The Federal Capital Territory (FCT) administration has been working tirelessly to ensure that all the squatter settlements that might portray the Capital city in bad light are completely demolished. One of such settlements is Pyakassa village which seems unperturbed by the pending demolition.? CHIKA OKEKE reports
To all those plying the Abuja Airport road, the exit point to Pyakassa village cannot be missed because of the conspicuous sign post that reads, “Welcome to Abuja Technology village, Pyakassa. A few steps further is Gilmor Construction Company which shares the same link road to Pyakassa village proper. From the expressway, it takes about 10 minutes of driving through an untarred and dusty road to get to the main village. The community is situated along Umaru Musa Yar`Adua expressway popularly called Airport road.
Apart from the presence of Gilmor Construction Company and proposed site for Abuja Technology village, there are also the FCT Customary court, police station, schools- both private and public that would make life in the community worth living. A number of shops stretching down to the forest area also dot the landscape. Petty trading, hairdressing, barbing and other forms of trade thrive in the community.
The village houses both settlers and Gbagyi natives that are mainly farmers, civil servants and apprentices. During the El Rufai administration, there was a massive demolition exercise that reduced the population of people in the community to the barest minimum. However, the village has bounced back even with many new buildings springing up. Due to the rural setting, one imagines that house rent will be relatively cheaper but there the story is different.
LEADERSHIP SUNDAY gathered that the demolition machines may not roll on Pyakassa village since it is dominated by Gbagyi’s who are the original settlers of the FCT. Though the village is vast but the hygienic condition is poor and appalling. Moving through the Area D axis, one is greeted by? nauseating sights and stench of human faeces- fresh and decaying which litter most even the strategic places. Infact, some residents defecate in open places. The village enjoys constant power supply as it uses Airport power line.
While carrying out an assessment tour of the community, our reporter met with Mrs. Hope Okon who runs a mini provision shop. She said that they had lived in the village for some years but when the husband intended to get a bigger apartment, the cost of rent in the village scared them away. Narrating her ordeal, she said, “You cannot get any vacant house in this village other than ‘a room self- contain’ except for the old houses which are not easy to come by.
?“The problem is that, even if you get the old house, you may not like it because most of them use just one public toilet that is not restricted to each household. We wanted to move to a two bedroom apartment but the price scared us away. The only two bedrooms that are available are costly. The landlord put it at N1million per annum (N83,340 per month) but he later changed it to N750,000 per annum.
A room self contain in a new building costs between N150,000 to N160, 000 while the old ones go for N100,000. House is expensive here but the old ones with a public toilet are a bit cheaper. Gone are the days when people think that houses built in the villages are cheaper”. On whether there are rumours of demolition, she stressed, “I don’t think that they will demolish this place again.
But even if they come, the Gbagyi houses will not be touched. My house belongs to a Gbagyi landlord. Ever since people learnt that Pyakassa will not be demolished again, many people are moving into the village which caused the cost of rent to be increased.
“I am Bassa by tribe from Nasarawa State and a business man.? I have lived in this village for some years. The community has been peaceful and we tolerate one another’s religion”, Mr. Gabriel Adamu said. He told our reporter that the village will not be demolished saying that all the houses belonged to Gbagyi natives.
According to him, ‘non -indigenes’ cannot build houses again in this village except if they get an approval from FCT. The era of collecting land from the village chief is over.
LEADERSHIP SUNDAY also visited the palace of the acting Chief of Pyakassa village, Mr. Sarkin Pada Shedrach, to know the state of the community. Though a Christian, the traditional ruler admitted to have lived in the village for the past 50 years in a place he identified as a “Forest” in Pyakassa before development sprang up and he relocated to his present palace near ECWA church, in the village. “Before I was born, our grand parents had lived in this village. Initially, we lived in the forest before we moved to this present palace location.
The village was demolished during the El Rufai administration because they wanted to maintain the Abuja master plan. They also said that they don’t want non-indigenes to live in the community. Even when they carried out demolition exercise in this community, the Indigenes houses were not touched but the ones that belonged to non-indigenes were demolished.
But during the exercise, some indigenes’ houses were erroneously demolished but they were not compensated. Though the authorities admitted to have made mistakes but we expected them to pay compensation to the affected house owners. If you see any non-indigene living in this community now, they are occupying the houses that belonged to the indigenes.
Anybody seeking to get a land from the traditional institution will no longer get it again because ‘the government warned us during El Rufai administration’. Even if a stranger comes now wanting to buy a land, it will not be possible except if they get an approval from the government-? FCTA or AMAC. But for the indigenes, a land will be allotted to the person. For instance, if we get a grown up son, we can allocate land to the person to build his own house.
On the demolition saga, he stressed, “Except during the el Rufai era, we have not heard any news of demolition. Since they have already driven the non indigenes away from the community, there is no need of them coming here to demolish again. Also, no new houses have been built by non indigene since that demolition. If you go round the community, you will see new buildings but they all belong to indigenes.
Even if you want to know my secret or anything about me, just go round the village and ask questions, people will tell you the truth about me. If you still ask the villagers the owners of the houses that they are occupying, you will still hear that it belonged to the indigenes. We are living peacefully in this community. Both the Christians and Muslims eat together, laugh together and do everything together and in common.
We don’t have any resettlement or relocation case here since our village will not be demolished again.
The chief disclosed the series of efforts to checkmate illegal developments. “We have a task force in this community that checkmates illegal development. Before our own natives can build any house in this village, they will first visit the traditional ruler for approval. When they come, we will take them to the site and show them a place where they can build.
In this palace, we have a register containing the names of every indigene that are given land to develop or build a house. We chose to create a register for them in case somebody wants to fraudulently collect a land twice, we will be able to track the person. In this way, nobody will cheat on us.
The Public Relations Officer, Development Control Department of Abuja Metropolitan Management Council (AMMC), Mrs. Josie Mudashiru, told LEADERSHIP SUNDAY that the reason some settlements still exist was because the houses were owned by Gbagyi natives.
?“The reason you find them there is because they are Gbagyi settlements. I’m sure you know that in 2004 to 2006, we removed the squatter settlers in Piwoyi, Chika, Aleyita, Pyakassa and most of the villages along airport road. Since then, we have made sure that new development doesn’t come up. But that is what we can do for now by making sure that they don’t expand until when the Gbagyi’s have been resettled. When they move, there won’t be any excuse for anybody to remain there”.
On modalities for setting up a slum, she said, “I don’t think that any city will deliberately set up a slum. You don’t set up a slum and that’s why I am telling you that they are still in their village set up. By the time, they are relocated which we have begun in phases because Garki people have been relocated and they are just waiting for some infrastructures to be completed before they move which is almost 90 per cent completed.
Some people have started moving and then government will move them in phases. By the time that is done, you will know who is supposed to remain and who is not. Some of these houses where you claim to have the non-indigenes are owned by the Gbagyi’s and have been built long time ago. They have rented them out to these non-indigenes and will still claim that the house belongs to them. So except in such a situation definitely when you see a new building at the foundation level with a new roof, we will go and mark it.?? In FCT, affordable has been one of the biggest challenges faced by the resident. It’s his time the government address these obstacles since Nigerians pay tax.