Residents of Ushafa community in Bwari Area Council of Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja, have raised the alarm over the FCT Water Board and some estate developers’ alleged connivance and effort to convince the FCT Minister to demolish the community.
A 72-year-old resident, elder Mathew Danladi told our reporter that Ushafa community which has existed with relative peace for over 200 years has recently been under threats of demolition by the FCT Water Board and its collaborators, thereby heightening tension among residents.
Narrating the beginning of the threat, Danladi said, “The demolition threat first came up in 2018 when the management of the Usman Dam situated in the community showed up, approaching the community to set aside about 200 meters away from the Dam but was resisted by the indigenes. Also, in 2019, a similar attempt was made but this time around, Development Control Department of FCTA was invited to mark houses built within the said parameters which were also resisted by the indigenes since the authority had already marked out the Dam’s restricted area with iron wire and signposts.
“The most shocking move came up in March this year (2021) when the Water Board authority stormed the community with virtually representatives of all departments and agencies under FCTA. This time around, the officials stated that they had gotten ministerial approval to implement 500 meters away from the Dam which is almost half of Ushafa community. The situation nearly caused violent attacks if not for the presence of security operatives who calmed the residents.”
Our reporter learnt that when asked what the land would be used for if the demolition exercise was carried out, some of the FCTA officials who did not want their names mentioned because they were not authorised to do so, said they wanted to maintain world standard and to make the place green area while others said it was for safety purpose in case water overflows or when the dam collapses. Another group said it would be used for recreational center for revenue generation.
It was learnt that the Bwari Area Council chairman, Hon John Gabaya, also resisted the proposal, stressing that revenue generation cannot be prioritised against human lives and property.
Based on the development, series of meetings of stakeholders of FCT Water Board, Ushafa community, Bwari Area Council and other agencies of government and traditional rulers have been taking place in order to find a common ground for amicable settlement in the interest of peace but no conclusion has been reached yet as the dialogue was still ongoing.
However, another indigene and community leader, Thomas Musa, told our correspondent that while the negotiation is ongoing, Water Board in desperate effort to convince government to displace the residents from their fatherland had allegedly written different negative reports against the community on their alleged illegal activities around the Dam. He lamented that absolutely nothing is true about what they cited in the reports.
In his words, “Among other things it was alleged that the residents are contaminating the water with refuse, human dead bodies, cult initiation, etc but these are not true. Ironically, the water is barricaded with an iron fence and the entrance gate is manned by operatives of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC). How could that be possible?
“The most recent of these desperate moves to destroy our lives and fortunes or displace us in the face of the state of the nation in Nigeria today is a sponsored Newspapers publication with the caption, “Usuma Dam: Abuja Water Source Faces Contamination Threat,” on Saturday, May 28, 2021, by an estate developer and their accomplices. It was desperately alleged in the report that the farm owners were duly compensated and relocated to Peyi among other things. The report shows that the reporters and their sponsors have no information about the location of the Dam in Ushafa,” Musa lamented.
The FCT Water Board acting general manager, Dame Joy Okoro, had earlier said in a publication that, “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.”
However, the residents denied the claim by the Acting General Manager that some people built on the waterway, saying there is no waterway in Ushafa, let alone encroaching on it. The residents also disagreed with Okoro’s position that a demolition order has been issued on houses built on the waterway as the Board is still dialoguing with other stakeholders on the meters to be restricted from the Dam, even when a restriction signposts are already where they should be.
The residents further debunked what they called “unfounded allegations” in the various reports to the Honourable Minister, Mohammed Musa Bello against them and also appealed to the minister to disregard those reports, saying Usman Dam in Ushafa is very safe for drinking and there is no threat whatsoever from anywhere to the water.
The indigenes said that the Water Board authority ought to be thinking of extending social responsibility to Ushafa as their host community instead of being a threat to its existence, noting that they have no other place to go and can’t afford to lose all their lifetime achievements.
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