Residents and indigenes of Ushafa community in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, are now having sleepless nights over the constant harassment by some land grabbers who have come under the guise of Dam safety to displace residents and indigenes.
The residents who have been under the threat of demolition following the claim of encroachment by FCT Water Board have lamented the constant intimidation, harassment and threats they get every day from the Water Board and its alleged sponsors, aimed at displacing them.
Ushafa is one of the most recognized villages in the FCT, and it’s popularly called ‘Clinton village’ as the then United States President, Bill Clinton visited the village during his tour of the country. Gbagi indigenes settle in the area.
But the residents have constantly been threatened by estate developers and land grabbers who always claim they are working with the FCT Water Board to harass indigenes.
DAILY POST gathered that recently, the Water Board and some of the suspected estate developers brought Development Control and FCDA to the area, claiming that the entire Ushafa is the catchment area of the dam, terming all activities around the dam as illegal.
They had claimed at least 500 meters away from the dam as their catchment area. But community members came out en mass, challenging the claim of the Water Board and other stakeholders allegedly working for some developers. The indigenes had alleged that there was no agreement with the Water Board or any other government agency that it was going to relinquish its entire land to site a dam. A resident had said at a stakeholders meeting that “Our fathers were cajoled into giving up their lands for the dam without due compensation. After giving you the portion to site the dam, we have the right to live. We must continue to survive, build our houses on the remaining part of the dam, farm and continue our fishery activities. Stopping us from these remains the highest level of injustice,” the resident said.
Our reporter who monitored proceedings during a town hall meeting held at the Water Board and attended by various stakeholders in the FCT, observed the anger of the indigenes who have insisted that they cannot be chased out of their fatherland.
One of the Indigenes said, ” You can’t chase us out of our land. What for? Do you want to chase us from our land because of the water we don’t enjoy? Is the water more than my being alive as a person? So Gbagi indigenes should always take the blow? It won’t happen this time around.”
When DAILY POST contacted the Chief’s Palace for clarification, our reporter was told by the palace that Water Board was reneging on the agreement they had with them years past. The palace, however, refused to speak further on the matter, stating that a committee is currently looking into the Ushafa’s matter.
But another resident who spoke to DAILY POST but pleaded anonymity accused the Water Board of grabbing the entire Ushafa land to either share among themselves or to top people in government to develop. ” He said, this is clearly for business. This is not part of what we agreed with them. How can they take lands people have built on and have been living for over 35 years? Where have they been all these years? Why the sudden interest in Ushafa? Where do they want us to run to? ”
Another indigene dismissed the claim by the Water Board that the FCT Minister was behind the ordeal of the people. While pleading anonymous, he said, “The Minister that I know cannot order that people’s houses be pulled down, knowing the amount of investment here and considering the current economic reality and security challenges. No. I don’t believe those people are working for the Minister.”
But a minute of the meeting held at the Water Board obtained by DAILY POST revealed that FCT Water Board is pushing for the demolition of houses and eviction of landowners from their community due to alleged illegal activities of farmers and landowners that pose danger to dam safety.
Our reporter, however, observed when he visited the Dam gate that some local security men were employed by the same community to protect the dam. A source at Water Board corroborated this, stating that Water Board is fully aware of the said effort by the community. One of the private security officers told our reporter that he was under the payroll of the community to protect the dam from any form of illegality, especially suspicious movements within the area that could be a threat to the entire FCT. He said, “the community pays me. We protect the area against criminal activities. We stop illegal dumping of refuse around the area and anyone trying to build at the restricted area.”
Lamenting, a Gbagi Indigene, Mr Sam said, ” They want to chase us away from our land because of the water we don’t drink? Usbafa people don’t have water. We all dig boreholes.”
DAILY POST findings reveal that over 15,000 people will be displaced should any form of demolition occur in the area. Our correspondent observed that houses within the area are well structured with a standard layout. It was further gathered that most of the indigenes are either business people or civil servants who while planning for retirement decided to build at the place they could call their home.
On the claim of proximity to the dam and the safety of residents, DAILY POST further observed that the area occupied by the indigenes is the upper part of the dam. It was observed that the dam flows downwards and not upwards. Just 250 meters away from the dam is DSS institute, SCC Construction company and a quarter belonging to FCT Water Board staff. Also around the dam area are plots allocated by the government.
A source from the Ministry of Water Resources foreclosed the possibility of the dam overflowing, as it’s not even able to serve water to the entire FCT residents in a year. He said, ” This is why we get supply from Gurara. Anyone saying the dam could overflow is a big liar. They should still give another reason. Besides, if the dam poses any threat, it is to those living at its exit way, not people who are living in Ushafa. It would rather affect people in Kubwa or Dutse.”
A security report seen by DAILY POST as forwarded to the FCT Police Command had warned against any form of demolition owing to its security implications. DAILY POST could not obtain a copy.
Our correspondent gathered that series of meetings have been held with stakeholders on how the issue can be amicably resolved. The community had on different occasions engaged traditional rulers in the FCT, the Area Council and other important stakeholders on the matter.
A source told DAILY POST that the FCT Minister is concerned about the lives of residents of Ushafa and is interested in placing premium on their wellbeing, hence reviewing critically the initial proposal sent to his desk by some contractors interested in the area.
DAILY POST finding revealed that one of the companies interested in Ushafa area is Jigna Eco-Ranch Limited. The company had written to the FCT Minister, Malam Muhammad Musa Bello, on April 26, 2021, seeking partnership on the development of the Dam area.
On DAILY POST’s second visit to the Dam area, our correspondent observed that Water Board had demarcated the body of the dam from the area. Also visibly erected by a major road separating the community from the Dam is a notice that reads “Restricted Area”.
A resident told our reporter upon enquiry that the restricted notice and the barb wired-fence show that it is only when one goes beyond the area that the offence of encroachment can say to have been committed.
Also under the firm grab of Water Board are lands at different locations in Ushafa including a contentious one opposite the Jordan FM called Dutse Bmapma plot. Only last week, Development Control pulled down dwarf fences erected on the said plots by the owners under the directive of Water Board.
When DAILY POST contacted the Acting General Manager of Water Board, Dame Joy Okoro, she said, “as far as I know, I do not know about any attempt to grab land. Our dispute with the people of the village is an encroachment on the waterway (downstream). We have given them notice not to encroach. We have not asked the entire village to leave, rather stop all erection and demolition order has been issued on houses built on the waterway.”
But most of the residents interviewed refuted Ms Joy’s claim, saying that no demolition notice had been issued to them and that an inter-ministerial committee is still looking into the claims by Water Board. They also debunked the claim that houses were built on the waterway as there is no waterway in Ushafa.