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Published On: Tue, Oct 28th, 2014

Tension in Kuruduma village as youth clash with soldiers, FCTA officials over demolition of structures

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MPAPE-DEMOLITION-1By Stanley Onyekwere

There is mounting apprehension in Kuruduma 1 village, otherwise known as Kpaduma 1, in Abuja Municipal Area Counc il (AMAC), following an assault on some soldiers attached to the Development Control Department of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA), during an aborted demolition of some ‘illegal structures’ in the community.

It was gathered that some inhabitants in the area, in their attempt to halt the demolition of their structures by the FCTA officials, used stones and sticks to inflict injuries on them, including a handful of soldiers, that accompanied them.

Also, investigation revealed that in the incident which happened on Monday, some inhabitants also sustained various degrees of injury during the brief confrontation between soldiers and scores of protesting youth, but there were no fatalities recorded.

But, when Peoples Daily visited the village yesterday, the Chief of Kuruduma 1&2 community, Fajemi Karayi, who spoke in Ggbagyi, through an interpreter, Matthew Yohanna, lamented that since the incident, people started packing out of the community to other adjourning communities, for fear of arrest and harassment as well as further destruction of their homes by the authorities.

According to him, trouble ensued after the residents discovered that the FCTA officials along with bulldozer and four truckloads of security agents, had stormed the village, and started pulling down ongoing and completed structures in the area.

He said about four houses were destroyed, and if they didn’t resist the action, they (officials) would have succeeded in demolishing half of the households in the village.

“There are even completed houses that people supposed to park in today, but due to what happened everything has collapsed, but this land belongs to the community, and it is the youths that are building the houses, to be given out to non-indigenes for rent.

“They captured more than 20 youths after the incident, but some were released, while two are still in the military guard room, and two others are receiving treatment in hospitals, two of the chiefs sons are there; the Yerima and the prince.

“The Yerima and one of the village youth is still in the guard room with soldiers, while the prince and another youth are in the hospital receiving treatment on the injuries they sustained from the attack.

“What is our offence? As we don’t know, or even where to start finding fault; because I’m confused about everything, but how I wish that I was consulted by the authorities that they had something like this to do in the community before going ahead with their action.

“Then I would have knee down and appealed to them to give me time to talk to the people and give them feedback, so as to make them understand the import of the exercise.

“So, since yesterday (Monday) our people slept in the barrack, but we don’t know exactly where they are kept, and they have not eaten, and those who are injured and admitted in the hospitals, and for them (authorities) to release them, they said no that they need a note from the AMAC Chairman, before they would be released, and we don’t know what will happen next?”, he queried.

Lamenting the incident, he said there was no prior verbal or written information about the aborted demolition exercise, as they just saw people with bulldozers and soldiers, who after storming the village, started destroying houses and shooting sporadically, to put fear in the people.

“And when we later realized what was happening, some inhabitants then rushed to meet with them, and on getting to them, they started exchanging blows and fighting each other.

“During the attack, they attempted to break our people’s legs, as they stepped on them, and some are still lying in the hospital while some are being kept in the guard room with soldiers up till now (yesterday).

“But, my people have been struggling to see how the remaining people would regain their freedom; some have gone to meet with the AMAC Chairman to see how he can assist us in our effort to bring them back.

On whether the community would allow the officials to return to the site and complete the demolition exercise, he said: “it can’t be possible, because we have nowhere to go, and if they should drive us from here, we have nowhere to relocate to.

“The place where the affected structures are located is inside the community land, and not outside, as they have already created a demarcation between the community and restricted areas.

“We don’t know who sent them to carry out the exercise; and when we ask them, they refused to talk to us as to who sent them to remove our structures; is it a crime for us to be poor and desire to live in FCT; as I think this is all about money, and how wish we have people that would stand for us, this thing wouldn’t had happened.

He continues: “We as the original owners of the land (the indigenes), this is not how we are supposed to be treated, where are they pushing us to; we are the owners of this place and they now chose to come and drive us away from this place without any prior notice.

