Anguish, lamentation as bulldozers return to FCT



The days of what was referred to as demolition are here again as authorities of the Federal Capital territory (FCT) continue the quest to address the territory’s master plan. However, this is not without pains and losses; ELEOJO IDACHABA writes.

Happenings in the federal Capital Territory (FCT) in the last few weeks, especially as it concerns the removal of illegal structures or what is commonly known as demolition, remind one of the days of Malam Nasir el-Rufa’i as FCT minister.

Under him, many families were rendered homeless, but the territory’s master plan was restored. 

Unfortunately, long after the courageous minister left office in 2007, abuses characterised the city’s master plan with the associated nuisances from residents. This is because subsequent administrations in the territory somehow developed cold feet towards maintaining the pragmatic El-Rufa’i’s tempo.

Enter the bulldozers

Apart from personal houses being pulled down, many shops and business premises said to have been erected without the nod of the approving agencies were also touched.

This reporter gathered that from the middle of 2021, not fewer than 2,138 illegal structures have so far been pulled down in various parts of the territory. According to the authorities, more houses/structures would still go judging from metrological reports over flooding in the territory.

For instance, recently the authorities vowed not to spare any estates or structures illegally developed on waterways following the release of the 2022 Annual Flood Outlook by NiMet which negatively indicated that the FCT was under threat as it placed AMAC and Gwagwalada councils on high risk.

According to Alhaji Shuaib Umar, the coordinator, Abuja Metropolitan Management Council (AMMC) while having a meeting with the management and residents of a private estate developer, he said, “By next week, all these houses are going down (referring to parts of TradeMore Estate). The solution to this is the removal of these houses. We won’t like ourselves at the detriment of others.

“Even a single house could cause problem for so many people if that single house is not constructed where it is supposed to be constructed.” 

As a follow up to this threat, houses especially shops located in the sprawling estate located along the airport road were pulled down last week. The owners who could not immediately quantify the monetary value of their losses, but said it would take them months and years to recover.

A victim, Sam Odo, who deals in confectioneries, said his entire fortune was lost. Speaking in a telephone conversation with this reporter, the Enugu state-born former lecturer said he had invested all his savings in procuring two shops, but lamented that in one fell swoop, everything went down.

Authorities’ disclosures

The senior special assistant to the FCT minister on monitoring, inspection and enforcement, Ikharo Attah, in a reaction disclosed that over 100 houses were marked, but that 30 houses were removed at the first instance.

“This is on-going removal of illegal structures on the flood plain at the Trademore Estate along airport road. This estate has been a theatre of flooding as there is very intensive flooding here and we have been engaging them for years and they have come to terms that this area is very dangerous to their lives. The minister of FCT, Malam Muhammad Bello, has asked us to remove all illegal structures on the flood plain.

“For now, 30 houses are going but over 100 were marked but we are still engaging critical stakeholders around there. After removing the first 30 houses, we would engage with them to look at how we can use land solution act to find solution,” he said.

FCTA staff, traders’ lamentations

As all these are going on in various parts of the territory, traders and staff of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) who owned part of the shops located near the NCWS close to the FCDA were left aghast when they went to work last week only to discover that the ministerial task force on city sanitation’s bulldozers were pulling down a mini-market on the land belonging to the National Council of Women Societies (NCWS) Area 11 on which their shops were located.

Many of the traders, mostly food vendors and petty shop owners, complained that they were given only three months’ notice by the task force to vacate the area. According to them, they were still waiting for the administration to allocate another place to them only for them to see their shops in rubble in the early morning.

Sani Bello, a petty trader who deals in provision store told Blueprint Weekend that he lost all his sources of livelihood in that demolition exercise after being forced to relocate from somewhere in Niger state because of bandits.

“Inside my shop is where I sleep and do my businesses,” he lamented.

Speaking in pidgin English, he said further, “Me I no de keep barawo here, but they say we keep barawo; I no know them. How can the government do this? Walahi, I don’t have anywhere to go and what to do. That shop is more than N30, 000.”

A lady trader, simply called Rafat, who operates a restaurant, tearfully said she is sad because she doesn’t know where to start from.

“I am worried because where will I go and start from? The government was supposed to provide an alternative place for us before the demolition, but they did not and they did not give us enough time to remove our wares and property. See how they have been destroyed. Each day, I sell food and make profits; the three workers with me sleep here and also get some money. Now that it has been pulled down and there is no alternative, where do we start from?”

A trader whose shop was affected, Ibrahim Lawal, said they were taken by surprise because while they were working on the deadline of three months given to them, they did not know that the authorities had a different plan.

He said, “I feel very bad because we were given three months, but as I speak with you, it is not up to the three months and we have been following the discussion. We are even confused about what is happening. Some people came here and told us that they were sent by the minister; others said the minister was not aware of the demolition; so which one do we believe?” 

Justification

In justifying the move, Attah said the area which is near the NCWS had constituted a nuisance in the area and the traders, he said, were fully aware.

This writer’s investigation showed that the one that involved Prince Joseph Kpokpogiri, the ex-husband of Nollywood actress, Tonto Dike, whose mansion worth over N700 million was pulled down a fortnight ago. 

Reacting to the demolition, officials of the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) that visited the site in company of some top management team of FCTA admitted that the plot of land originally belonged to the FHA, but denied that proper building plan was approved before the mansion was erected.

The executive secretary of FCDA, Engr. Shehu Hadi, said a road alignment had been conducted on that axis long time ago and the FHA was duly notified. According to him, the road was designed to serve as an important bypass along Abuja-Keffi axis.

On his part, Attah said the building didn’t get approval from the necessary agencies.

“His house is on a super highway known as M-16. He doesn’t even have a building plan approval. It’s like somebody who knows that the highway is coming sold the land to him and he just went to build. We have been asking him to stop but he refused.”