Wasteful as bulldozers crush 376 buildings in FCT
From IKENNA EMEWU, Abuja
You will only be frankly shocked to see the ruin visited on 376 houses almost ready for habitation by the Federal Capital Territory administration on the road to the airport in Abuja. The scene reminds of an earthquake or Tsunami site. But none of these tragic natural omens came on Gouza or the Lugbe 1 Extension estates of Abuja.
It was human disaster instigated by the FCT administration, specifically the office of the Development Control. Their bulldozers after two days left all the beautiful structures mangled, flattened and terribly ruined. Many questions come to mind on getting to the site, why the FCT administration would not have seized these structures as punishment if they were constructed in error. While the owners, who are essentially middle class workers, who saved to have homes lament their losses, the trading of blames is already on as regards the motive of this shocking act.
The developers of the estate, Minanuel Niger Limited, alleges that the act was out of ill will because the space of land was allegedly given to members of the National Assembly and, therefore, the FCT Minister, Senator Bala Mohammed, wants to impress the lawmakers and had to do the unthinkable of destroying the houses already completed. But the FCT says no to the claims and insists that the estate was developed without permission and must be grounded.
The Director of the FCT Development Control could not be reached for reaction but the PRO was on hand to explain that the developers didn’t get approval to build the estate. Mrs. Mudasiru Josie, the public relations person that Spoke to Daily Sun said: “We destroyed illegal structures erected by the builders, who didn’t obtain any approval from the FCDA.
The Development Control had marked the buildings when they were at the foundation level and we told them to stop work. We even placed advertorials in three newspapers in June 2011, asking them to come for proper approval. Because they knew what they were doing was wrong, they refused to come.” But what the FCT would not satisfactorily explain is why they waited until the buildings were fully completed before remembering the action to take.
On the allegation that the action was taken in connivance with the National Assembly or to impress them, the Senate Committee Chairman on FCT, Senator Smart Adeyemi, has a different position. In a phone chat, he told Daily Sun his side of the story and assured that the joint NASS committees would conduct public hearing on the matter and let the people know the true position of things and who is saying the truth between the developers and the FCT government.
Adeyemi said he was aware of the matter and made efforts to make sure the demolition didn’t take place. “It was a joint committee of the National Assembly that visited the site on our official tour of the FCT, concerning illegal structures. The FCT administration told us that the estate in question was not in the design. They said the entire area was meant to be a mega town that would have, at least, 3,000 plots for such number of houses. They also alleged that their efforts to stop development before the construction got to the stage it was demolished was resisted.
They even showed us pictures of people in military uniform guarding premises they said was the estate and that soldiers stopped them from carrying out the demolition at the early stage. “But not minding all they said, we still prevailed on them not to demolish anything until we must have heard the parties. “I want to put it on record that even during the Mpape demolition, we prevailed on the FCT not to do that until they found an alternative place for the persons to be affected. So, if we never wanted to stop the demolition, we would not have visited the site.
These people are Nigerians and we don’t gain anything to have them hurt this way. There is no economic profit in demolishing those houses and that is why we told the FCT to hold on until we must have heard all parties. “What I can’t understand is why the FCT was in a haste and could not wait for us to be through with the hearing before they embarked on the demolition.
We would need them to explain that to us when next we meet. I know the National Assembly is going to be busy now but we will make out time and conduct a public hearing where we will invite the media and the whole nation will watch it live. “The best assurance we can give the affected persons is that if we later find out that FCT demolished houses legally approved on lands legally occupied, there are no two ways about it, they are definitely going to pay the price.
I know they have the rights to demolish if they wish to but if the affected places are legal, they also have the obligation to compensate. But I say it again that I am surprised that the FCT could not wait for us before demolition, the hurry is what I can’t explain, and that is what we would want to know. Even as I left Abuja on Thursday, on my way out, I stopped over at the place to see the extent of damage beyond what I saw on television.
But what I would warn the affected persons not to do is making allusions that the NASS members were allocated the place and the reason for the demolition is to make sure the members get the land. The FCT has over 3, 000 plots there, stretching towards the airport. So, how many are the NASS members to take the whole place. If we do not get a particular place, there is still enough land around there.
So, why must we insist on having the place already built up by ordinary Nigerians we represent.” He assured that the demolition was not in alliance with the NASS because if they wanted the place demolished, there was no need going there for mediation. Stakeholders, who were at the scene of the demolition, said the land was legally acquired in 2004 and development on site started in 2010 and FCT was aware.
“They endorsed and approved the buildings. Instead of demolition, why didn’t FCT go to the housing tribunal to cease the estate if it was not developed lawfully?” they asked. Meanwhile, this is after the Senate had assured if the developer produced evidence of legal acquisition of the land, adequate compensation should be paid by FCT.
After the sensitisation at the demolition site the following day, the house owners stormed the premises of the National Assembly and because they were barred from entry, they staged their protest at the gate of the NASS. The victims seem to be getting the sympathy of rights activists as they said Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), who visited the demolished site said it was only in war situation one could see such a carnage.