The final outcome of the Kubwa crises is very important, because it will affect what happens in the other surrounding satellite towns such as Nyanya, Apo, Lugbe etc with similar ‘illegal’ structures.
With the demolition of what the FCT and Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) referred to as ‘illegal structures and structures not in line with the Abuja Master Plan’, pain, anger, dislocation, homelessness, material and financial loses were also visited upon Nigerians who had called Kubwa home and had therefore invested and built in the once dry lands, they must have believed in the claims of the founding architects of Abuja that the town was going to be a land of unity for all Nigerians.
Today, what stands in place of their homes and hopes are ruins, rubbles and shattered dreams, their sources of livelihood and lifelong savings destroyed by what they call ‘El-Rufai’s bulldozers’. This story is more pathetic because in the Nigerian system, there is no social safety net to protect those going through a rough patch, even temporarily. Although the senate panel has recommended that ‘those with 25 years and limitless tenure with genuine particulars should be compensated as they are helping government by investing their money since the government had shirked its responsibilities’. It is still doubtful how the Obasanjo government will respond to the panels’ subtle indictment and recommendations. Part of the panel’s recommendations was that ‘Government should compensate the victims of demolition who had genuine allocation papers and still had their properties demolished’.
The Justice Idris Kuta Senate ad-hoc committe
As I sat and listened to the tales of woe by the Kubwa residents during a session of the Senate ad hoc committee hearing in July 2005, images of Maroko in Lagos came flooding in, with our kind of system and government, it was difficult to know who to believe anymore. In as much as it is a good thing to have a Master Plan and stick to it, but then what happened in Maroko pointed more to government’s overbearing mentality of demolishing people’s houses, and reclaiming it for the rich who can only afford the multi-million naira asking prices for the reclaimed lands. Maroko in Lagos State has since become Victoria Island Extension, an island of the super- rich and their billion naira corporations, who will ever remain grateful to Nigeria’s one time Military President, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida for the Maroko experiment which now seems to have been replicated in Kubwa.
Uche Nworah & others at the Senate hearing
Kubwa residents feel betrayed; they believe that the lands thus repossessed will be re-distributed to government officials and their cronies. ‘The whole story coming out of the FCT and FCDA is quite absurd’ says Nze Sunny Ogbu, the Chairman of the Kubwa Landlords Association. ‘We got our land allocations from FCDA and FCT officials, who signed the documents on behalf of the FCDA and FCT, how can they now turn around to say that the allocations were illegal?’
Nze Sunny Ogbu (right) & other Kubwa landlords at the Senate hearing
The point made by Kubwa landlords at the Senate hearing was that in the course of the land transactions, they had dealt with only FCT and FCDA officials, and that the positions of authority of such officials erased any doubts of illegitimacy and foul play from their minds and so they should not now be made to pay for the excesses and recklessness of corrupt government officials, some of whom the Senate panel indicted in their report in these words, ‘All FCDA and FCT officials involved in illegal land deals should be sanctioned. Such sanctions should include dismissal and prosecution’.
Members of the public at the Senate hearing
There is still not yet a wholesale agreement or solution to the Kubwa land crises, because both the FCT, FCDA, the Senate, Kubwa landlords and the other concerned stakeholders are still not singing from the same hymn book. Ikenna Ogbudibe, an Abuja based Architect and business owner and one of the early settlers in Abuja however thinks that there is some kind of conspiracy going on in Abuja, according to him ‘it is suspicious the way new owners' states of origin now form part of the Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) registration numbers being issued by the FCT in their current re-certification exercise, why do they need to know the state of origin of the new land owners? The plots ought to retain their initial numbers even after the recertification or is it a census of Igbo plots prior to another demolition?’
Ikenna’s argument and conspiracy theory is currently gaining grounds among mostly the sojourning Igbos who were among the early settlers in Abuja,they braved the odds and moved in at a time when Abuja was still a no-man’s land,and Nigerians were shying away from coming to invest in Abuja, but now having persevered and made good and invested in lands and properties, they now think that there is a wider plot to break their foothold in the Abuja property market.
For the displaced Kubwa residents, whose houses have not yet fallen under El-Rufai’s bulldozers, they may find some consolation in the recommendations of the senate panel, which says that ‘some of the structures not in line with the Land Use Per Master Plan should be integrated into the Abuja master plan, provided that the structures have not bastardized the Abuja master plan’ but for those whose houses have already fallen, such consolatory promises may have come a little too late.