Mama Emmanuel, a middle aged woman from the South East who sells food items at the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) Farm Market, Lugbe, in the nation’s capital, makes tremendous sales in the evening, when residents of the area return from work.
The heavy traffic there makes the market boom, as many motorists would even make purchases in their slow-moving vehicles while others park to pick what they need. That was the case when Daily Sun visited the place around 7pm last Friday; Mama Emmanuel’s table was besieged by many customers requesting for one item or the other.
Beside her were a suya seller and some other men and women who sell yam tubers, chicken, fresh fish, tomatoes and many other food items under the high tension lines there.
It never occurred to any of the traders that they were sitting on a time bomb; to them, the important thing was that business was ‘moving.’
Nevertheless, the set-up was a disaster waiting to happen such that the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) has taken note and vowed to act accordingly to forestall a catastrophe.
The authorities recently disclosed that 750 illegal shanties have been marked for demolition, including the FHA Farm Market in the Lugbe District, in continuation of efforts at restoring the FCT Master Plan.
Coordinator, Abuja Metropolitan Management Council (AMMC), Shuaibu Umar, who made this known in a media chat last Wednesday, also revealed that more structures that breached the permitted 30 metres proximity to high tension lines as well as those that stood in the way of the Transmission Company of Nigeria’s work on a new transmission station would be removed.
He said: “Abuja is planned to be a clean city, where every parcel of land is designated for a particular use. Thus, the issue of illegal squatter settlements should never arise. This has become a major challenge for us and that is why we are on our toes to ensure that such structures are pulled down.
“In continuation of the sanitisation of the Federal Capital City, the AMMC visited Lugbe and found out that no fewer than 750 illegal shanties were built directly under the high tension cables in Tudun Wada-Peace Village, Lugbe, Abuja. All such structures under the electricity facility will be removed.”
Umar also noted that, “The FHA Farm Market and other structures are to be removed to pave way for the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) to start work on a transmission station.”
He hinted that the M&D Global Estate in Kukwaba, built under the TCN high tension line connecting the 2x 60MVA, 132/33kv transmission sub-station, would soon be removed after due diligence.
He reiterated that the FCTA’s dream of making Abuja a smart city was attainable; but it would require attitudinal change by residents of the FCT.
A visit to Tudun Wada-Peace Village at the weekend showed that it was one of Abuja’s dirtiest slum settlements, unfit for human habitation. No building in the whole settlement was immune from dust; while garbage littered every space.
Residents who spoke to our correspondent confirmed they were aware of the impending demolition. James Umoru, whose dry-cleaning shop at Peace Village was under the high tension lines, said he had been informed but “we don’t know when they will come.”
At Tudun Wada, sellers of a local brew called burukutu and other alcoholic drinks in a very filthy part of the village expressed worry that government would want to dislodge them and “kill” their means of livelihood.
We are tired of government bulldozers
Meanwhile, the Association of Abuja Block Producers (AABP) has cried out that its members were fed up with the incessant destruction of their blocks and cement by the agents of the FCTA.
Chairman of AABP, Emmanuel Ukaegbu, in a statement jointly signed with the secretary, Sebastine Eze, and ex-officio, Mallam Shehu Mohammed, regretted that efforts to reach the FCT Minister, Muhammad Bello, to come to their aid by giving them a permanent site had been fruitless.
Therefore, they pleaded with the chairman of Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote, to use his good office as chairman, board of trustees, Cement Institute of Technology of Nigeria, to prevail on concerned authorities to approve their request for a permanent location.
“Our members have witnessed series of destruction of our blocks and cement by members of Abuja Environment Protection Board (AEPB), and the ministerial joint task force (MJTF).
“We have written series of letters to the honourable minister and the Abuja Metropolitan Management Council, but this has not yielded positive result. We were informed through the office of the director, Department of Urban Regional Planning that Abuja Metropolitan Management Council has been directed to consider our request.
“Our members cannot access fund meant for small and medium-scale industries due to the fact that we are not in a permanent place and cannot guarantee repayment of loan, if approved to members; hence, this has affected our business.
“We have created employment for the teeming population of Nigerian youths and have added to the national GDP.”
The managing director, National Electrical Management Services (NEMSA), Peter Enwesor, in April last year, ordered all transmission and distribution companies to immediately disconnect all buildings erected around high-tension power lines in the country.
According to him, this was to ensure that communities were safe from incidents that might lead to a repeat of the Calabar tragedy, where some football lovers in Nyaghassang community in Calabar Municipality, Cross River State, were electrocuted when a high-tension cable fell on a viewing centre during the Europa League quarter-final match between Manchester United and Anderlecht football clubs.
Following the viewing centre electrical accident, NEMSA and the National Orientation Agency set up a joint committee to enlighten Nigerians on the dangers of building houses near power lines.
By and large, unlike the bulldozers that rolled in Lugbe and left in their trail pain and agony during Malam Nasir el-Rufai’s days as FCT Minister, they will this time around move in to abort a looming disaster, if the authorities make good their threat.