Noah Ebije, Kaduna
At midnight, a few weeks ago, several mask- wearing persons, suspected to be officials of the Kaduna State Government, besieged five communities, along Yakowa Way and pulled down several structures. The shocked communities only woke up to the dismantling of their world by these faceless persons.
It, however, did not take long to unravel as news went round that government people had executed a pre-demolition exercise and was on the verge of a full exercise, which would cost the people a lot of money and loss of valuables.
Worried by the development, Karji community, through its spokesperson, Yusuf Zomo, explained that the plots where they are at present were allocated to them by the late Governor Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa’s administration, following the opening up of the highway and inauguration of new layouts.
He appealed to Governor Nasir el-Rufai to tamper justice with mercy even as he harped on the need for government to honour the obligations of its predecessor, since government is a continuum.
Mustapha Ahmed, a resident, whose house was under construction, but its fence was pulled down, appealed to the governor to stop the exercise forthwith. He told Daily Sun that he had invested his life savings running to over N500 million on the project appealing to government to have a rethink.
Beyond appeals, some residents of Barakallau area of the metropolis took to the streets to register their disapproval to the demolition of homes and residence by Kaduna State Urban Development Agency (KASUPDA). The protesters, who were mainly youths, women and children stormed the office of the National Human Right Commission (NHRC) in the state, alleging that their homes were about to be demolished to give way to Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) to install its high tension cables.
Ibrahim Abdulmalik on behalf of the community, said: “The people have been living there for more than 20 years. About three months ago, the TCN came and surveyed the place. They took their time to measure every corner with a promise that they would compensate us. They collected our bank account details, bank verification numbers and even took our photographs with our houses.
“They came around about three months ago that we were living under high tension. They brought demolition notice on November 14 and gave us seven days to vacate the area, which has expired. But they extended it to Saturday.
“We are not saying they should not demolish, but they should add human face to it. They should know that we would not have been living there if we can afford decent houses. You can imagine getting a house of N250,000 around there. Where do we have such money to pay rent?”
A source in TCN who spoke in confidence said: “We don’t install high tension where there are houses, which are under our right of way (RoW) policy. Houses were not supposed to be built there in the first place. They want us to pay for using our right of way. How can they expect us to compensate them for using TCN right of way?”
The present saga among the community, TCN and the government highlights the tragic dilemma embedded in the planned demolition exercise. Although the exercise is painful and would dislodge some, many are of the view that the state will become aesthetic, more attractive and more business friendly.
El-Rufai insisted the exercise would open up several new districts, adding that old Kaduna has become congested with more than three million people living in it:
“Opening up of the new district in the Eastern part of the state will help decongest the city. More people will relocate from the metropolis to the new Kaduna, which will have a provision of good transportation connection so that people can get to work in no time.
“Government is also working on opening up the Western side in Rigasa area to Birnin Gwari so that more land will be available for residential, commercial as well as industrial purposes. This is a key urban renewal project and it is something that we will be visiting from time to time to make sure things go on course and are completed within a period of 18 months.”
He said they were expecting a loan already earmarked for the state by the World Bank, which could not be accessed in the last tenure: “We are confident that the loan will be accessed. Hence, we don’t want to lose time. By God’s grace, in the next 18 months, we will have a new Kaduna with new roads and less traffic congestion. More people will have plots to build their homes outside of the old Kaduna GRA.”
Some of the projects captured in the project included the construction of seven new roads, the upgrade of 14 existing ones, parks, Kaduna Centenary Park, new ultra-modern markets, neighbourhood centres and Galaxy Shopping.
Managing Director, Kaduna State Roads Agency (KADRA), Mohammed Lawal Magaji, promised that the new Kawo flyover will be one of the best in the country: “The present flyover is too narrow to accommodate the volume of traffic that passes through it.
“The base of the flyover is still strong and for this reason, only the top part will be pulled down and reworked completely. Additional roads and three roundabouts will be constructed apart from the flyover. Alternate roads will be provided to ease the accompanying traffic congestion during the 20-month construction period.”
He assured the stakeholders that compensation will be given to all those whose property will be affected by the project, provided they have valid documents.
District Head of Kawo, Alhaji Jibrin Magaji, identified the failure to engage the community and relevant stakeholders that as a factor that undermined project implementation: “The project is not just for the people of Kawo District. It will serve the entire North because it is a major gate-way to the region.”