The gap between the poor and the rich in the society has continued to expand, especially of recent. The margin between the rich and the poor can be seen as two parallel lines; thus a sharp contrast between the two in terms of accommodation, accessibility to qualitative education, health care, food and finance.
A settlement located at Mabushi, opposite the Vehicle Inspection Office (VIO), in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), gives a vivid picture of the irony of life, as people live in places so dirty, only animals such as pigs can be kept.
Residents of this area dwell in an environment prone to disease outbreak.
The set-up of the area also makes it attractive as a hideout for hoodlums and other criminals.
Most of the buildings found in this area are batchers, made of polythene bags and paper, measuring no more than two square metres each.
Ironically, the occupants of these buildings share boundary with some high-brow estates, one of which is believed to be owned by a serving governor.
This place is without any house numbering, water or electricity.
The dusty road is a meander, passing through houses.
People staying in this place can best be described as refugees; some of them shared their experience.
One of them, Usman Mohammed narrated the circumstances which brought him to live in the area.
He said, “I was a student of the Federal College of Education Zaria but due to financial constraints, I became a drop out. I lost my father in 2000. I am 24 years old, an indigene of Jigawa state. I have been staying in this place for four months.
“My father was the commissioner of police before his untimely death 10 years ago, and to this day, his entitlements have not been paid. As the first born, I decided to come to Abuja to look for something to do so that I can save money to return to school.”
Usman lamented that apart from being vulnerable to diseases, as a result of their poor living condition, they pay for every seeming means of comfort the enjoy in the place, except for the air they breathe.
“We pay for everything here, from water to what we eat, to even the bath rooms. We pay N40 each time we use the bathrooms, while we pay N30 to use a pit toilet.
“Most women here cook food which they sell to labourers.
Those of us who know the condition under which the food was prepared don’t patronise them. This place can best be described as a slum to say the least. The women here do a lot of plate washing due to the nature of their trade and they pour the food remnants and water on the road. Because of this, the environment is always muddy, with an offensive smell,” he added.
He continues “This place is fenced with grass; as you can see; we are surrounded by grass everywhere, which is not totally free from poisonous reptiles.”
As a school dropout, Usman has little or no training or skills to enable him work in an establishment. He tells us how he survives each day.
“Each day I go out in search of one menial job or the other, if I find anything to do, to God be the glory, if I don’t, I still give thanks to God, for the day.”
Although, Usman has not been able to go to school, the question is does he have dreams and aspiration. “Dreams, we don’t sleep here so how can we have dreams? Moreover dreams, don’t survive in Nigeria.
“For now, I will get married may be that will make me happy. But I used to have dreams. I use to dream that one day, I will join the Army and protect my country, with the whole of my life. My dreams later changed, I wanted to be a doctor to save lives when I lost some of my loved ones to ill health,” he added
He appealed to the federal government to assist Nigerian youth, saying, “my message to the minister is that Nigeria youths are suffering. We want to work but there are no jobs, my advice is that he should create a lot of job opportunities, for the Nigerian youths and for people who want to go to school but can’t afford it. Let them be given the opportunity to go to school so that they can build this country and that way, we can move to another level.”
Still speaking, Usman was of the view that nepotism or religious differences should not be the order of the day. “It is not that until you know somebody or you belong to the same religious affiliation that you help that person.”
Usman also doubted that a social welfare package would be able to take care of his likes in the society, saying, “You see in places like China, 67 per cent of people live in houses built by the government and these countries create a lot of job opportunities for their youths; while you are schooling, you are also working and from your salary, government saves some percentage to help other youths in terms of education, this is a an aspect of social welfare
“But in Nigeria, people who have the means prefer to set up industries because of reasons like, corruption and probably for their selfish reasons, I have come to believe that they don’t want you to be as rich as they are, they prefer to have you remain poor.
“If not why can’t they build hospitals, good roads and make jobs available. There are countries that don’t have these natural wealth but they are far ahead of us. They have been saying it will be better, since I was a child, today am 24 years and it is still the same story, in fact am afraid things are getting worse.”
One of the earliest settlers in the, Abdulkarim Idris gave a detailed account of how they came about the settlement.
Narrating the story, Idris said “I am an indigene of Katsina, a graduate of College of Administration in Funtua local government in Katsina. I studied crime management and graduated in 2006. Some of the people here b are also graduates, we have about 10 graduates here. I have being staying here for two years and am into construction work.
“One security man called Iliya is in charge of this place. If you want to live here, all you needed to do was to give him N1000 after which he will give you a tiny portion of less than 7square metres, just the size of a large square box. The space is just enough to accommodate you and a few clothes, and can neither take a chair nor a table. At the moment, we have about 30 batchers.”
He further stated that after getting the space, you would be expected to buy the materials for the construction, including, scrap zinc sheets, sacks made from used cement bags or tarpaulin.
He added that Iliya, who is the care taker as he is called, had relocated to another place but that he usually comes to the area from time to time to collect maintenance fee of N500, even though no maintenance had ever been carried out at the place.
He said his ambition after graduation was to gain employment with one of the security agencies and that he had made several efforts in that regard but had never been shortlisted.
Speaking on life in the slum, he said it was quite peaceful until the security situation in the country took a nose dive, following the activities of members of the Boko Haram sect.
“Life in this place is quite peaceful but with these Boko Haram incidents, we don’t sleep with our eyes closed, we are always on alert because we see strangers walking in and out of this place, especially at night. Living here is now very dangerous; these people might be terrorists, so the government needs to come to our rescue.
“But on a general note everybody staying in this make shift structure made of scrap is a hustler, there is no jobless person here. We all go out each day to look for whatever means of survival.”
But does he have any regrets of coming to Abuja?
“Yes. When I left Katsina, I told my brother I was going to make a better life for us. My brother has done all he can to come and visit me but I keep refusing and it is the same with some of my friends. I can’t go home and they can’t visit me because am living in a very critical condition. Some of my close friends that I confided in have been pleading with me to come back home than remain here.
“We are imploring you to please tell our story, because the number of the poor and destitute is increasing and so is the gap between the two sides. Some are living under bridges, which is a similar condition like ours. Let the government reduce this number; we know they can’t do everything but they can do something
When asked what he would tell the president if he had an opportunity of meeting him, he said, “We don’t feel safe here anymore, these place use to be safe in its own unique way but at the moment, we are living under constant fear.
Another thing is that I don’t want my life to end here in a slum, I need a better place to stay in my country, and government should make provision for affordable public housing and the most important of all my needs is a permanent job.”