WHATEVER hopes Festus Adebayo and others had nursed that the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Senator Bala Mohammed’s declaration would be true, have come crashing.
The Minister had declared at a Town Hall Meeting that demolition of illegal structures in Abuja would be done with minimal hardship to residents.
As it turned out, the opposite happened: not long after, on Saturday, September 29 and Sunday, September 30, 2012, bulldozers from the FCT Administration Department of Development Control rumbled into Minanuel Estate, Gosa and Lugbe 1 Extension, along Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Road and demolished 500 houses estimated at N3 billion.
Since then, protests against the demolition have persisted, culminating in last Thursday’s at the National Assembly by a group, Subscribers Union, which includes members of the Association of Property Agents of Nigeria (APAN) and Real Estate Developers Association of Nigeria (REDAN).
Chanting songs and with placards held aloft, they called on the National Assembly to make FCTA refund them the money they paid to the estate developers.
They also called on President Goodluck Jonathan to immediately remove the FCT Minister, Senator Bala Mohammed and the Director of Development Control, Yahaya Yusuf.
Spokesperson for the union, Adebayo,who said they had invested huge sums of money to own houses in the estate, only for their hopes to be dashed by agents of the FCT, expressed dismay that weeks after the demolition, the matter has not merited any mention in any of the chambers of the National Assembly.
“ I paid N3.5million and was at the verge of owning a house when they told us the estate had been demolished on the excuse that the National Assembly members wanted to use the land.
“The project was started eight years ago and the FCT authorities did not establish any illegality until now.
“We have our valid and certified papers from a firm, NCR Nigeria Limited, who got approval from Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) in 2004.
“We are demanding compensation for our houses. We have lost money, some of which are our hard-earned savings. We also have the right to own homes like members of the National Assembly.
National President, Association of Property Agents of Nigeria (APAN), Chile King, condemning the demolition, said “It is just a case of man’s inhumanity to man.”
A protester, Chukwuma Ogbuagu wondered why the FCTA Development Control failed to approach the housing tribunal before it carried out the demolition.
Said he: “FCT did not show interest in the first instance but now we hear that the land has been given to the legislators.”
On its part, REDAN expressed outrage over the demolition, calling on all developers within the FCT to stop further housing development within the territory.
Describing it as “a huge economic loss, especially in a country faced with over 16 million housing deficit”, FCT Chairperson of REDAN, Mrs. Binta Ibrahim said “this is a setback to the transformation agenda of the present administration and no country can achieve economic stability with such wastage.”
An eyewitness told The Guardian that two days before, top FCT officials and some Federal legislators visited the site.
She said: “It appeared they came to inspect the project, but the next thing we saw on Saturday were bulldozers and caterpillars.”
There have been different reports on the reason behind the demolition.
While one said the land belonged to the House of Representatives members, another claimed a Senator had acquired the land before it was sold illegally to the developer.
Whichever is the case, the houses are gone, leaving behind heaps of rubble and anguish for subscribers, contractors, suppliers and developers.
But the Public Relations Officer, FCT Department of Development Control, Josie Mudasiru said the exercise was carried out because of the recalcitrant attitude of the estate developers, who continued to build with backdated allocation letters from the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) and ignored all ‘Stop Work and Quit Site’ notices served by the Department.
She said: “It was the failure of the estate developers to heed the advertorials that prompted the Department to commence removal of such illegal structures.
“This exercise affected other estates belonging to Nigerian Prison Services, Nigerian security and Civil Defense Corps and Liberty estate. Also removed from the buffer zone along the Outer Southern Expressway [OSEX] were 140 illegal structures.
Mudashiru told The Guardian that Minanuel and the other estates demolished by the authorities had no approval whatsoever.
She has a word of advice for prospective housing subscribers: “It is true that the issue of housing is not for government alone and that is why government has invited the private sector.
“So, if the members of the public will just take a little bit of time to verify before renting or buying a house from these people, it will help”, she said.
Author of this article: From Terhemba Daka, Florence Lawrence and Nkechi Onyedika, Abuja