• As Abuja scavengers feast on demolished structures
From Adanna Nnamani, Abuja
Property owners, especially illegal developers and their tenants in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) are suffering a different kind of predation. They are tied together by a common predicament. Their losses are deep and twofolds. They lose the building and the contents therein.
As the bulldozers rip through illegal structures, criminals swoop on the rubble like a wake of vultures, stealing everything in sight. From iron railings, steel rods to metal beams, planks, broken tiles, nails and nuts. Nothing is spared.
The owners stand no chance of picking or salvaging anything that could be reused. Residents blame security agencies supervising the demolition for not warding off the criminals who have a field day, stealing anything and everything they lay their hands on.
However, FCT Administration (FCTA) officials told Daily Sun that no amount of emotional blackmail would dissuade them from carrying out official assignments as the battle to retrieve Abuja from the clutches of illegal developers and slum creators, was real and relentless.
They explained that all buildings marked for demolition received sufficient notices to allow owners and occupants move whatever they wanted from the building before it went down.
“When we see that the building or buildings were illegally developed, we mark them for demolition. When you see the red mark on your building, you know that something is wrong somewhere.
“You can come for clarification and reconciliation if you think it was unjustly marked. We also serve notices before the eventual demolition.
“This is to allow you to evacuate everything you need from the building. If you can move the entire building to an appropriate location, the better for us. It will save us the cost of using bulldozers to clear the entire place.
“Once we inform you about the demolition and you don’t budge, it is assumed you don’t need anything from the place. So, we move in to do our job as prescribed by law. There are no sentiments attached. It’s the law”, a source at FCTA not authorised to speak said.
But residents picked holes in FCTA defence.
They insist that sufficient notices are not given in all circumstances.
Some said they were taken unawares and never had any information about an impending demolition.
Some others explained that though their houses were marked, they did not know the precise day of the tearing down and were away when the bulldozers came calling; as such, they could not salvage anything from the building.
***Anne Frank rented a shop in the Jahi, Abuja. She was away in Rivers State when her shop and others were levelled. She got a call from her friends in the market that a rampaging bulldozer and a team of armed security personnel were sighted afar off:
“They didn’t know the task force was coming for our shops. We were told that documentation about our shops was being sorted and that they would be insulated from demolition. The shops had been marked for demolition quite alright. But we were told it was about documentation that was being addressed at the right quarters.
“It had been marked for a long time. We thought we were safe this time around. But it was all a lie. I learnt it took just a few minutes for the bulldozer to bring everything down.”
That is not Frank’s only nightmare. The entire place was swept clean by scavengers in no time: “They looted everything. Nothing was left. All the kitchen wares for sale were carted away. They even took my rags I used to dust my wares.
This is just to let you know the extent of invasion and looting. I was informed that there was no room to take a pin away because everything happened so fast. It was as if the miscreants were placed on alert. They swooped on the rubble even before the bulldozer’s ripper was lowered.”
Mathew Victoria’s house was destroyed in Bassa, Airport Road: “Mine was a small shop. I was in town when I heard that the bulldozers were on rampage. I raced back home but before I got there, everything was gone. The scavengers wrote their signature on my property. The only thing left was sand.
“I built that shop by myself. If I knew the bulldozers were coming, I could have gently dismantled the building so that I could reuse the materials elsewhere.
“But now, nothing was spared. Not even nails and nuts. Criminals moved in like they owned the property. This is wickedness of the highest level. I doubt if I can ever be healed.”
John Omekannaya, a trader in Dei-dei: “We were told our houses were marked safe. But I told them that red marking signifies danger but no one listened to me.
They came to demolish the buildings. It’s like the criminal scavengers are always informed ahead of them. They are always around to sweep the area clean. They took everything. I mean everything.
“The police won’t even touch them. I mean, it’s that serious. It’s sad. We lost everything. No compensation. No room to salve anything. It’s a total loss. I’m having sleepless nights.”