By Stanley Onyekwere
By most accounts, the whooping N200 billion rising debt hanging on the shoulders of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA), required for proper resettlement and compensation of indigenous people of the nation’s capital, has become a seemingly unbending huddle to the rapid development of the Territory.
Checks revealed that sporadically, the FCTA has carried out selective compensation process for some dislodged communities especially those that play host to major projects in the Territory, however it has ascribed its inability to carry out full compensation and resettlement on its huge financial burden, hence the adoption of a piece-meal approach to the issue.
Under the FCTA, the Department of Resettlement and Compensation is charged with the responsibilities of policy formulation, guidelines and implementation of resettlement schemes; and the payment of compensation for crops, economic trees and structures.
The creation of the department provided the opportunity to bring under one umbrella all issues pertaining to resettlement and compensation which hitherto had been fragmented in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, Development Control and Land Administration.
As it stands, the Department has three divisions; valuation and compensation, planning and Resettlement, as well as monitoring and logistics respectively. And through its resettlement Programmes are at various stages of completions in three resettlement sites at Apo, Galuwui/Shere and Wasa respectively.
Available information revealed that resettlement of the original inhabitants of Apo has commenced in earnest in Apo resettlement site.
Also there are 877 houses meant to accommodate the original inhabitants of Garki, Akpanjenya and Apo village respectively.
Also, the Galuwyi/Shere resettlement site is meant to accommodate 12 communities of Jabi Samuel, Jabi Yakubu, Utako, Kpadna, Mabushi, Gishiri, Kado 1 and II, others are Magajipe, Zhilu, Maje etc, covering an area of about 9,000 hectares of land. The buildings are expected to be in a neighbourhood system were each neighbourhood is expected to retain their traditional institution as well as chieftaincy allegiance.
On the other hand, Wasa Resettlement Scheme which is expected to accommodate original inhabitants along the airport axis, to include Karomanjigi, Kuchingoro, Chika, Aleita, Piwoyi, with the progress of work at about 56%.
Further information show that has paid compensation to the various communities across the FCT whose lands were acquired for overriding public interest. The communities and nature of projects include Zuba farmers, who were paid compensation for the relocation of College of Education (COE) for the construction of a permanent site; Pegi farmers, for the relocation exercise of Jiwa Chiefdom squatter settlers; Gidan Mangoro farmers, for the relocation of Angwar – Mada residence.
Not left out are Bwari farmers, compensated for crops and economic trees for the relocation of squatter settlers to Kuchiko from Jabi 1 and 2, Gishiri, Kpadna, Magajipe etc; there was payment of farmers for crops and economic trees at Yangoji in Kwali Area Council for relocation of squatter settlers along airport axis.
Others are farmers at Idu for a railway double guage project; and crops and economic trees at Kado – Kuchi village for an FCT Primary Education Board Project.
But ordinarily, considering the high cost of acquiring land in the FCT, the handicap posture of administration to provide succor to Abuja natives, whose ancestral communities and farmlands have been overridden by the fast growing city smack off on government’s seriousness towards realizing the Abuja dream.
Though, the problem has spanned over decades, precisely thirty eight years after creation of FCT, has been compounded by the unprecedented influx of people, thereby over stretching of existing infrastructures as well as impinging on pace of development in the Territory.
Consequently, most of the satellite towns as old as the territory itself had grown beyond expectation and the regional plan of the territory.
Also, some of the fallouts from the sudden population explosion and expansion in the nation’s capital manifest in the unending surge of several squatters’ settlements and other illegal structures within indigenous communities of the territory.
Available checks revealed that there are 858 rural communities in the FCT, which require both government and corporate organizations’ attention for rapid development.
Unfortunately, the continuous demolition exercise on several indigenous communities and settlements in the Territory has resulted to the widely increasing gap of finance for compensation and resettlement of the affected inhabitants.
Currently, it is estimated that more than 50,000 people have been sacked in the suburb of Abuja metropolis by Abuja Metropolitan Management Council (AMMC), under the guise of restoring the City’s master plan.
According to the AMMC Coordinator, Reuben Okoya, the council as at last year demolished a total of 4,023 illegal structures and 6,350 shanties in the territory.
As expected, many of the affected communities who appear helpless in the face of frightening government clouts have often view their fate as a part of divine providence while others have taken their destinies into their hands, by staging protests and invoking court proceeding against what they often refer to as destruction of their present and future existence as a people.
However, while making a presentation on the topic: “Investing in building a capital city, FCT Minister, Senator Bala Mohammed, when he hosted participants of the National Defense College Course 23 in Abuja, last week, said the N200 billion bill will only be able to compensate and resettle villages within the 250 square kilometers out of the 800 square kilometers in FCT.
