Residents of Utako Village have continued to count their losses amidst tears as a joint team of the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) and the FCT Development Control Department, yesterday carried out demolition exercise in the area.
A petty trader in the village, Mrs C. Obi, who spoke to LEADERSHIP, lamented bitterly saying, “This is sheer wickedness; no notice was given to us. This morning, I went to the market and barely 20 minutes after I left, my younger sister called to tell me that the task force were in our area and were demolishing houses.
“I left the market immediately but by the time I got home, the whole place had been brought down. My crates of soft drinks, worth over N500, 000 were broken in the process. Is it now a crime to live in the village? If they want to resettle us, they should do so, but not by spoiling our things. This is my sweat,” she cried.
An authoritative source, who was part of the team, said that the exercise was part of the mandate given to them by FCT permanent secretary, Dr. Biodun Nathaniel Olorunfemi, which includes removing anything that constitutes a nuisance in the city.
“This is not acceptable. There is nowhere in the world where shanties are incorporated into city centre. Not only does it pose a security threat, it also constitutes a nuisance. This is what necessitated the exercise,” the source who craved anonymity added.
However, a native of the village, Hassan Mustapha attributed the high crime rate in the city to all the demolition, which robs many residents of their sources of livelihood, even as he lamented that they were not issued quit notices before the demolition.
“There was even a textile dealer who collapsed when they demolished his shop. He had just bought new stock worth over one million naira and had over N50, 000 cash in his shop. Tell me how you want people to react when you shatter their source of livelihood. They will just resort to crime,” he stated.
Another resident, Alhaji Idris Sa’ad, corroborated that the residents were not issued quit notices. He said he had been residing in the area for over 20 years and did not have any other place to go, even as he lamented that non-indigenes were not captured in the FCT administration’s resettlement and compensation scheme.
Malam Idris Sa’ad told LEADERSHIP that there was a rumour two weeks ago about the demolition and the residents had gone to meet the traditional head of the area who claimed he was not aware of any such thing.
“So we thought it was just a rumour, only for us to see them today demolishing all our houses. I have been living here for the past 25 years and when we learnt that they were doing allocations, we went to the FCT authorities, but they said our names were not on the list because we are not Gbagyi.
“From my own investigation, I learnt the Gbagyis have been relocated to Sheri Village and that they will soon move there. Please help us to beg the government. I have been living here for 25 years and I think I qualify to be called an indigene,” he stressed.