by Isi Esene
There is panic among residents of parts of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, as the FCT minister, Senator Bala Mohammed, has maintained that there is no going back on the planned demolition of 10,287 structures which were found to be violating the Abuja master plan.
Many affected residents are stranded and desperate to find where to relocate to considering the high cost of accommodation in the FCT and its environs.
The minister spoke on the planned demolition on Monday at the monthly FCT operations briefing session in Gwarinpa I District, Abuja.
He appealed to owners of the affected homes to understand the motive of the government as a corrective measure and not meant to be punitive. He solicited their co-operation while explaining that the planned demolition is in the interest of the people.
He further stated that apart from safeguarding the Abuja master plan, demolitions are usually carried out for sanitary and security reasons because threats in these areas have to be nipped in the bud.
The minister said the FCT government will not stop the clean-up of the Abuja metropolis.
He gave some of the administration’s achievements in the past month as the demolition of 500 shanties at the Gwagwalada Motor Mark, the removal of about 398 illegal structures, sealing 10 properties violating the master plan, and the removal of posters from various locations in the Federal Territory.
Meanwhile, there are reports of a groundswell of opposition to the demolition of structures by affected residents.
The president of the association of non-indigenes in the FCT, Mr. Chiemeka Friday, urged the president to intervene in the crisis and do something to stop plans which will essentially throw them into the streets.
He led a group of people displaying various placards which read: “Now they have shoes, but we have none”, “I can also be president”, “I can also be senator”, “I can also be a minister”, and “We need to be protected”.
Some of the members of the group who spoke to the press said they have heard several rumours indicating that the FCT administration plans to re-allocate the evacuated lands to wealthy individuals who are ready to part with large sums of money to acquire it.
The executive director of the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, Auwal Musa, also released a statement that opposed the planned move saying the centre “is calling on the FCTDA to reconsider its actions towards Mpape residents and 18 other villages, even though they had been given prior notifications. This is to enable the residents to buy more time to sort themselves out before movement. This is based on humanitarian ground considering that women and children are involved in the displacement.”
The deputy national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr. Sam Jaja, is however supporting the FCT administration’s actions.
He said, “We cannot continue to live in shanties in this country; we cannot continue to live in lawless ways because we want to protect the party. If people had gone to build in a place where they aren’t supposed to build, those places should be demolished, because it negates the principle of law that established those areas. Even if it is a new place that government wants to develop, you don’t have to blame the government; what you should do is to appeal to government to resettle them.”
The fates of the affected residents continues to hang in the balance.