• Tells tales of woes, live under bridge
From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
It is a daily occurrence. Both motorists and trekkers know him. This is the story of a 65-year-old truck pusher who moves around Wuse and Area 3 in Abuja. He struggles daily with his wheelbarrow loaded to the brim with all manners of cans and gallons. Sometimes people are tempted to dismiss him as a mad man.
Although worn out, disheveled, hopeless and shabbily dressed, the man is sane and articulate. He could rather be described as a tireless habitual wanderer, who moves round the city through the expansive and busy Nnamdi Azikiwe Expressway, connecting the Area 1 and Berger roundabout.
Moving through that long distance, measuring over 30 kilometres daily, the man who only identified himself as Yusuf during a chat with Daily Sun, announced dejectedly that he has been crisscrossing Abuja trekking for the past 20 years just to barely feed himself.
His story is heart wrenching. He is being regularly attacked by robbers dispossessing him of the little money he makes selling gallons. That is not all he was sometime confronted by ritualists and snakes under the bridge where he sleeps.
To compound his woes, Yusuf, from Yobe State, at his age, is not married, has no child and not even planning to have one at least in the nearest future.
He claimed he was a victim of police brutality. He also insisted government contributed largely in rendering his life useless. He narrated how he was arrested and detained by the police for several years without trial over allegation of possessing a bag of Indian hemp found in inside his vehicle as a commercial bus driver over 20 years ago. Since regaining freedom, he had tried to fix his life without success.
On why he wanders about, he claimed that he made efforts to get a decent accommodation to no avail. Apart from that he tried on three occasions, to construct a makeshift house but had it demolished by the FCT authorities.
That Pa Yusuf urgently needs help is an understatement. He looks dejected and worn-out. The rubber pair of shoes he put on had holes in the middles. He claimed sometimes he had no food to eat for two or three days. Yet he would still move around the city with his barrow, praying to God to continue to keep him alive.
His story: “Why I am always trekking round the city centre is because I don’t have any other means of livelihood and I cannot sit and wait for hunger to kill me.
“I collect these gallons and rubbers walking from Wuse Market through Areas 1, 2, 3 and back to Wuse before taking them to where I do sell them to feed myself. I have survived on this for the past 20 years. When I started this, Abuja was not as developed as this. I could even count the number of cars crossing but the situation is entirely not the same today.
“Before I started this movement, I had over 18 wheelbarrows I was hiring out. But many of them became unusable some people disappeared with others before city development finally put the business out of fashion. I had to leave the place in search of anything to sustain myself.
“I don’t have a home. I have been sleeping under the bridge for more than 20 years now. I constructed a makeshift but the FCT Administration demolished the area. I moved to another area in Lugbe and built another, the area was demolished as well.
“Out of frustration, and essentially because I cannot afford any rent in any part of the city from what I am doing now, I decided to live under the bridge. It is even difficult to feed from what I am doing now. So, for more than 15 years, I have been living under the bridge.
“Living under the bridge is very risky and life threatening. It is only got those with high heart. On many instances, armed robbers have threatened to kill me if I didn’t handover the money I have saved for a long time.
“I have equally encountered ritual murderers but God has always saved me miraculously. Robbers and ritualists are not the only problems I am facing living under the bridge. Snakes have bitten me severally. There are too many snakes moving under the bridge but I cannot leave there because I don’t have any other place to go for now,” he said.
On government assistance, Pa Yusuf flared up: “Which government, the government that almost killed me? I don’t want anything from government because they put me into this condition.
“The way police handled me over 20 years ago was responsible for the situation I found myself today. Police arrested and detained me for many years because they accused me of bringing in Indian hemp into Abuja.
“That incident happened over long time ago. They took me from one area command to another without charging me to court or releasing me. I was then a commercial vehicle driver plying Yobe State and Abuja. But on that day, they arrested me saying there was Indian hemp in a bag inside my bus.
“Nobody claimed ownership of the bag including the man who told us in Kano that he was taking the bag to Abuja. They held two of us inside the vehicle and took us to the station with the vehicle.
“They detained me for several years before releasing me. It was like they released the vehicle to the owner. When I came out, I had nowhere to go and had no choice than to start roaming the streets of Abuja in search of anything to sustain myself.
“I tried to engage myself in many other things but none of it worked out. I have ever been living from hand to mouth including begging for arms to feed then.
“I am not married and have never been married. I don’t have any child both in Abuja and my state, Yobe. I don’t want to marry, since I don’t have money and don’t have any home. How will I even feed her and the baby if it happens? Problems are just too much for me that marriage is the least thing I can think of now.”