Visitors and residents of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) are usually greeted, shortly after the military checkpoint near the University of Abuja (UNIABUJA), with what appeared like the first major settlement, on entry into the main city centre through the Umaru Musa Yar’Adua Express Road, also known as Airport Road.
The settlement, Iddo, conspicuously sits on a plane hill, with majorly bungalows, spanning more than three-square kilometres. Iddo in Hausa language means eyes, was previously occupied predominantly by the native Gwari, and really older than the capital city. But despite its long year of existence, it has remained a community in squalor and neglect.
The deplorable state of the entrance road into Iddo illustrates a clear signal of the level of degradation. The happiness that greets the sight of one-lane tarred road is usually short-lived few metres where it ends. The remaining long stretch of perhaps the only major access road into the community was nothing but death-traps
The volume of motorcycles commonly known as Okada, recklessly intimidating other road users with their driving, paints enough picture of how chaotic, the lives of the settlers and the settlement are. Tribal allergy is certainly not part of the life and living of the residents as Fulani, Yoruba, Igbo and other tribes with different religious backgrounds, intermingle freely with one another.
Churches, mosques, schools, shops, substandard football playing field, police station, hotels, residential houses, moribund filling station, vehicular and human presence favourably compete for space and attention inside the community divided into two parts, Iddo Sabo and Iddo Seriki.
Two striking features that will certainly catch the attention of visitors to the community are the seductive dress code of the ladies especially late evenings and the high proliferation of drinking joints. Iddo is obviously a special community where beautiful damsels, serious traders, children, the very old and young, herdsmen and indigenous Gwari coexist and cohabit side by side.
And it is truly special because the more incursion one makes into the community, the more it grows from better to worse. There may be presence of electricity poles and cables, but all the settlers got is an acute epileptic power supply, which they lamented has really made their lives unbearable. There is also water but the biggest source of supply is the multiple boreholes in almost all the buildings and from the water vendors.
With a police station, affordable cost of living especially the foodstuffs from the nearby Gwari farmers, primary and junior secondary schools, decent hotels, and relatively inexpensive residential accommodations, Iddo community qualifies as home for average low income persons.
Iddo holds strategic importance to many as it has assumed the status of home for UNIABUJA students that have continued to increase the population of the community. It is understandable because of its proximity to the permanent site of the university. The presence of the students has brought the good, the bad and the ugly experiences to the community.
Iddo has become so good, strategic and a home away from home for many people that have made the community a must visit every day. For them, a day without a visit to Iddo is a day spent in boredom and servitude.
The community may be dirty and untidy, but it has strategically become a melting pot and beehive of activities, so much so that hotel accommodation has skyrocketed to N6000 for bed and breakfast, clubs and drinking joints are bubbling with live while short time services now goes for between N2000 to N3000 for just an hour of an emotional romp.
On the flip side, beyond these tempting attractions in the settlement, the peace of the hitherto sleepy and serene community has been shattered and threatened with the increasing population of UNIABUJA students and the attendance consequences of high vehicular and human traffic and hike in other service charges.
The presence of the students has really been an admixture of curse and blessing to the Iddo community settlers especially in the areas of increase in rent, high rate of crime and criminalities and prostitution. And even as they have breathed nightlife into the settlement, they have now become serious menace.
Community under the siege
For a resident of Iddo, Chinedu (surname withheld), said the town has really witnessed drastic transformation especially in the areas of increase in nightlife, relatively cheap cost of living, upsurge in business activities and accessibility to schools:
“Having lived here in the last 10 years, I can tell you that Iddo has gone through some transformations. Before, the road was almost deplorable and impassable but it is now better especially after it was graded last year. The cost of living is moderate here despite the continued increase in the population by the UNIABUJA students.
“The modest cost of living is understandable because many Gwari natives are predominantly farmers. So, the foodstuff they bring from their nearby farms may have contributed in cushioning the cost of the food items. Churches, mosques and schools are springing up here on daily bases. There has been upsurge in trading activities with many of them witnessing sales boom.
“The diversification of businesses has made it possible for settlers to easily source for everything in this community. We have filling station, cooking gas-filling points, business centres, building material shops among many others.
“I must, however, confess that the increase in the population density here has come with certain consequences like rise in rents for residential houses and shops.
“It is hard to believe that people are now renting shops for between N36,000 to N70,000 annually, depending on the location. The rent for residential houses has also increased and now going for between N50,000 to N90,000 for self-contain apartment. They are now paying between N80,000 to N150,000 for a two-bedroom flat. It is understandable because there are many students ready to pay for the few available houses here.
“On the flip side however, there has been geometric rise in robbery activities and prostitution majorly, I suppose, from the students. Peoples’ homes are being invaded and burgled even before their presence. Shops are not spared as owners have continued to count their losses. Robbery happens on daily basis, resulting in most residents now living in perpetual fears.
“In the past, most of the criminals caught and beaten to stupor were usually the natives, but these days, the robbers have become more daring that the police even look helpless. They don’t even fear police. Last year, they broke into a cement shop near the police station and carted away several bags without police confronting them.
“The way they operate and their audacity, I want to think that they must still be indigenes. The only good news is that the local vigilantes are battling them force for force.”
Another resident and a trader, who identified himself as Ifeanyi, for security reason, expressed concern: “It was not like this in the past. Ladies, I strongly believe, are UNIABUJA students, are turning this community into Sodom and Gomorra. They dress seductively especially at night and hang out at hotels and drinking joints, tempting men to patronise them. They no longer even care that they are in a village setting. My friend told me that they charge as high as N5,000 depending on the calibre of the man involved.”
When our correspondent, disguised as a lodger, visited one of the hotels, the lady on duty said while accommodation for bed and breakfast cost between N4000 and N6000, the short time services cost N2000 for just an hour, stressing that the prices depend on the size of the bed:
“I will advise you take the N2000 own because the bed is more spacious but if you want small bed, we can collect N1000 or N1500 for an hour. If you want lodge daybreak, we have the ones for N4000 and N6000. The choice is yours.”
Prostitution and the increase in crime and criminality may certainly not be the most teething problems confronting the residents of Iddo community, as the settlement has been at the mercies of the military authorities threatening to forcefully evict them and takeover their land.
Joshua, an indigene of Gwari, lamented: “We now live in perpetual fears of demolition by the military authorities everyday. We have protested violently, we have petitioned the Federal Government and the FCT ministry. We have done everything within the legal limit, but the military have refused to live our ancestral land for us.
“From time to time, they would come here to intimidate us with their patrol van moving round the community. We are not going to back down and leave our ancestral land to them without fighting. They should be ready to kill everybody before taking over this our land.”