Misery! As FCT Demolishes 150 Structures On Flood Plains
EFAB Estates, Lokogoma, and Lokogoma Estates, Abuja, have in the last few months endured torrid times with the death of at least five persons, who were swept away by flash floods, and the destruction property within these areas.
While the FCT authorities are blaming developers for erecting structures without approvals in unauthorised locations, and in breach of extant building codes, affected tenants are livid with the rage as they are accusing officials of Development Control Department of the FCT administration of accepting bribes and looking the other way while developers engage in illegality.
One of the victims of the demolition, Mrs. Ajaratu Suleiman, whose husband resides abroad, told The Guardian that the FCT authorities are to blame for allowing the development of illegal structures in Lokogoma and other estates within the territory.
“Some of us who bought these plots of land to build was given documents by the developers. But the funny aspects of the whole exercise is that throughout the time my husband and I were building, there was never a time that government officials came to us with any warning, or to urge us to stop work. Now, after we have spent all our resources here, they are just waking up to say that our building was illegally constructed along the waterways. This is unfair,” she lamented.
“My husband lives and works in Germany, but came down to ensure that the house was built and I moved in with our children. He only comes visiting from Germany once or twice every year. It is now so sad that apart from our savings, which have now gone down the drains, our hopes of owning a house of our own here in Abuja have equally been dashed. My appeal to the government is that those of us who have genuine papers from recognised developers should be compensated with fresh plots of land to enable us to start life afresh. This has become necessary because some of the developers who sold these plots of lands to us have disappeared,” she appealed.
Another victim and resident of EFAB Estate, Mr. Samson Oladele, lamented that the apartment he occupied was brought down barely four weeks after he renewed his rent.
“What has happened to me is very unfortunate and has left me very confused about the next step to take. I am still pained because I renewed my rent only a few weeks ago. Now that the flat I was occupying is gone as a result of this demolition, where do I go from here? He questioned rhetorically.
The demolition, which started at about 2 pm on July 29, 2019, and supervised, by officials of the Development Control Department of Abuja Metropolitan Management Council in the FCT, saw over 150 structures, including two churches leveled.
The officials also equally penciled down several other structures including, more churches for demolition in the days ahead all in a bid to bring a permanent solution to the worsening flood situation.
It would be recalled that flooding in the territory, especially in the Lokogoma and EFAB estates started getting worse in 2017. Not long after that, the death of a father, son and daughter were recorded early this year, and on Thursday June 6, 2019 after a heavy downpour, a 17-year-old boy lost his life, in addition to property worth millions of being lost.
Before the demolition option was considered, a meeting between authorities of the FCT, estate developers, landlords, tenants/residents from the area was scheduled to hold around May to address the situation. But unfortunately, the meeting never held as it was postponed indefinitely for undisclosed reasons.
Also, as part of efforts to ensure that the floods were well managed, the FCT authorities kick-started the 2019 flood risk assessment control measures in the six area councils. During the exercise, residents were also sensitised and cautioned against resorting to indiscriminate dumping of refuse along drainage and waterways.
Speaking at the flag-off ceremony at the Ashara-Wako in Kwali Area Council, the FCT Permanent Secretary, Sir Christian Ohaa enjoined residents to desist from dumping refuse in drainage channels, farming at riverbanks, and building on waterways,
Ohaa, who blamed the poor attitude of residents for recurring flooding in some parts of the city, also condemned in strong terms, the activities of estate developers, who deliberately contravene provisions of the Abuja master plan by building houses on flood plains and natural watercourses, as well as, river channels.
He warned residents against further violation of laid down environmental and development laws in the FCT, stressing that the authority would not relent on its plans to demolish houses built on waterways.
According to him, potential buyers or those seeking property to rent in the territory must always carry out due diligence and find out from relevant authorities if the developers involved have met the master plan’s requirements before taking possession of properties.
He called on traditional rulers and other stakeholders to support the various actions of the government in this regard and also educate their subjects on the necessity of these actions.
“I am appealing to the media to emphasise safety issues, especially human activities, which increases vulnerability to flooding and other forms of disaster, as part of their corporate social responsibilities,” he said.
The Director, Development Control of the FCT, Muktar Galadima, while speaking on the rationale behind the exercise, said the FCDA management embarked on the demolition exercise to save lives.
“The situation is already bad and we were there to salvage it. We have been telling them to come with their approvals; we have been shouting that those that have valid title documents should bring them so that we can value their property and compensate them,” he said adding that the government had to “save lives before we talk about verification.”
Reacting to the incident, the Chairman of the EFAB, Lokogoma Landlords’ Forum, Alhaji Shetimma Gana Mohammed, said the demolition contravenes an earlier agreement that they had with the administration, stressing that government had promised to verify building approvals to ascertain if the off-takers or developers contravened building regulations.
“If the FCTA said those houses do not have approvals, why should the developer sell the houses to the off-takers? Some of the owners bought the houses based on trust; they are civil servants, while some of them have retired to their villages,” he said.
He described the demolition as unfortunate, adding that it could have been avoided if the developer had done proper channelisation of water, instead of the developer describing flooding in the estate as a natural disaster.
Meanwhile, the administration has vowed to prosecute involved in illegal construction of buildings and structures in order to serve as a deterrent to others.
Speaking with The Guardian after assessing the impact of the recent flooding in the territory, the Director of Administration and Finance (DAF) of Abuja Metropolitan Management Council (AMMC), Suleiman Abdurahmeed said the move become inevitable in order to bring culprits to book and forestall criminality.
Abdulrameed who is also the acting Coordinator of AMMC said the administration was poised to develop strategies that would see it pull down all illegal structures that dot the territory.
He noted: ”Contrary to insinuations from some quarters, we are not slow in doing the needful. You know that Lokogoma area is a huge problem, so, we are carrying out the demolition gradually. We have been removing such illegal structures before now, but there are others that we need to remove and you know the rains are here. But I assure you that we will continue with the demolition. AMMC has started the demolition so as to create right of way and passage for water to run freely.”
He lamented that the challenge of the last flood in Lokogoma Estate, which also affected other parts of the FCT, especially the city centre was an emergency situation that deserved emergency attention from all stakeholders.
“The situation is an emergency. Some of the problems that we have discovered include the fact that some of the flood plains have been converted to use by illegal developers, and we intend to go ahead with the immediate recovery of those flood plains because if you block the flood plains and you don’t allow water to pass naturally, water will always create its own way and that is what has caused the damage you have seen,” he explained.
“And the second problem with flooding in the city is the drains. We need to de-silt them because expended plastic materials have blocked them. We have started already and we will open up those drains to allow water have easy passage. That is why the situation in Area 1 has improved unlike the previous weeks when the whole place was flooded. We have brought machines to drain the water and you can see that the whole place is now clear. So, we are going to repeat this exercise in Jabi, Utako and other parts of the city because it has to be a continuous process,” he said.
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