The LEADERSHIP SUNDAY searchlight on various slums in the Federal Capital Territory,FCT this week is focused on Gosa village, located along the ever-busy Airport road, opposite the popular Gosa market. Oddly, unlike residents of other settlements earlier reported on, Gosa residents are not losing any sleep over the threat of demolition, by the FCT development control, hanging over the settlement, reports CHIKA OKEKE.
As far as slums are concerned, Gosa village, located along Abuja’s Airport Road, is no doubt, one of the busiest and most popular settlements in the area. This is because of the presence of the weelky Friday market, ‘Gosa market’, which is directly opposite the village. The place has become quite notable as a place where a huge number of people from all over the FCT and its environs come to buy foodstuffs at relatively low prices compared to what is obtainable in other markets across the FCT.
The central road that leads up to the village is quite untarred and branches off at the Local Education Authority (LEA) primary and Secondary School, Gosa, which is the only school in the community. Further along are ramshackle barber, meat and provision stores.
While touring the village, one will be quick to discover inscriptions such as GS 34, 78, 89 among others on some buildings.
Despite its classification as a slum, Gosa houses civil servants, traders and farmers alike.
Aborigins(Gbagyis, Gwandaras and Gedes) make up a larger segment of the populace and most of them are mainly farmers.
Dobu (guinea corn storage facility in the Gbagyi tongue) is also a common sight in the area, attesting to the fact that it is a true Gbagyi-dominated community.
When LEADERSHIP SUNDAY visited the enclave, it was noticed that most of the houses in the village were unpainted, portable water was not easy to come by, and borreholes came in handy, reaching the people through water vendors, fondly referred to mai ruwa, and others who thought it too costly were seen trying to fetch water from wells.
Just like other slums in Abuja, most houses in Gosa are in need of proper waste disposal facilities, as all they have for toilet and bathrooms are makeshift structures built to serve sanitary needs. These makeshift toilets, constructed few steps away from the houses give off a foul smell, combined with the stench from the nearby bushes where many opt to releive themselves.
There are a few baffling things about the village, one of which is it access to steady power supply, one good thing denied the city centres. Another is the rate at which new buildings are springing up in a village that has been constantly threatened with demolition. The third is the total absence of a medical facility, eeither that owned by the government or individuals.
A mother of four, Mrs. Anna Shekwolo, who is also a farmer and petty trader at the Gosa market was excited to meet this reporter. She was optimistic that the village will be upgraded by the FCT administration, and added that threats about demolition in the village are “Out of the matter.
“We have not heard any news about demolition and even if there are plans to do that, they will not touch houses belonging to indigenes.
“If you want to rent a house, go for the ones which belong to the indigenes, but I am not sure there is any house in this village, presently, which does not belong to indigenes, because the majority of the people living here are indigenes”.
On what conditions can one get a vacant room to rent within the village?
“Well,” she said, “there is no vacant house in my area, but the house at the other side has just been rented by somebody, though the individual is yet to pack in.
However, there are new buildings, all single rooms, towards the extreme portions of the village, and the rent is N3000 every month, but if you are new to the village, the landlord will have to collect a year’s rent. After the year expires, you will be asked to begin a monthly payment. Some considerate landlords might ask the tenants to pay N2,500 per month, instead of N3,000.
“This portion of Gosa,” she said, gesticulating with her hands, “Also enjoy steady light, but the other sides do not enjoy constant power supply, due to some electrical problems. If you go round the village, you will discover that there is light everywhere,” Shekwolo said.
“I have lived in this village with my family for six years. My little boy attends Gosa primary School while the bigger ones attend Gosa secondary, but we have not had any problem, so far,” another resident, Mrs. Joyce Oko, who owned a mini-provision shop said.
According to her,slum settlements are meant for the society’s underprivileged, though she admitted that she was trying to survive through petty trading.
“Life in this village has not been rosy, but I have been doing all I can to sustain my family. The good thing about this village is the steady power supply which has made it possible for me to freeze my drinks.
“This village is not too big and if you go round, you will discover that we do not have any hospital, so if anyone is sick, we either take the person to the general hospitals in Kuje or Gwagwalada.
Though she said, “We are still hoping that one day the government of the day will remember us and bring development to the village,” she expressed uncertainty over the fate of the village, as regards demolition.
“We are yet to get any new news on whether they will still demolish this village or not, but the fact remains that whatever decision the government wants to take concerning it, they should remember the poor in the society and build affordable houses to accommodate them.”
What do the residents of Gosa think about the lack of toilet facilities?
A mason in the village, Mustapha Umar, said, “I have lived in this village for more than four years but as a builder, I noticed that the landlords are not interested in painting their houses. I made inquiries concerning that and discovered that the FCT development control people may likely demolish this village. They believe that instead of building and painting a house that will still be demolished, they would be better off leaving the houses unpainted.
“That is also the reason why there are no good toilets here, because it is common for people living in the slums to defecate in open places. That does not mean that their actions are healthy; it is bad for human health.”
Why did he choose to live in a slum instead of within the city centre?
“I would even prefer living in a mansion, but I cannot afford to pay for a house in the city. Here, the room I live in costs N2,500 every month and no landlord in Abuja collects such an amount except the ones in the slums. I witnessed the last demolition in 2006 and it was horrible, but even if they want to demolish here, my house will not be affected, because it is owned by a Gbagyi man. That is why we are begging the government to come assist us,” he said.
“It is quite unfortunate that el-Rufai, and other senators elected by us have told us that ‘Abuja is not meant for the rich’, but I want to challenge them to prove it. The poor paid the taxes which the rich use in developing this city,” Kunle Gbadebo, a public servant added.
“I am new here, and before I can save money to pay for a comfortable house in Abuja, I will have to save for months. Everything is expensive in this city and our government seems not to care about the poor in the society. Do you expect the landlords to paint a house that will be demolished at anytime? It is really an eyesore for adults to bath in open places. I am only pleading with the minister of the FCT, Senator Bala Mohammed, to change our plight for the better, because many things are really going wrong in Abuja,” Gbadebo said.
When LEADERSHIP SUNDAY visited the palace of the Chief of Gosa, Sarki Emmanuel, the traditional was said to have “stepped out of the house and may return home late”. The wife was also out, as well.
The public relations officer, Development Control Department of Abuja Metropolitan Management Council (AMMC), Mrs Josie Mudashiru, told LEADERSHIP SUNDAY that the reason why some settlements still exists is because the houses were owned by natives.
“The reason we find them there is because they are Gbagyi settlements. I am sure you know that between 2004 and 2006, we sacked the squatter settlers in Piwoyi, Chika, Aleyita, Pyakassa and most of the villages along airport road. Since then, we have ensured that new developments do not come up. All we can do now is to ensure that they do not expand, until the Gbagyis have been resettled. When they move from there, there won`t be an excuse for anybody to remain there,” she said.