Lugbe, besides Nyanya, is turning out to be the Federal Capital Territory’s most popular and populated settlement. Marked by squalor and challenged by the need for sanitation, the settlement has survived episodes of demolition. In this report, CHIKA OKEKE writes that though the threat of demolition hangs over the settlement like the proverbial ‘sword of Dermocles’, the residents think that they have a reason to ‘stay put’ or adequately relocated, if the area is to go under the bulldozers . . .
Last year, about 500 residents of Lugbe; men, women, children and youths staged a protest march to the office of the FCT minister, Senator Bala Mohammed. Their demand was clear-cut: withdraw the decision to demolish the settlement.
The protesting residents under the auspices of the Movement for the Actualisation of Lugbe Model Satellite Town, carried placards with inscriptions which read, "Two million Nigerians to be homeless in Lugbe", "Who sold Lugbe?", "Touch not Lugbe and do the residents no harm", "I was born in Lugbe", "Abuja master plan must not enslave Nigerians", "We paid N21, 000 in 2006 to FCDA and they are demolishing our houses".
The chairman of the movement, Mr. Abdullahi Baba Arah, said their mission was to inform the minister of their plight and plead with him to stop further demolition of the settlement. He insisted that the residents had an understanding with past administrations of the FCT on the re-integration of Lugbe into the Abuja Master Plan.
"We had a very good understanding with the FCT administration for two years, but all of a sudden things now began to change which resulted to the demolition of our houses on June 29, 2010. That is why we came to plead with him to stop the demolition, so that we can present our documents and things can be done in accord.
"The agreement was reached in 2006 when our houses were enumerated and we were given numbers. There and then, we were given forms. They asked us to pay N21, 000. At a point they asked us to stop, because there was no place to relocate us. We did stop. When Aliyu Modibbo Umar, was the minister, we sought his audience and he said that the issue of demolition would not even arise. He promised to look into the possibility of redesigning and integrating the village into a model satellite town. That is what we came for."
According to him, most of the residents, having spent more than 20 years in the area, were entitled to remain in the town, based on provisions in the Nigerian Constitution, which clearly states that in a case as this, an individual is entitled to the right of occupancy.
It would be recalled that in 2009, about 500 houses were demolished at the Zone 8 area of Lugbe by the Department of Development Control of the FCTa.
The demolition exercise was carried out following the dismissal of the case filed by the Association of Lugbe Residents in a High Court for ‘lack of merit’.
Meanwhile, the association had, since the demolition of the zone, appealed the judgment, and the court issued an order restraining the development control Department from carrying out further demolitions in the area, pending the final determination of the case by a court of law.
Lugbe village is one of the densely populated settlements within the Federal Capital Territory. Located along the Umar Yar’ Adua way, popularly called the "Airport road", the community has over 100, 000 people and is mainly dominated by the Gbagyis, the true natives of the FCT, though there are a host of other tribes who live there as well.
One prominent feature of the area is the criss-cross pattern in which the buildings were constructed.
A visitor to the village will notice that the population concentration in some axis raises the question of the availability of fresh air for the inhabitants.
A majority of the buildings were built with mud bricks and a few others with cement blocks, but more worrisome is the fact that some of them are without toilet facilities, especially in Tudun Wada and the areas christened as zones (one to nine), as the residents defecate in bushes and open places.The environment stinks as a result.
Besides its dense population and other accompanying challenges faced by residents, one baffling thing is the rationing of power supply. The village enjoys an unexpected amount of power supply in the village which the high brow areas (like the Federal Housing Authority Estate and the CBN area)do not enjoy. Bars, hair dressing saloons, petty trading, hawking, and tailoring, among others, experience a visible boom. Miscreants and thugs also have a ‘nice time’ peedling hemp and other illegal drugs. Buildings marked "X. Contact Development Control". This sign is ominous. The structure can come under the hammer whenever the department deems fit to do so.
The settlers had a variety of reasons for living in this area,ranging from the witty, the sarcastic and the downright pathetic. Some informed LEADERSHIP SUNDAY that they would be glad if the FCTA made moves to re-integrate the community into the Abuja master plan.
a retired civil servant and farmer, Mr. Suleiman Madaki, said, "there is no better place for the poor to live in Abuja, except this community. The area is not too conducive,but the cost of renting a house or shop is relatively low compared to those of other estates. In Lugbe, a room self contain goes for about N80, 000 while a bedroom costs N150, 000. A 2-bedroom goes for N200, 000.