“Because all this would not have happened if they had come for consultation with the people, and we ourselves did not received any message from the government that there is going to be a demolition exercise in the community.

“Even at that, as it stands, the matter is been challenged in court, which the court had already given an injunction in favour of the community. And we were given a letter that says nothing of this nature (demolition) was going to take place in the community, but we wonder how come, things changed, leading to what happened yesterday (Monday).”

Also, narrating his ordeal, one of the injured staff of the FCTA, who pleaded anonymity, said, he was just running for his dear life, when some people rounded him up and descended on him with stones and machete, adding if not for some of the tactics that he employed to escape, the story would have been very different.

He says: “What actually happened was that on Monday afternoon; we went out for a routine enforcement on notices earlier served on some people in the area.

“We had served them all the relevant notices, and after they elapsed, we went there to enforce them, it was when some people just came over us and started stoning us; and in the process I sustained injuries, and damaged two of our utility vehicles.

“It was in the process of bending down to pick my identity card they felled on the ground while I was running that one of them used a very heavy stone to smash my head; luckily I had to dodge some other ones that were using sticks and other weapons to attack us.

“Even the military men that were attached to us were equally injured in the process, so nobody came to my rescue, and then I had found my way out.

On whether before embarking on the operation they had envisaged attack of that nature, he noted that normally in carrying out any kind of enforcement, they expect that there is going to be some resistance from the affected members of the public.

He said that it was in view of this that they went to the village, along with the team of military and police officers attached to the office.

“But, on reaching the village, the people tried to overpower us, using all kinds of weapons like machetes, sticks and stones to attack us, because the military was being cautious of life, the Officer in charge didn’t give his men the go ahead to start shooting, and if he had given them the order to shoot, the damage would have been another else.

“I’m not afraid in any way, because have taken an oath that I’m going to serve to the best of my ability, so I would do much as I could to defend the Abuja master plan ,” he expressed.

Meanwhile, reacting to the incident, a top official of the Department of Development Control, Hamaza Madaki, who spoke to newsmen on behalf of the Director of the Department, Yahaya Yusuf, described the incident as a serious and unfortunate situation, because when it went out of hand, even the security personnel had to call for reinforcement, and there were people who still attempted to confront them.

He said the district officer escaped with deep wound on his head and arm, alongside the site officer, who felled off one of their vehicle fleeing the scene of the attack, and immediately he was rounded off by the people, who gave him the beating of his life, before he was rescued; and we had to take them to hospital for treatment.

He commended the military for the manner they responded to the situation, saying that it was a miracle that no life was lost, because of the restraint that they showed under such very provocative condition.

According to him, the department discovered that the village was expanding beyond its limit; as people were selling lands indiscriminately to others, for building of shops and make-shift structures, which are not in conformity with the Abuja master plan.

Consequently, the department marked some identified illegal structures in the village, in order to dissuade the people from going further with the illegalities, but unfortunately, it turned out like that they were propelled to continue unabated.

“Because, they have no formal allocation and building approval for the structures; and going by the provision of the FCT master plan, nobody is expected to erect any structure without obtaining approval from the department of Development control.

“What is even worrisome was that they were building the structures far away from households within the village, and these developments are right on the edge of an ongoing road construction by Setraco, in the area.

“We have been restrained for some time, to avoid heating up the social environment especially with this indigenous population, because of what we have been having with them.

“But the rate at which this is going, it has become very intolerable because if we allow it to go out of hand, the same blame would come back to us- why did we allow the buildings to be there in the first place,” he stressed.

On the claim of detention of four people involved in the incident, the director said initially there were no arrest, but at a later time we got to know that four persons were arrested.

And on many occasions like this, where there are arrests, it is the security agents that handle such effectively, but normally we will write a letter to the police, explaining what happened.

Furthermore, on the department’s next line of action, he said: “definitely, all those illegal structures built there (outside the community) would be removed, as we are going to mobilize and return there, to complete the work we have started.

“Therefore, I want to warn the people involved, let them not jubilate and feel they have done this (attack).”

 

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