•Police chief says it’s not just about poverty
By NDIDIAMAKA ORJI
That shelter is one of the basic needs of man is for the storybooks. Come to Abuja and the entire FCT, you will see otherwise. The trend of urbanisation in Nigeria and the mad rush to live in the city have reduced many to lesser mortals to whom shelter is no longer a necessity.
In Abuja, like in many other cities of the country, increasing number of the poor lack access to any form of shelter over their heads and they don’t seem to give a hoot about it. The proliferation of shanty dwelling, squatter settlements and slums has become a second nature of the city of Abuja and the entire FCT.
Worse still is the fact that some of these urban poor seek refuge on underneath building. At so many parts of the city, it is commonplace to see residents take shelter under the bridge, in stationery cars, shops frontage and in dilapidated buildings.
Some of the hotbeds of such below-the-level ‘homes’ are common in Nyanya, Karu, Mabushi, etc. One of these homeless in Nyanya, Ibrahim Ali who spoke in Hausa said he came to the FCT from Katsina State. He has been sleeping underneath bridges for about six months. Ibrahim trained as bricklayer and came to Abuja in search of better life while his wife and children are in his hometown.
He said he never came to Abuja with intention to live under the bridge, but poor finances forced him into the predicament. Ibrahim admits that where he found himself is not by choice and, of course, nobody chooses to live that way but he has to adapt to this situation where he found himself.
He said at night, they wear as much as five clothes to beat cold and mosquitoes. Mohammed Musa from Nasarawa State told Abuja Metro he has been sleeping in a stationery car for two months and depends on one of his townsmen for daily meal, as he has not got anything to do for a living yet. “I have been sleeping in this car for the past two months that I came. I take my bathe in a nearby river and depend on one of my townsmen for feeding because I have not got anything to do.”
He dreams to further his education as he dropped out of school as a result of financial problem. Yusuf Adamu from Jos, one of the street men narrated that he finds shelter in an uncompleted building pending when it will be completed.
He does his okada riding in the day and comes back at night to sleep in the building. “I have been here for four months, I do my okada work in the day and at night, I come back here and sleep,” he said. Regarding taking his bathe, he said that is no problem as he does that once in a while. He admitted that it is not easy but he is optimistic that one day he would rent an apartment no matter how small. “It is not easy, but I am saving some money and hope that one day I will get a house no matter how small.”
It is a reality that shelter as well as environment influence a great deal, the behavioral pattern of an individual. Ignatius Ubaka, a trader who deals in ladies’ wears at the Nyanya market said that homelessness contributes immensely to increase in rate of crime.
According to him, some of these homeless that have nothing doing resort to stealing and picking pockets while their children take to alms begging and then become nuisance to the society. “Homelessness is contributing to increase in crime rate because some of the victims that have no job are the ones stealing and picking pockets while their children are busy begging.
The only environment they are used to is the street and that makes them behave wild.” The Divisional Police Officer (DPO), Nyanya, Aminu Aliyu confirmed that the homeless contribute to increase in crime rates saying it is not only in Nyanya but all parts of the city. “Generally, the homeless contributes to crime rate, there have been several cases of pick-pocketing by these people, even a recent robbery case we handled was by some of them.
I think the rationale for this act is basically their homelessness which they see as an advantage to commit all sorts of crimes because they cannot easily be located. They are not permanent in any place, they relocate whenever they commit any serious crime and suspect the police might be after them.” He said many of them particularly the criminals among them prefer to be homeless as it gives them the opportunity to execute their plan without trace.
Not every homelessness is attributed to poverty as they claim, some of them especially the criminals amongst them enjoy it and I tell you, they will prefer to remain homeless even if a house is offered to them for fear of being traced. They have their accomplices in other areas who are also like them. Those ones intentionally made themselves homeless”