•Live among heaps of refuse with offensive odour
By Martha Orubo and Fortune Eloagu
Nigeria’s capital city, Abuja, is known for its magnificent buildings that compare favourably with the best in developed countries. A drive round Maitama, Asokoro, Jabi and parts of Wuse Two, which flaunt architectural masterpiece, leaves one with the warming impression of a city with much more sunshine and far less dirt.
But, believe this and you will believe anything! This is because a recent tour of the Federal Capital City (FCT) by Abuja Metro team revealed that tucked away in many parts of the city are makeshift structures popularly known as ‘Bachas’ which provide shelter for the downright poor, who obviously have no place in the planning of the mega city.
A tacit, but bold embarrassment to the nation, the bachas are found in Jahi, Jabi and Utako axis. Bereft of any known basic social amenity, apart from offering mere covering to the occupants, the structures are not fit for human habitation.
Their occupants, who are mostly artisans, said life and living in the bachas could be compared with staying in a dungeon. They passionately appealed to the federal and the FCT authorities to come to their rescue through the provision of low-cost houses with basic social amenities.
One of them in Jahi village, Mr.Peter Jonah, attributed their plight to lack of funds to secure habitable accommodation. He stated that despite the glaring inconveniences, they pay between N5,000 and N6,000 yearly for the structures.
“We pay so much money to live in this environment. That is why I said lack of capital has kept most of us in a place like this. If I had enough capital, I cannot stay here. We pay N60,000 while others pay N70,000 yearly. You know, we have different houses at different prices. For me, it is not comfortable living here. If I have enough capital, I will leave this place.
“Though I cannot force the government to act, I would urge it to assist us with better structures, good roads, clean water and electricity. Here, we paid for our transformer and we do not still have light. We do not know what is happening. Due to lack of electricity, we cannot sleep well in these huts. Mosquito bites and heat make life rough for us”, he said.
Another occupant of the makeshift structure in Utako village, Florence Faluyi, said: I live in this place because I am just starting life. I pay yearly in this place. It depends on your kind of apartment. We have light and water, but it is expensive. We buy water at N20 per gallon. The major challenge is the dirty environment. I want the government to help us with the provision of water and cleaner environment. Also, the modern houses here are too expensive and I appeal to the government to assist us.
Also, Stella Samson, a resident of Jahi village, said lack of funds forced many people in the capital city to prefer the bachas and the squalor to modern houses and habitable environment. She said:“If we had money, we would live in Maitama, but since we do not have, what do we do? We would have preferred to go to Maitama, but now that change has taken over, there is nothing. We have to manage the environment, especially those of us with children that are still growing.
“Honestly, it is not our wish to stay in this environment. We have light here because we spent so much to fix the transformer and NEPA is supposed to give us light. We pay rent and it is very high, and if you do not pay on time, the landlord pushes you out and locks the door.
“We appeal to the government to assist us over here, not by demolishing the place without providing alternative accommodation for people that live in them. We appeal for better environment because people fall sick everyday in this area due to dirty environment”, she said.
Another resident, Lukas Yarde, told Abuja Metro that it takes patience and courage to live in the bachas surrounded by heaps of refuse with the attendant offensive odour. “You can see how the gutter is, very dirty. Also, we have light challenges. Some people have light, while others live in darkness. For the past one week, we have not had light; I really do not know what is happening in this environment. The rent is too high; one room here is N60,000 per year. The major challenge is the money. There is no job anywhere and that is why I have not been able to further my education. I want the government to help us in this place, I know government cannot do everything, but they should try to tackle the problem of light and reconstruct our gutters”, he said.
David Eno another, also said the filthy environment and poor ventilation remain the major challenges facing the occupants of the structures. “The place is not developed. My major challenge here is that the environment is very dirty. We need the government’s help in this place. We don’t want them to demolish the village.”
Bemoaning her fate, another Utako resident, Rosemary Faga, said life has been tough for the low income earner in the FCT due to the poor economy. Advising those in her situation to “manage anywhere you find yourself in this Abuja”, she added: “The accommodation situation in Abuja is terrible. Nobody wants to be here, it is just to have a place to lay your head. The challenges are numerous, no good roads, no good water, no durable road, plus the dirty environment. I want the government to deploy sanitation officials to clear the refuse and have a place to dump wastes. There are no good roads at all and when it rains, it is horrible here.”
For Joy Afonabi, who also resides and ekes out a living in downtown Jahi village, the situation is so bad. “There is no light and I need light in my salon to work well. Also, there is so much dust everywhere plus the dirty gutters. Yet, we pay high rent for our shops and the houses. We need the government’s presence in this area”, she said.