The Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) recently embarked on massive demolition of squatter communities within the city, alleging that many of them have been turned to safe havens for criminals. CALEB ONWE reports
In the past years, demolition of illegal structures were skewed in favour of the indigenous people of Abuja. Most of their communities were spared the wrath of the angry bulldozers that roared through many of the communities tearing down homes, shops and other structures.
Inside Abuja learnt that the structures erected by the original inhabitants of Abuja were spared to allow full compensation and resettlement of these people who laid claims to the places as their ancestral lands.
Over time, more shanties and unplanned structures continued to spring up around these clusters, providing shelter to both good and bad elements in the society. However, the recent report that terrorists and other criminals were taking advantage of such unplanned development to lay siege to the nation’s capital, appears to have turned the tide.
The relevant authorities have suddenly woken up to their responsibilities through forceful removal of some of these communities.
Recently, it was the turn of Utako village, one of the remaining shanty settlements in Jabi District of the city. Director of Security, FCTA, Adamu Gwary, confirmed that the ever growing shanties in Utako had constituted serious security challenges. He disclosed that plans have been on for their removal but the administration slowed down the pace to ensure due process for the exercise. Gwary explained that the exercise would have been carried out during the first term of Mallam Muhammad Bello as FCT Minister but was shelved due to so many considerations.
He said something has to be done now in the interest of the general public. Chief Security Office to the FCT Minister, Rasheed Hamed, who was part of the demolition exercise at Utako village, revealed that over 90 per cent of crimes committed in the area were perpetrated by hoodlums who lived in those shanties. Inside Abuja observed that during the demolition exercise, shop owners, business operators almost cried their eyes out in anguish.
Some of them admitted that they were warned about the impending doom but never believed until the bulldozers arrived. The victims lamented that their means of livelihood have been destroyed abruptly. Inside Abuja gathered that about four brothels that were fully occupied by commercial sex workers were among the structures pulled down.
The inmates of these brothels confessed that they were taken unawares and have been rendered homeless. Some of those who properties were demolished told journalists that they were not given enough notice before the demolition, describing it as height of insensitivity on the part of government.
A man, who simply identified himself as Moses, lamented that his home was pulled down without the government considering if he had any alternative place to lay his head. “We are all Nigerians. What they are doing is not good.
They don’t give us notice; they demolished our houses. I don’t know why our political leaders are not here,” he said. A food seller, who refused to mention her name, confessed that they were warned about the impending demolition but did not believe the day will come so soon.
“They told us that they will come but nobody believed it. It was yesterday they supposed to come but we did not see them. Even yes terday, I cooked very well but today I didn’t cook well,” she said. Chairman of FCT Task Team on City Sanitation, Ikharo Attah, stated that most of the shops and brothels that were turning the place to an eyesore, were removed at the instance of the original inhabitants of the community, whose buildings were not touched.
“The Department of Development Control has come here severally to issue warnings. If you go around the buildings, some places have been marked for about eight times and the people believed that the government is not serious because when empathy is brought to the fore of enforcement, people think that the government is not serious,” he noted.
Criminals lay siege to UniAbuja Meanwhile, the demolition exercise will soon hit the cluster of illegal communities that are occupying large swathes of land belonging to the University of Abuja. The demolition will ensure the pulling down of many illegal structures believed to be hosting some criminal elements who have infiltrated these communities. It was confirmed that there were some low and middle-class income earners who also occupy some of the shanties.
While some persons built makeshift structures for either their homes or businesses, others were said to have thrown caution to the wind by erecting unapproved permanent structures. The management of the University of Abuja recently cried out to the FCTA over what they described as the infiltration of the community by terrorists, kidnappers and bandits. Vice Chancellor, University of Abuja, Professor Abdul Rasheed, called on the FCT administration to extend the demolition to its school community.
He noted that the institution was always being attacked by bandits and kidnappers, who are suspected to be living in shanties around the school environment. Inside Abuja learnt that the institution’s management had a meeting with officials of FCT Department of Development Control at the University’s permanent site in Giri.
During the meeting, the Vice Chancellor was said to have reported how two of his students were recently kidnapped and over N2milion ransom demanded for their release.
According to him, the kidnappers and the bandits, who were illegally residing on parts of the institution’s over 11,000 hectares of land, needed to be dislodged.
The VC, who described the situation as a “national emergency and a ticking time bomb,” called on the FCT Minister, Mallam Muhammad Bello to expedite action on the demolition of illegal settlements on the University’s land to pave the way for development and ensure security of staff and students.
“The truth is that this University is in trouble right now because we have all sorts of people who are living on the campus, who are utilizing the land, who have no respect for the environment. It has even gone further that bandits are coming in and taking over land both within staff residences and outside.
“We now have our students being attacked. We are living in fear because of the bandits. “Some of the indigenes give land to them without really knowing them. Some don’t even ask for permission; they just take over.
Many times, we have clashes. We are taking this issue seriously. Unfortunately, the alarm was raised before and there were efforts that were made but were abandoned. So, they have taken it that nothing will happen. So, they have grown so comfortable and they carry on with impunity.