"I can tell you that there is steady power supply here."
He blamed the administration for not re-integrating the area into the FCT master-plan and called on them to relocate the residents to another area if they insist on carrying out the demolition exercise. The father of five, who is in his early 60s, quickly added that it had become a hide-out for prostitutes.
A petty-trader, Mrs. Patience Uke, had a different worry.
"The roads are badly damaged, especially during this raining season. One cannot imagine walking the muddy pathways down to the major road everyday to board a bus to the city. It is terrible and sympathetic but there is nothing I can do. I am a petty-trader whose means of survival is dependent on a lot of things."
She lamented that her source of livelihood had made relocating to a better place impossible, for now.
"My husband is dead and I have four children. Nobody is assisting me with their feeding and school fees, so that was why I chose to live in Lugbe.
Is she enjoying the area? "to be honest, there is nothing here for people to enjoy. Though the FCTA built a health centre in the community, we don’t have good roads and most people depend on boreholes for water to use each day. I am using this medium to remind the FCT administration that they should not demolish this place without providing us an alternative settlement".
a businesswoman, Mrs. Susan Iniobong’s reasons agreed with those of Madaki. According to her, no one on earth hates a good thing, as without money people cannot survive, and it will be dangerous for them to live above their incomes.
"My sister, I live in Lugbe, because of money. If I have enough money don’t you think that I would live in the city? The most annoying thing about this community is the fact that the FCTA has failed to keep to our earlier agreement.
"Initially, they asked us to pay N21, 000 so that our houses would not be demolished. Surprisingly, everything changed and they even denied collecting the money from us. We still have a case with them in court. Our greatest fear is that the government might change its mind anytime and order that the houses be demolished. I am making a passionate appeal to our father, President Jonathan to look into the matter and treat us like human beings."
Another civil servant who spoke on condition of anonymity said, "It is very painful to spend above 65 per cent of my annual earnings on house rent, when I have to send my children to school and take care of their basic needs. The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has given every individual the right to own property. Such a right should not be discarded. How can Nigeria be good when those at the helm of affairs have refused to change their attitude towards the poor? They believe that they are ‘sacred cattle’ and every statement made by them should be respected. I am also using this medium to call on the authorities to relocate us to another settlement before carrying out their demolition. If they fail to do that, thousands of residents will be rendered homeless.
Earlier this year, while reviewing the activities of the Development Control Department and the Abuja Metropolitan Management Agency (AMMC) of FCTA, FCT minister, Senator Bala Mohammed, said that over 120 illegal structures were demolished in the territory between December 7, 2010 and January 26, 2011 to keep up with the Abuja master plan.
Mohammed noted that some illegal structures were pulled down in Lugbe, Kubwa, Wuye, Mabushi village, Mbora and Wumba, due to developments contrary to approved land use. He further said that the FCT Development Control had pulled down all structures on Plot 1290, Garki District, developed for the informal sector market by the Abuja Market Management Limited without building plan approval, and insisted that there are no ‘sacred cattle’ in his administration.
According to him, since Abuja represents Nigeria, it would be wise to jealously guard its development plan to minimise ‘abuses’. The FCTA has a duty to ensure the ‘sanctity’ of the Abuja master plan and should not fold its arms and watch the "illegality and violation" go on. The demolition exercise is on-going and would continue until the entire 250 square kilometers of the Federal Capital City, Abuja is rid of all "illegal structures", because the world sees Nigeria through Abuja.
When Leadership Sunday visited the office of the Development Control Department, Abuja Metropolitan Management Council (AMMC) of the FCTA, the deputy director, monitoring and enforcement, Mr. Tukur Bakori, said no officials collected money to stall the demolition.
"There is no way an official of development control would collect money to stall a demolition exercise. Who will collect N100, 000 to do that? Me? The operator who was directed to carry out the demolition? Development control does not allocate land. We don’t stop anybody from building, as long as they have the genuine document and approved building plans.
"Residents of Lugbe went to court, because they want to be integrated as indigenous settlers which they are not. The court has warned them to vacate the area and we are still waiting for the final judgment. After the judgment, whatever the court decides is what we will do. I know the judgment will be in our favour, but if it is against us, we have the right to appeal the case."
The point remains that unless the FCTA makes a provision for affordable housing, slums and shanties would be on the increase within the FCT and achieving the master plan would be a Herculean task.