epileptic.
Within the Nyanya settlement, there is the unique filthiest section, regarded as the Labour Camp. The Nyanya Labour Camp was originally built 30 years ago to accommodate labourers who built most parts of what is today known as the Federal Capital City (FCC). Houses within this camp were designed for one occupant per room, built in clusters of five in a section for the lowest class and six-room-in-a-row blocks of one bedroom flats for other category of workers.
When these labourers completed their assignment and left, these houses were allocated by government to civil servants and low ranking police personnel. Visitors to the FCT, from the Abuja-Keffi Nyanya axis, are unlikely to evade the sight of this slum where hundreds of lives were lost in 2014 as a result of a twin bomb blast by suspected members of the Boko Haram sect. Unknown to many residents of Abuja, Nyanya is beyond the Labour Camp.
On the way to the FCC is situated the Federal Housing Estate on the left around the popular Mopole junction.
There is also Phase IV. These two areas slightly differ in terms of decency. The areas are, however, not left out of the many hazards of the slum.
There is also the Phase IV section, adjourning the Labour Camp. This appears to be the GRA (Government Reserved Area). Since the days of Mallam Nasir el-Rufai as minister of the FCT, the population of Nyanya has been on the increase as a result of demolition of illegal structures in some squalor settlements of Abuja.
Also the relatively cheaper accommodation here compared to the city centre has come handy despite the residents having to struggle with the despicable environment.
Mr. John Oguche, who says that he has lived in Nyanya in the last 12 years, laments that what the residents are passing through is part of the deliberate ploy by the Nigerian elite to perpetually enslave the poor and average citizens in the country. In his view, there is no justification as to why successive ministers of the FCT have never shown interest in improving infrastructure in Nyanya even when it serves as one of the major gateways into the nation’s capital.
“What is surprising is that when you get into the main city of Abuja, you see a situation where the administration of the FCT is spending funds on resurfacing of existing roads that are not even bad when there is no single tarred street in places like Nyanya and others. “Although, we hear that unlike in the states, authorities of the FCT do not temper with allocations of the Area Councils, AMAC in particular, has failed to provide basic services in the satellite towns of the municipal area,” he noted.
The most worrisome situation at the Nyanya slum presents itself when it rains.
Because of the absence of proper drainage systems, the un-tarred streets are flooded with the water carrying waste of all kinds sometimes into houses. Unfortunately, since the entire area is not linked to the Abuja sewage system, the residents dig suck-ways which they evacuate at some point. The evacuation is usually carried out through manual labour.
According to one of the residents, Mr. Chukwuma Obiora, most people whose suck-ways are filled up wait for the rains as it is more convenient to throw out the faeces into the flood. Obiora explains that often times these human wastes find their ways into the houses of residents.
He says the evacuation is done at night so one could suddenly discover his or herself soaked in such filthy water. It is curious to know that this problem does not come only from evacuation of faeces. There are issues of broken pipes from the small latrines that are built. Dirty coloured stinking water drips from these pipes.
The situation makes it difficult for residents to open their windows for ventilation. Most people collect refuse, tie them in waste bags and wait for the rains.
A walk around the Labour Camp area of the Nyanya slum further reveals an ugly scene. Petty traders sell food items like vegetable, fruits and fish within the filthy vicinity in make-shift canopies which are often demolished by authorities of the development control department of the Abuja Municipal Area Council. Children of these residents play around the filthy environment facing the danger of contacting diseases.
A senior government official of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA), who prefers not to be quoted in print because he was not authorised to speak, says government is aware of the challenges being faced by Nyanya residents and plans to intervene soon.
The official says until the Labour Camp is relocated to the new site at Gidan-Daya, there is virtually little that can be done for now in terms of providing infrastructure for the area.
Following the declaration of Nyanya as a slum in 2006, the FCT Administration announced a comprehensive plan to provide alternative accommodation for residents of the Labour Camp at Gidan-Daya where about 152 hectares of land have been mapped out for development.
Although the FCT Administration has promised that the entire project, which will be completed in three years, has already received a budgetary allocation of N14.07 billion, work at the site till date remains nothing to be desired.
About 8,064 units of flats are expected to be built and handed over to beneficiaries who are owners of existing houses at the Nyanya Labour Camp.
The FCT, as part of the relocation plan under the sale of Federal Government Houses programme, sold the existing houses at the Labour Camp to civil servants who are the prospecting owners of the Gidan-Daya future structures. While the government is still tinkering with the idea of relocation, most people have raised concerns that rather than moving the entire residents to another location, the FCT should redesign the Nyanya Labour Camp area and allocate same to the existing tenants.
The idea of the administration is to allocate the total land space to a private developer after the dilapidated structures have been pulled down.
At the moment, no one is sure when the Gidan-Daya relocation site will be completed. This is the reason why there are concerns that government should rather pay more attention to improving the quality of infrastructure at Nyanya, including roads, drainage systems and potable water for residents.
The only tarred road presently in Nyanya is the one beginning from the Mopol junction which was barricaded since 2011 by officials following increased activities of Boko Haram members. In 2016, the FCT Minister, Senator Bala Mohammed, initiated a process to open up a dual carriage road linking the area to Mpape District. Houses on both sides of the proposed road starting from the Nyanya-Karu Bridge close to the road were marked for compensation and demolition with part of the General Hospital also affected.
FCT is yet to explain why this project, which would have not only provided alternative access road into Abuja, was suddenly abandoned. Investigations have revealed that the FCT has been advised against the huge budgetary requirement for compensation of persons whose property will be affected in clearing the way for the road. For residents of the Nyanya slum, there is urgent need to revisit an earlier plan of a partnership between the FCT Administration and the Nasarawa State government for the expansion of the Abuja-Kerri Road.
Former minister of the FCT had begun discussions with Nasarawa State to expand the existing road to 10 lanes up to Keffi to ease traffic along this axis. If this is done, allowing Nyanya to remain in its present state without quality infrastructure will not speak well of any seriousness from the government.
At the moment, the residents are urging the FCT Administration to prevail on the police to open up the only good access road that has been blocked for years in order to ease traffic.
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