Among Abraham Maslow’s order of needs, shelter or accommodation ranks perhaps next to food. It could only take acute housing deficit or lack of it especially at the cities to cohabit with animals.
Therefore, if you do not believe the viral reports that poverty is gradually wiping out the middle class in Nigeria, kindly visit Kubwa and other satellite towns in Abuja. There you see poverty boldly tightening its grip on erstwhile “big boys and babes”.
While the Federal Government is still playing politics with its rural grazing area programme, aka Ruga, residents of Kubwa have succumbed to the austerity pressure and now cohabit with cows, sheep, goats and other ruminants in a desperate attempt to eke out a livelihood.
They are mindless of the associated health hazards and implications as the animals, reared at their backyards, are either sold during celebrations or consumed. From Lagos Street, through FCDA and 2:2 areas, many beautiful compounds are illegally operating farmhouses and disturbing the neighbourhood with acrid smell of faeces and urine of the ruminants. This is aside the nauseating noise pollution from the animals that bleat day and night.
At Share Close, Kubwa, the magnificent buildings do not give any visitor the faintest hints of the possibility of ruminants cohabiting with humans. But then you are assailed by the foul smell akin to what obtains in remote villages where the absence of basic infrastructure has forced villagers and their domestic animals to live harmoniously.
Although no law in the Federal Capital Territory permits the rearing of animals in residential areas, defiant residents insist the disobedience to the law is purely a survival strategy.
A resident of Kubwa, who identified himself as Hassan said: “We have been pushed to the wall by economic challenges. We have a family house but we have two tenants occupying the boy’s quarters. We have some space and decided to rear few goats and sheep to keep body and soul together. We are a family of six kids and our parents are retired and most of us are in school. So, we sell these animals to help ourselves.”
Asked whether it was not against the FCT law to rear animals in strictly residential areas, he said: “Well, we are not the only ones rearing animals in Kubwa. It is everywhere. These goats and sheep you see on the streets are from some homes.
“They are not stray animals. They have owners and at night, they retire to the homes that own them. We saw people do it and we followed suit. Some are breeding dogs on a lucrative commercial scale. Nobody considers that an infraction. Are chickens, goats and sheep not part of domestic animals like dogs? So, why do people not raise an eyebrow against dog breeding?”
On the possible health hazards associated with such an illegal practice, he said: “We take good care of our animals. We vaccinate them. We clean their manger and fumigate the entire compound regularly. We also live in the same compound and I don’t think any of us has any diseases.”
Another resident of Share Close who preferred anonymity lamented that breeding ruminants in residential was totally unacceptable, especially since it goes contrary to the law:
“I don’t sleep at night. These animals bleat ceaselessly. The dogs bark endlessly. But the offensive smell is my biggest headache. I can’t open my windows. I can’t soak in some fresh air because the horrible odour oozes in to hurt you.
“This is where I miss former FCT Minister, Nasir el-Rufai. He enforced all laws to the letter. FCT worked well under him. But now, FCT is collapsing quickly. There are animals everywhere. This is the real zoo. It has become so unbearable. I am helpless, so are others living in compounds that breed ruminants.
“As far as I am concerned, an epidemic looms here. I can’t wait to pack out of this environment next year. I did not know such a mess existed here while I inspected this apartment before moving in. I just can’t stay. My wife throws up almost every time she perceives the foul smell of faeces of these ruminants.”
On what he has done to address the matter officially by reporting to appropriate government agencies, he said: “I have gone to the authorities but nothing has happened. It is hell here.”
For Amaka Nkole, also residing in Kubwa, the increasing number of compounds that breed ruminants is alarming: “Are people aware of the concomitant health hazards at all? Rearing animals in a residential area is a grave infraction and culprits should be visited with the crushing weight of the law.
“You can’t open your windows even when the weather is hot and there is no electricity. It is worse than prison experience. Going home after work breaks my heart. I spend weekends in Gwarinpa. I can’t afford to be assaulted by the offensive odour in my compound that I am paying N700,000 per annum. It can kill. This development is totally unfair.
“The smell is actually from the compound overlooking ours. My bedroom window is next to that fence. My house stinks like a piggery. We have written to Abuja authorities and I hope something positive springs up.”
A source at the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) who craved anonymity, said the FCDA section of Kubwa is designated as a solely residential area:
“You can’t rear animals here. It is prohibited. If anyone sees such, kindly write to us and give us the detailed address, we will serve that compound a notice and after five days, we return to monitor compliance. If the order is still not carried out, we have other procedures to follow but eventually, we will get an order to forcefully evacuate the animals.
“So, anyone claiming he wrote to us and nothing happened is lying. We follow up on all complaints swiftly and efficiently. We ensure the law is enforced to the letters.”