Residents of a community in a suburb of Abuja were left angry and picking up the pieces on Saturday after the Federal Capital Development Authority demolished their houses.
Officials of the FCDA stormed Apo NEPA in the early hours of the day and the bulldozers they commandeered quickly went to work pulling down buildings that had been deemed illegal.
By the time the bulldozers departed and the exercise, said to have been coordinated by the Chairman of the FCT Task Force on City Sanitation, Ikharo Attah, ended, residents said more than 100 houses had been demolished.
The exercise is said to have taken place months after the buildings were marked for demolition, according to officials who participated in the exercise. The community, whose residents are the original natives of the FCT, was reportedly on land meant for a road interchange and the residents had been asked to leave.
But the residents disagreed with the authorities and condemned the demolition, especially its timing with several of them telling Channels TV that some people were asleep when the crew arrived. They also said they were brutalised and tear-gassed.
Spokesman for the FCT natives, Yunusa Yusuf, insisted that the residents were not given adequate notice before the exercise was carried out.
According to him, the expected procedure is for the Department of Development Control of the FCDA to give a notice about the demolition.
“Nobody can say here that they came and gave a notice. There was no notice,” he told Channels Television. “Even if they say the people (in the community) settled here illegally, what notices did you give to them? How did you tell them that you were going to demolish their houses?”
Yusuf is also unhappy with the way the people were treated during the exercise.
“If you want to demolish houses, will the government now be the one tear-gassing people as if they are terrorists? How will you wake up by 4 am and by 4 am you have already taken over a community just because you want to access their houses?” he asked.
For Yusuf and many others in the community, the development increases the grievances of the natives of the FCT and exposes them to vices.
“This is the same government that has not been able to stop kidnapping, they have not been able to handle security, but, today, they can bring up to 300 security men to surround this community. It is very unfortunate. It is very unfortunate. This is not what we expect,” a visibly upset Yusuf lamented.
Officials said to be involved in the exercise could not be immediately reached for comments.
As residents went through the rubble of what was once their homes, several of them stopped to lament about what had happened. Their emotions ranged from anger, disappointment, sadness, and despair.
Some of the residents accused the security officials that came with the demolition crew of preventing them from getting their properties out before they pulled down their houses even though most of them were still asleep when they arrived.
“They can’t just come by 4 am just to demolish everywhere and chase us out. We don’t have access to pack our properties, we don’t have any means of surviving. Can the government live without the poor people?” a resident, who said he is a graduate of accounting but works as a dispatch rider because he couldn’t get a better job, lamented.
A woman backed his position, saying, “We were all sleeping in our houses before they brought caterpillars (bulldozers) with troops of mopols (mobile policemen), they started beating people – women, not even men. The women came out (and) were crying, they fired tear gas… They demolished everything.”
According to the woman, some people were still looking for their children at the time Channels TV visited the scene.
Continuing she said, “Without prior notice, you came at 4 am in the morning to demolish. Are we not Nigerians? Is this Nigeria not our country? After the lockdown, they never brought any palliative into this country. We stayed here for months, they locked us down; no work, no businesses. The next thing is to come and demolish our houses.”