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Abuja's ongoing demolition exercises

Sep, 2021 | By Danladi Akilu | ||

Federal Capital Territory (FCT) recently witnessed a flurry of demolition activities carried out by the task team on city sanitation. Some of the communities affected by the demolition exercises include the areas around Lugbe Across, Lugbe-Berger, Car Wash, Lugbe Zone 5, Iddo and other settlements and villages along Giri-Gwagwalada road close to University of Abuja.

Also affected is the illegal market at Yarkasuwa 6th Avenue in Gwarimpa, among others. The decision to carry out these demolition activities must have been a very difficult one for the FCT Administration (FCTA) due to the discomfort it has inevitably brought to the affected persons. But the truth must be said that those whose structures were pulled down also share in the blame.

As have been enunciated time and again, Abuja, the FCT is a creation of law. The city was created specifically 45 years ago by its founding fathers to cater for the needs of the country and prevent a repeat of what happened in the nation's old capital of Lagos. That is why whatever is done in Abuja is done according to the law. The infrastructure, the city planning, the traffic and building regulations, are all very clearly spelt out in the extant laws of the FCT.

Unfortunately, the increasing influx of people into FCT to either seek greener pastures or escape from the conflicts and unrest in other parts of the country, has brought with it the ugly consequences of proliferation of urban slums. Consequently, virtually all sections of the city today are grappling with the problem of unplanned and unsightly settlements. From Lugbe to Gwarimpa, to Apo, to Kabusa, Mpape, Jahi, Durumi, Asokoro, to name a few, are all negatively impacted by squatter settlements.

Sadly, these settlements neither conform with the Abuja master plan nor the city's development control regulations. What you have in Abuja are residents approaching the local chiefs to illegally acquire land and erect structures in flagrant violation of the Abuja master plan. Today, the illegal settlements and problems associated with them are daily on the increase.

In the case of Mpape, it was reported that the Landlord Association petitioned FCTA where it made a passionate appeal to the FCT Minister, Malam Muhammad Musa Bello, to come to its aid and remove the illegal structures that are making life unbearable for them. Intelligence reports also indicate that these illegal settlements are responsible for the increasing crime and criminality, traffic snarls, vandalism of public infrastructure, prostitution, kidnapping, armed banditry, among other vices, that have become more visible in FCT.

The FCT also recently experienced an outbreak of cholera which medical experts blamed on the unhygienic conditions found mostly in these illegal settlements, ranging from open sewages, open defecation, stagnant waters, huge piles of refuse dumps, contamination of drinking water, among others. All these issues, no doubt, have brought to the fore the inevitability of these demolition exercises. As the FCTA through the Minister recently explained, Abuja is currently at a tipping point where the city could be lost completely if nothing is done to reverse this trend.

The Minister also disclosed that the city has exceeded all expectations in terms of the indices of development projected by its founding fathers. From available information, it was expected that the city would have a population of two million at the current stage of development. However, today, Abuja is home to over six million people. This huge and rapidly expanding population has outpaced the rate at which infrastructure can be provided, hence the proliferation of urban slums.

It is the fear of many that the rate at which the slums are expanding, it is only a matter of time before a breakdown of law and order in the FCT ensues. This is one of the main challenges that FCTA is currently facing, how to continue to cater for a city and a territory that is increasing at an alarming rate and the problems that have come with it. As the FCT Minister also explained, a city is like a human being. It needs to be rejuvenated, protected and taken care of. Once a disease enters a city, it reaches a point where you can't reverse it.

Painful as the demolition exercises might seem, Abuja residents and other Nigerians should try to understand that the nation's capital is the city for all Nigerians, including those in the Executive, those in the Judiciary, businessmen, artisans, among others, and there is need to protect the sanctity of the master plan. If efforts are not made to fight and save the city through enforcement of regulations, then all the reasons that were advanced for moving the federal capital from Lagos to Abuja 43 years ago and the gains made so far would be lost completely.

That is why it is very important for all stakeholders, including residents, the National Assembly, security agencies and other Nigerians to really look at the issue beyond just individuals and give their support to FCTA. There is need to have a holistic look at the issues of demolitions of illegal settlements in the FCT to understand why this city was created and why there is need for all to fight and protect it.

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