The Minister, who was represented by the FCTA Permanent Secretary, Obinna Chukwu, pointed out that the aggregate infrastructural development in the FCT which have been funded mostly by government is about 30 per cent.
Lamenting that the infrastructure and services in Territory are over stretched by 500 per cent more than what is available, the minister stressed that the FCT was planned with only 1 million people in mind but its current population has exploded to 5 million.
“The demographics have shown the need for Abuja as emerging city to address the infrastructural deficit.
“There is an increasing cost on resettlement and compensation which is becoming unwieldy. FCT requires N200bn to resettle and compensate those living in the Federal Capital City,” Mohammed said.
He noted that in 1976 when the FCT was created, the government required only about N2 billion to resettle the natives although the value of N2 billion then was much.
According to him, the population of the natives then was manageable than what we have today as the families keep on growing.
But, the minister noted that the accelerated passage of the FCT Property Tax bill where about N500 billion is expected to be generated annually to the coffers of the FCT Administration will go a long way in addressing all challenges bedeviling the capital city.
Also, he said that the administration has been innovative in tackling the infrastructural challenges in the territory.
According to him, the ever-dwindling funds for infrastructural development was what made the FCTA to launch the Abuja Land Swap
policy, aimed at improving infrastructure as well as reducing the housing deficit in the Territory.
Nevertheless, many have continued to doubt the linking of the inability of the government to duly compensate or resettle dislodged communities or would be affected settlements, despite the initial gains from the implementation of the FCT land swap programme launch in April 2013, which has purportedly generated not less than N450 billion investments.
It was observed that in order to ensure the proper integration through resettlement of Abuja indigenes within in the capital city, the government should re-invest some proceeds from the land swap scheme, instead of adopting a piecemeal compensation approach, which is like walloping round the problem without making any progress.
Interestingly, Abuja Indigenes under the umbrella of the Original Inhabitants of the FCT are now demanding a full compensation measure for the demolition exercises carried out by the authorities of the FCTA without proper resettlement intervention.
According to the group, if their demands are not met, they will resist further demolition attempts on their settlements within the territory without first providing them with good alternatives.
Making this threat, the leader of Dagbalo community in Apo area of the FCT, Rev. Danjuma Dara, described the recent decision of the government to proffer an alternative solution to compensate the FCT indigenes before embarking on further demolition of indigenous settlement in the territory, as one coming rather too late.
“I could remember that on the 30 of July 2013 FCDA officials with two pick up van loaded with armed soldiers stormed our community and demolished our homes, destroyed our farms and economic trees within 5 days.
“The case was then reported to Apo divisional police station and we also filed a case at Jabi High Court; and we are hoping to see justice prevail because we do not have any other home and our children are growing so fast, without hope of where to live without demolition threat,” he stressed.
Continuing he alleged that, “sometime two years ago, a 22 years-old lady was shot and killed by the FCDA police in Akpajenya village ,when a wealthy woman came with offer of allocation paper with armed soldiers with a view to claiming ownership of the land forgetting the original inhabitants of the community.
” But since the vast land now known as FCT was taken over by the Federal Government in 1976, the indigenous people of FCT have
literarily been under ‘perennial terrorization’ by government officials and private land grabbers using military and police personnel to deprive them of their farmlands and homesteads with neither compensation nor resettlement.”
He however, accused FCDA officials of shortchanged names of the community beneficiaries on the alternative resettlement area given to them.
As part of the solution, he further disclosed that the community has written to the authorities of the FCDA severally that they want to have a dialogue with them over the development, but they have refused to grant them audience.
“We are no longer begging to see them, we demand that they must see us or they will not be comfortable with our next action; and we want to also advise the government to stay from out father’s land and our ancestral homes because we do not have anywhere to go.
” We have sacrificed enough for this nation, and the minister is not seeing it that way but he will always pay us with sending development control to bring down our homes, enough is enough, the government has pushed us to the wall, that we are peace loving people does not mean that we does know our right,” he emphasized.
With the staggering more than N200 billion debt required to address the lingering problem and other competing financial obligations , there is no doubt that the FCT Administration has an uphill task, in its bid to overcoming the seemingly insurmountable issue causing many untold hardships on the people.
But, more importantly, the situation calls for the need to slow down on several onslaughts on ‘illegal communities or settlements within the Territory, in the name of enforcing the Abuja Master Plan.
In the same vein, the FCT Administration should equally intensify its current efforts at making the satellite towns more habitable for the common man through sustained provision of necessary infrastructure such as access roads, electricity, and potable water etc.