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Villagers in Gwarimpa protest demolition of their homes

20 June 2014, 06:44

Abuja - Residents of Lungu Village in Adkan Estate, Gwarimpa, Abuja on Thursday went on a protest on the Kubwa Expressway, setting bonfires on the road as unsuspecting road users got stranded.

Some residents of the area who spoke to the media said they were protesting because of the demolition carried out by the Department of Development Control in the village.

Charles Oputa (Charlie Boy), a popular entertainer who resides in Gwarimpa, said that it was wrong for government to embark on the exercise without sensitising the villagers.

“If government wants to embark on this kind of exercise, there is the need to get the people psychologically prepared.”

“You can see I have been pleading with them to stop the protests and open the roads to no avail; it is understandable because what happened today is very painful,” Oputa said.

Sanni Geoffrey, a Gbagyi youth leader who was at the scene, said that the road would not be opened until the president came to address the injustice on his people.

“This injustice is too much; we will not leave here today until the president comes to address the injustice.”

Another resident, Rose Galadima lamented the alleged death of a child who died during the demolition.

“Now that they have killed the child, they should come and carry the corpse. What have we done to deserve this kind of treatment?” she lamented.

However, Kalu Emetu, Public Relations officer of the Development Control Department said that he was not aware of any deaths.

He said that the case with Lungu village had been in court for some months and judgment was recently delivered in favour of the Department.

He said that structures that were demolished in the exercise were illegal squatters and shanties.

“Squatter settlers encroached on Plot 64, Kafe District, in Lungu Village, which was meant for an estate.”

“Development Control marked the area for demolition since March 2014 and the villagers went to court; the court finally struck out the case.”

“Fifty four illegal structures, 17 shanties, 5 shops and one church were removed and I am not aware of any death,” he said

Yunusa Yusuf, the Secretary General, Abuja Original Inhabitants Association, in his reaction, told NAN that the protest became necessary to push for the rights of original indigenes.

Yusuf said that the inhabitants had continuously pleaded with the Federal Government to recognise their position as original inhabitants of the FCT.

“Overtime, we have seen that nobody is recognising us or appreciating the fact that we have sacrificed our ancestral land and everything for the benefit of everyone.”

“We live among the rich but we are the poorest people; our children are not considered in any good schools and almost all our youths are jobless.”

“They do not have any opportunity to benefit from various empowerment programmes,” he said.

Yusuf said that the indigenes had made several efforts to talk with the FCT Minister, Bala Muhammed, to assist them without success hence the protest.

He added that the protest would not be suspended until government intervened.

The media reports that the protest created a heavy traffic on the busy road with vehicles stretching for several kilometres.

Commuters on the Abuja-Kubwa expressway lamented the gridlock that resulted from the protest.

Baba Ahmed, a commuter, said that the incessant demolition exercise in the FCT was not in the interest of residents of the territory.

“I have been on this particular spot for the past two hours and am not sure of when the road will be opened.”

“These are problems that could be averted if government is interested in dialoguing with the communities,” he said.

He called on relevant government authorities to ensure that dialogue was reached with communities to be demolished to avoid breach of peace in the territory.

Also, John Efere, the Commandant, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), told the media that his office had no record of any casualty in the course of the demolition.

“We do not have record of any casualty; I believe the residents are just angered by the demolition.”

“I just want to appeal to residents of the area to shun violence and embrace dialogue in the interest of peace,” Efere said.

-    NAN

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