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Concerns mount as squatter settlements spread in Abuja, environs

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Stakeholders have expressed worries that illegal structures, mostly squatter settlements are springing up and spreading in many districts of Abuja, saying if the trend is not checked, may become ugly sight in the nation’s capital. The United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) in Nigeria has stated that about 80 million Nigerians, representing 79 percent of the population, are living in slums. The growth of informal settlements around the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) has largely been as a result of inadequate and non-affordable housing for all citizens.

The challenge of securing land tenure for the teeming populace, the high cost of building materials, inaccessible mortgage mechanisms for the poor as well as the high rents of urban accommodation has been responsible for many of the city’s suburban slums. The squatter settlements, according to them, are springing up in Apo, Lokogoma, Kabusa, Area I, Jahi, Asokoro axis, Guzape, Gwarinpa, Utako,Kado, Nyanya. Others are: Mpape, Durumi, Gudu, Waru, Mararaba, Suleja in Niger state.
 
But senior government officials told The Guardian that the squatters are drawn from internally displaced persons (IDPs), unsettled by armed conflicts in the Northeast and North Central regions, while others are persons coming to seek for jobs in Abuja.

 
The Director, Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Development Control Department, Mukhtar Galadima explained that its challenges border on restoration and reviewing the Abuja master plan to accommodate 3.1 million people. He noted that with the realities on the ground, “you can see socio-economic factors chasing people away and they are coming to Abuja. So all these factors have direct or indirect influence on Abuja master plan.
 
Galadima also said the department has demolished over 3,000 illegal structures, and the pressures on the FCT, which is relatively a peaceful city in Nigeria, and everyone wants to come to Abuja, especially, IDPs.One, Mallam Idris Migida told The Guardian that indigenous settlements have expanded beyond their boundaries, and most places are saturated with illegal structures in available space in the territory.He also said internally displaced people from Borno, Yobe, or other states in the North, have migrated and journeyed to Abuja, and its surrounding states to take cover, and settle down to continue their lives.
 
Equally, he added, these migrant have passed through many states and finally arrived at nation’s capital city, adding that all the states that they passed through are equally peaceful, and why can they settle there?’Also speaking, the Head of Public Relations Officer, of the FCT Development Control Department, Mr. James Afu, described the situation as pathetic, saying, these illegal structures would soon be pull down in all locations.He said they are working with relevant organisations to eliminate houses built by IDPs, adding that they are temporary. We are calling on the federal government to relocate them to their original homes.
 
On his part, Pastor Emmanuel Atamoje told The Guardian that foreign partners have abandoned IDPs; they should have built better structures for the migrants, rather than, allow them to become a nuisance. “In those unarranged houses, there are improper health facilities, especially, toilets.  Can we end open defecation by 2030? The houses are unfit for human habitation, and should be demolished and phase out in Abuja.”
 
Atamoje also explained, some of the illegal structures are built on people’s plot of land, others on plantations, and abandoned estates and roads in the districts, stressing that tricycle riders are now using it as their dwelling places.It was further gathered that government officials and civil society groups normally go to the people living in those ‘do-it-yourself houses’ for medical attention, which means that they are aware of squatters.


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