The imposition of state of emergency on Suleja and the resultant curfew are causing the residents untold hardships. Mairo Muhammad Mudi in this report examines the situation in the once peaceful town.
Suleja is one of the fastest growing cities in Nigeria due to its proximity to Abuja and many who can not afford the high cost of living in the Federal Capital, Suleja is a preferred residence while they pursue their livelihood in Abuja.
This situation had been responsible for the congested and ever-bubbling status of the town; that is until the Federal Government slapped a state of emergency on the town, no thanks to the spate of bombings that rocked the town. This, today with the heavy presence of security personnel all over, the town has lost its appeal while the residents are grumbling in pains.
For months now some government workers have not received their salaries while the people rush home before 6:00pm daily to avoid being caught on the other side of the curfew regulations or molested by soldiers. The business activities in the town have also been crippled.
In the mornings, people rush to utilise the little time ahead of them to earn their living while the many military check-points and bad roads make motorists sweat in pains just to pass through. At the check-points, old people and women - with pregnancies, loads and little children have to disembark from motorcycles to cover the long distance from there to town on foot.
Speaking with LEADERSHIP SUNDAY, Umaru Shuaibu, Niger State CPC chairman who is an indigene of Suleja, lamented the situation the residents have found themselves in, noting that it is due to no fault of theirs.
The CPC chairman admitted that like in every other part of the nation, there are security challenges, but the measures put in place to deal with the situation in Suleja are very wrong and inhuman, wondering why the Nigerian security Operatives would not do their intelligence work in Suleja without punishing the masses who are already suffering due to poverty and long neglect by the government.
“They claim that the security action in Suleja is to protect the Federal Capital but we all know that there were more bombings in Abuja than in Suleja, why is it that a state of emergency or curfew was not imposed on Abuja?” He asked.
Umar wondered why Suleja has to suffer this way, after forfeiting its land and name to the nation without any form of compensation but rather, the innocent people of Suleja get punishment in the name of security.
“Even before this security challenge, Suleja was totally neglected by the state and federal governments; the township roads are so bad that accidents on them have remained consistent. Even the goverment schools are congested and dilapidated, while health care centres and other social amenities are nothing to write home about.
There are no Federal Government establishments to even create job opportunities for the teeming populace. Can you imagine the entire Suleja Emirate Council can not boast of a single tertiary institution? Yet they are saying Suleja breeds criminals whereas we all know that these criminals or are neither residents nor resident in Suleja. We, the Suleja people are peace, loving people”, he declared.
The Chairman added that but for the Law abiding nature of the indigenes and their hospitality toward every Nigerian, they would not be living peacefully with so many people with different cultural and religious backgrounds, pointing out that the people would have revolted long ago over the gross injustice being meted out to them.
He advised the Government to do something urgently about the Suleja situation to avoid pushing the people to the wall, pointing out that any government that comes to power with the people’s votes would not treat the same people this way.
A member representing Suleja-Tafa-Gurara Constituency in the Federal House, Hon. Mukhtar Ahmed said the government imposed the State of emergency on Suleja along with other trouble- spot-local Governments to safeguard lives and properties of the people pointing out that the security challenge in Suleja necessitated the curfew.
The member said the security agencies are working underground and it is not easy to come out with the details of why the position taken by the government is necessary because of the security implications.
On workers’ salary, Mukhtar said he and the Local Government Chairman met with the State Governor, Dr. Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu and worked out modalities on how to clear the issue of salary arrears, explaining that Suleja is not the only Local Government that is faced with the problem of salary payment, rather, the whole 15 Local Governments that the state of emegency were declared in, because the Federal Government is holding on to their funds.
Another Indigene of Suleja who is a lawyer, Bala Tanko Maigaskiya blamed those representing Suleja at the State and National Assemblies for allowing the imposition of State of emergency and curfew in Suleja explaining that it is totally illegal for the President to take this step against the town.
The lawyer who referred to section 305 of the Amended Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, explained that the criteria of state of emegency were not met in Suleja, wondering why the people’s representatives are keeping mute over this issue.
“They don’t care as long as their positions are secured. They are so bent proving their loyalty at the expense of their people’s freedom”, Bala said in reference to the elected members at all levels.
Abdulkadir Musa also an indigene of Suleja said, curfew is a left-over of the military hangover and an obnoxious law which should not be experienced in a democracy. He called on all well-meaning Nigerians to join hands in condemning it so as to avoid the military from encroaching the constitution.
A businessman in IBB market and resident of Suleja, Alhaji Abubakar Mailace said he has been living in Suleja for almost 10 years now and has never come across people who are so accommodating and peaceful like the Suleja indigenes who would readily sell their land cheaply to anyone and offer their children for marriage to the settlers without much stress.
He said he came to Suleja with nothing but now he has built his house and even married from there because of the many opportunities available for everyone, explaining that most people working in Abuja live in Suleja and those staying in the fct prefer to come to Suleja to make their purchases of goods and services.
He lamented that with the curfew, he hardly sells much and he watches how traders and other business people are leaving town in droves on daily bases. “My sympathy goes to the indigenes who have nowhere to run to. I am also surprised at how Suleja is being treated. I hail from Katsina State but the level of development there can not be compared to this place despite its closeness to Abuja”.
He called on the government to at least relax the curfew so as to alleviate the suffering of the people living in Suleja.