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Where do we start from? Homeowners weep, agonize as FCTA demolishes ‘unapproved’ buildings in Gishiri

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By Ajuma Edwina Ameh and Samuel Akpan

It was an admixture of tears, anger, sorrow, and frustration for residents of Gishiri suburb under the Katampe District of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), on May 17 and 18, as over 100 buildings were pulled down by bulldozers belonging to the FCT Administration (FCTA).

The residents could barely do anything but watch helplessly in tears as security personnel numbering over 50 in police and army uniforms surrounded their houses and shops, while the houses were brought to the ground by bulldozers.

 

Victims Lament

“Where do we go, where do we start from? We don’t even have hope, this is sheer wickedness,” were the words of 20-year-old Joy Isaiah, whose family house was among the demolished buildings.

Miss Joy wept uncontrollably as she narrated her ordeal to , who visited the suburb for an on-the-spot assessment.

“These people have no conscience. After they asked us to contribute money so our houses won’t be demolished, and each house in this area contributed N15,000 each for them, they still went ahead to demolish our houses.

“Now everybody is homeless, scavengers are coming to steal our properties, some of them are coming with knives to snatch our phones.

“They are stabbing people and collecting their phones and other properties, while the police are just there watching without doing anything. Even when we reported to the police, they did not do anything,” she said.

A landlady, Adah Edna, who also spoke with Persecondnews, said they were given very short notices of about two days before the demolition exercise, adding that some of them were not allowed to take out all their belongings before the exercise.

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“I am a landlady with two blocks of self-contained, a one-bedroom flat and my shop. On Monday, they just came and marked some places for demolition. When we asked them, they said they want to construct road and the houses being marked are on the road.

“All of a sudden, they just came yesterday and today and started demolishing everywhere. Now both my shop and my house are all gone. It’s just my clothes I have left.

“Some of my properties I managed to carry before they got to my area, were all stolen by scavengers. They stole them and ran away. I have lost everything, I don’t know where to go.

“How can they give us notice on Monday and come on Wednesday to demolish?” Edna lamented.

Also speaking, another resident who gave his name as Adeshina, said: “I am a family man. This is my third year here; I came here 2020, this is the first demolition I am witnessing.

“The notice they gave us is very short; just two days. If we can get any help from government we will be happy. We shouldn’t be stranded like this.”

The demolition without compensation to the affected persons has worsened hardship in the area as many residents are now being displaced.

Persecondnews gathered that most of the residents are now seeking shelter at an uncompleted building in the area which belongs to the Living Faith Church.

Scavengers gaining from victims’ misfortune

While It was a moment of anguish and lamentation for Gishiri residents, scavengers popularly known as “babanbola” were seen by Persecondnews walking freely with bundles of zinc roofing sheets, metals and others recovered from the demolished sites on their heads.

Some residents, however, mustered courage to engage the scavengers in a fight to salvage their properties from them.

The presence of security operatives at the demolition site did not scare the scavengers, who were seen snatching different items from their lawful owners, who were obviously overwhelmed by the pains of the demolition.

However, luck ran out on two of the scavengers who were caught stealing. They were beaten to a pulp and almost lynched by the angry residents but for the security operatives who came to their rescue by whisking them away.

 

FCTA Reacts

Although the FCTA have acknowledged that the structures were marked in March, April, and early May of 2023 for demolition, residents of Gishiri feigned ignorance of the several notices.

Addressing newsmen before the demolition exercise on Wednesday, the Senior Special Assistant to the FCT Minister on Monitoring, Inspection, and Enforcement, Mr Ikharo Attah, said the demolition was necessary to reclaim the area for infrastructural development.

According to Attah, some of the unauthorized structures in the area were hideouts for drug dealers and suspected criminals who terrorize high-brow Maitama and Asokoro Districts.

He added that the residents took advantage of the proximity of the area to the city capital and flouted the Abuja master plan rules, turning the area into a haven for crime.

“This area is a water pipeline corridor coming from lower Usman Dam to various tanks in town. Some of the buildings are on flood plain, this demolition is the mother of all demolition because it contains everything.

“Any land that is not approved by development control is illegal, and therefore will be removed,” he said.

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