From Okwe Obi
Ideally, residents of Durumi, a squalid Abuja district, should be clinking glasses to celebrate an on going road project in their domain. But they are not!
Rather, they are gnashing their teeth in anticipation that the project would consume some houses, stores and worship centres, especially those close to the road. So, as the caterpillars and other earth-moving equipment roar towards the area, agitated landlords are praying that their property are not sacrificed for the good of all.
Although Durumi with a rapidly growing population has existed for decades, it does not deter the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA), from implementing the Abuja master plan. This naturally comes with demolition. The Minister of FCT, Mohammed Bello, vowed repeatedly to rescue Abuja from the grip of illegal developers.
Durumi hosts Nigerians of diverse ethnic backgrounds and disciplines, including Igbo, Ibibio, Hausa, Fulani and Yoruba. Civil servants, businessmen, artisans and job seekers are also aplenty in the area. It has legendary landmarks like the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, former headquarters of Dunamis Church and the Living Faith Church.
The district is in numbers such as Durumi 1,2,3,4,5 and 6. The community has many entrances and exit points from Area 1, 3 and Apo. If you were a night crawler, Durumi would always welcome you with open arms.
The place is lit every night with flashy lights from bars and cosy restaurants. The fun is amplified at weekends with karaoke nights and the entire Abuja seems to empty into Durumi to savour the splendour.
There is something for every fun seeker in Durumi. If you cannot afford the classy food and drinks, please head for the masses corner. Here, you can have your beans cake (akara) and barbequed beef (suya). For those who want something numbing, there is a locally brewed gin (ogogoro) that takes you to ecstasy for less than N100.
However, beneath those landmarks and enticing social activities lies a thriving shanty. Durumi 3 is the lucid description of a dusty habitat. Aside the bad earth roads the place is starved of basic necessities like potable water, appreciable electricity supply and security.
Meandering through the area entails three things; one, the visitor will need to hire a motorcyclist who understands the terrain perfectly. Also, he is expected to brace up for dust festival and finally, prepare for a bumpy ride.
Houses in Durumi 3 are scary. In some apartments, the ceilings have actually caved in and may fall off any moment. Yet, the caretaker tells you there is nothing to worry about and urges you to pay up quickly before another tenant comes.
Such houses were hurriedly built by illegal developers using the most inferior of materials because they envisaged that FCT officials could demolish the place at anytime. So, how are house owners handling the impending demolition as the bulldozers inch closer?
Ms Juliet Emeka, who claimed to live there for decades, told Daily Sun: “Demolition is not something anybody should pray for. That flyover from Area 3 junction, we gathered, will pass through our community. And you know how massive such a project is.
“We are disturbed. We hope that government would provide alternative portion of land for us. We are not against pulling down illegal structures and beautifying the city, but it will hurt a lot of persons.”
Another resident, Isa Mohammed, noted that his house was marked for demolition a long ago: “Everyday we wake up and see those bulldozers felling tress towards our direction, we get agitated. Yes, my house has long been marked for demolition but I have nowhere to go to. This is all I have. We are praying that the demolition process be extended to allow most of us get another place.”
Jude Osang, a tenant and a father of two, said “Feelers we are getting are not too pleasant. I just renewed my rent and if government commences the exercise, it will not be funny because I do not think my landlord will refund the money. If I had known, I would not have paid.”
Another resident, Kabiru Mamman, is not disturbed: “People get agitated unnecessarily. If you have an authentic Certificate of Occupancy (C of O), you do not have any reason to worry. Not everywhere will be affected. And if you look at this Durumi, it is overcrowded. It needs to be depopulated and sanitised.”
However, despite the poorly erected structures, house rent is expensive in Durumi. A stuffy studio apartment with horrible ventilation is hired for N250, 000 per annum; while a 3-bedroom bungalow goes for N1.2 million or less depending on one’s haggling prowess.
You would find soak away tanks with weak slabs right in the middle of the compound. The lack of proper water channel is another challenge tenants have to deal with.
There are those who cannot withstand the incessant pool of water at their entrance or veranda, improvised by constructing small gutters to aid free flow of water. In some houses, the water is stagnant because the gutters are poorly constructed and this provides a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes.
It was gathered that despite the demolition threats, defiant developers still build houses so as to get compensated when the government decides to eventually pull down such illegal structures.
Ever wondered why Durumi is Abuja’s smelly heaven? It is located in the heart of the city.