There were tears on the faces of residents while gunshots rented the air on Thursday when the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) made true its earlier threat to demolish illegal structures at Down Jabi community in the heart of Abuja, the nation’s capital.
By Gbenga Omokhunu, Abuja
The FCTA had issued several warnings and demolition notices to shop owners and some residents of the illegal settlement to remove their belongings as the Administration intended to clear the area which is not only distorting the Abuja Master plan but also serving as save haven for criminals while indigenes would be resettled.
These warnings were however, said not to have been taken seriously by those operating businesses and living there even after their shops and houses were marked by the authorities about eight times.
But when bulldozers belonging to the FCTA Department of Development Control arrived and started pulling down the structures, the entire area was turned to tears and yellings by the owners who lamented that their means of livelihood destroyed while attempts to resist the exercise was quelled by security operatives who fired gunshots in the air to scare them.
Apart from shop and house owners, commercial sex workers also joined in the lamentations as no fewer than four brothels were equally demolished during the exercise.
Some of those who properties were affected told journalists that they were not given enough notice before the demolition, describing it as height of insensitivity on the part of government.
A man who simply identified himself as Joseph Ola said: “We are all Nigerians what they are doing is not good. They don’t give us notice, they demolished our houses, and I don’t know why our political leaders are not here.”
A food seller who refused to mention her name said: “They told us that they will come but nobody believed, it was Wednesday they supposed to come but we did not see them, even yesterday I cooked very well, but today I don’t cook well”.
Addressing journalists, Director of Development Control in the FCTA, Mucktar Galadinma said the Administration had carried out adequate sensitization meetings with the villagers and marked the structures long time before the exercise.
“My advice is that they should not build any commercial structure along this corridor because this is supposed to be an indigenous community but the proliferation of these commercial activities are attracting men of the underworld and even making the environment dirty,” he noted.
Also speaking, FCTA Director of Security, Adamu Gwary said the proliferation of shanties in the community made it a save haven for criminals and the FCT Administration will definitely not condone that, hence the demolition.
Gwary explained that: “This notice is timely, it would have been done during the first term of Muhammad Bello (FCT Minister) but due to so many considerations we stepped some of these things down but something has to be done and this is in the interest of the general public”.
On his part, Chairman of FCT Task Team on City Sanitation, Ikharo Attah stated that most of the shops that were turning the place to an eyesore and some brothels were removed at the instance of the original inhabitants of the FCT whose buildings were not touched.
Attah said: “If you go around the buildings some places have been marked for about 8 times and the people believe that the government is not serious because when empathy is brought to the fore and pity is icing the cake of enforcement people think that the government is not serious. The Department of Development Control has come here severally to issue warnings.”