Demolition backlash

Pulling down structures has been going on apace, but not without victims crying foul. GBENGA OMOKHUNU reports
img_20160907_142541-ok-copyBack in January everyone thought the new minister was joking when he said he would go the el-Rufai way. Kaduna State Governor Malam Nasir el-Rufai, in his days as minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) was the Demolition Man because he went about pulling down structures in a way that some thought was quite brazen. He was feared and fought for his troubles.

Now, one of his successors, Malam Muhammad Bello is proving that he is no joker and that he can bite as much as he can bark, much like the good old Demolition Man. Several property owners can attest to that, to their horror.

Bulldozers from the Abuja Metropolitan Management Council (AMMC) have been at work, while their owners have been vehement in condemning the operation.

A few weeks ago, investigations revealed that the AMMC intensified the continuous demolition of what it termed illegal structures within the city centre on the order of the FCT minister.

Bello has always made it known that he would stop at nothing to restore the Abuja master plan, and that at the end of the planned demolition, there would be no slum in the FCT.

It would be recalled that Bello, during one of his press briefings early this year, said, “Buildings on sewer lines, green areas and areas of public interest that are not authorised will be removed. Beneficiaries of undeveloped lands in Phase 1 and Phase 2 stand the risk of forfeiting them. To run this city, we must go back to the law.”

Several houses and shops have been demolished with many people going through pains and hardship on how to get themselves together and face the challenges of life.

Affected people said they did not what next to do or where to go after their shops were pulled down.

Many of them complained that government was carrying out the demolition exercise on short notice.

Affected areas include Salsa Spot close to H-Medix supermarket, located at Ademola Adetokunbo Crescent, Wuse 2 Abuja, Shops and malls located around Banex plaza area.

A village located at Utako area was also affected in the ongoing exercise.

One of the affected victims of the demolition exercise a worker with a Suya Spot, Malam Sani Umaru told Abuja Review that AMMC did not give them adequate notice before the demolition.

He said, “They only gave us 24 hours’ notice and before the 24 hours the demolition was carried out; this is inhuman treatment meted on us by the authority of the FCT. This business has existed here for the past 15 years there was no time we were ever harassed by the authority or any government official.  This action has denied about 13 persons means of livelihood and other beneficiaries of this business.

“We are 13 persons working here earning at least N1,700 daily, if you calculate that you know what you can get. Right now I am hungry because my means of earning income has been stopped by the same government that supposed to create job for the people.

Another shop owner who doesn’t want his name in print described the exercise as one lacking in objectivity as some buildings owned by highly influential individuals were not affected in the demolition exercise.

“They marked there and here, they pulled down mine they didn’t pull down that one. That is the world, a world of wickedness, the notice they gave was only 24 hours.

When asked whether he got approval from necessary authorities before the structure was erected, the victim insisted that his building was not illegal, claiming that he had been operating there for more than 10 years.

He said, “It is not illegal, this structure has been here since the first tenure of Obasanjo, what are we talking about?”

Other property owners have been lamenting the sudden resumption of demolition exercise, accusing the FCTA of insensitivity and violation of due process.

Another affected lady Chioma Chukwu said: “Yesterday, I got a call about the demolition at about 4pm and this morning, they are already demolishing at other parts of the town, Banex to be precise, so we are trying to pack our things. We have been here for the past five-years, and nobody has said we are doing anything wrong.”

The demolition, according to other affected persons that spoke to Abuja Review in recent times, become worrisome in view of the fact that the country is facing a serious economic meltdown occasioned by the economic recession with the government urging the youths to look for alternative job opportunities in order to be gainfully employed.

All efforts to speak with a Deputy Director at AMMC, Mukhtar Galadima, to react to the allegation that government gave them short notice were futile.

For government, it is a win-win process, but for the masses, it is pain and agony.

 

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