The temporary peace enjoyed by over 5,121 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) residing at a Federal Government housing estate, Wassa, a satellite town in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, is at the verge of being truncated by eviction threat from the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA).
While the IDPs are insisting that government must provide an alternative before they would leave, FCDA is directing that they must vacate the premises to allow contractors renovate the place for original indigenes of Abuja.
Chairman of IDPs, Usman Ibrahim, claimed that before they were allowed to settle in April 24, 2014, they paid money to security personnel guarding the place, insisting that they would not risk going back to their states:
“We met the houses partly vandalised; the doors, roofing sheets, windows were damaged. Since 2014, we have been maintaining the place. Government is saying we should relocate because they want to renovate it and give to indigenes.
“We have no problem with that because the houses are not ours. But the people the houses were built for refused to park in.
“We are begging government to look for another place for us since our villages are still under Boko Haram occupation. Before we parked in, the security personnel guarding the place collected money from us. For one-bedroom, we paid N20,000, two-bed room goes for N30,000. While three-bedroom N40, 000.
“We farm beans, maize, millet, guinea corn, groundnut and potatoes. And we transport our goods to different markets in town. And the closure of the border is affecting because foreigners are not coming to patronise us.”
A contractor, Solawa, said to have handed down the eviction notice denied it when contacted on the phone.
But a senior official of FCDA, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said she did not want to draw the ire of her principal, explaining that contracts had been awarded for renovation.
She said the IDPs consistently gave contractors headache and even resorted to violence when told to vacate: “Some of the contractors have threatened to sue government if nothing is done to allow them complete the work at the stipulated time.
“This project is not meant for them. We awarded this project last year without thinking of IDPs living there or not. If you check most people with accommodation problem joined them claiming to be IDPs.
“They moved to those houses without consulting FCDA; because if they had done that we would have told them or delayed in awarding contracts pending the duration of their stay. Contracts have stipulated timeframe. They are fighting contractors. We know that they are the responsibility of government but how do we solve the problem when they are not included in our budget?
“Senator Ali Ndume came here and pleaded on their behalf that they should be given sometime. And I can tell you that there is no arrangement for them. FCDA has not gone there with force.”
Wassa is a about 10 kilometres journey from Kabusa Junction which could be described as hitch-free because of the tarred road and beautiful scenery especially for newcomers.
But immediately after Waru village such impression would begin to fade away not because the road is bad; but due to the dilapidated houses and poor living condition.
Wassa has a population of about 15, 000 inhabitants and surrounded by three communities – Madala, Kwaya and Chiri, each having a district head. Ordinarily the figure would not have been so high but because of the presence of IDPs sacked from their homes by the dreaded Islamist sect, Boko Haram, they had no choice than to run as their legs could carry them to Abuja for shelter and safety.
In the belly of this agrarian community, what stirs one in the face is a cluster of farmers, artisans, kiosks, petrol hawkers, food vendors, while those without jobs or too lazy to lift a finger, leisurely spend their time under two gigantic mangoes feeding their eyes.
For some of the children, their hobbies are to fly kites, sell sachet water and sugarcane.
Christening them soothsayers will not be out of place for they can sniff philanthropic gestures from afar, especially when they see two to three exotic vehicles sauntering the community. And immediately reciprocate by crawling out their hidings and converge on the trees.
The mobile healthcare centre built by former speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, in 2014, close to the road, looks aesthetical from a far. But a closer look deflates one’s excitement because the woods, devoured by termites, have become a dwelling place for reptiles.
Even in the country’s seat of power, they are exposed to security threat. There is no security presence. The place used as a police station is a two-bedroom flat occupied by officers that do not wear police colour, making them very difficult to identify. A decision a police officer said was deliberate for “security reasons.”
When any member of the community defaults or is reported to have committed any crime, he or she is locked up in generator house pending the outcome of an investigation.
Electricity is beyond their reach. They rely on a big generator owned by one Mohammed Idris, a 28-year-old father of three children and an indigene of Borno State.
Idris charges N100 per bulb, but collects N250 for three bulbs. The generator runs from 7.00am till 11pm. According to him, the cables are bought by his clients but assist those who cannot afford one.
On what prompted him to set up the business, he said: “I want to help my people. Some people are using generators and solar but I decided to use Lister. I make N5000 to N6000 every day.”
It has only two primary schools. One owned by government while the other belongs to an individual. So those who are done with primary school would have to wait until a secondary school is provided or alternatively go to Kabusa or Apo.
Responding to the claims made by Ibrahim, that they hardly get drugs from the clinic, the Community Health Extension Worker (CHEW), Tanimu Osu, countered the claim and accused them of not coming up for treatment: “IDPs blatantly refuse to take Orthodox medicine, claiming that the drugs would kill them. Even during childbirth, they prefer to delivery at home to the clinics.
“If you sit here from morning to evening, you will not see anybody coming for treatment. When we bring drugs, nobody comes for it. Last week the wife of the Inspector General of Police (IGP) brought drugs and I was not around.
“Before I knew it, they rejected the drugs, saying they wanted money or food. The woman said she won’t do that. After a long run, I collected the drugs and put in the store.
“They threatened me to open the clinic for them to take the drugs. I refused. I called my head office, my boss said I should handover the keys to the police which I did. They still threatened to break the door until the police open the door. They shared the drugs themselves without prescription. They are violent.