Kutunku residents cry out over unlawful demolition of their houses in Gwagwalada (Photos)
Story from Haruna YUSUF, Abuja
Kutunku extension layout is a vast plain land with unpolluted fresh air situated in Gwagwalada Area Council which has attracted many residents of Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to invest millions of naira into lands and the building of houses.
On the 1st of September 2022, an armed Nigeria security team with a bulldozer stormed the extension and began to demolish the buildings in sight.
In an interview with the Neptune Prime reporter, some victims of the demolished houses revealed how the demolition rendered them homeless.
Mrs Odumosu Seyi Grace, a worker with FCT Universal Basic Education, said she bought a plot of land in the layout in 2016 but when paying annual rent took its toll on her finances, she decided to start building on the plot of land and was able to see the building through completion.
Grace said she was happy to have overcome the annual challenges of paying rent, but her joy was hijacked when The Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) unlawfully authorised a demolition that destroyed her home.
“I was almost close to the office when I received a call that my house has been demolished, I turned back home to see things for myself and couldn’t believe my eyes, my blood pressure got high and I fainted; it took the intervention of people who poured water on me and resuscitated me back to life.” Mrs Grace narrated.
She said she is still paying for the loan she collected from the cooperative to complete the building that was demolished.
When asked where she is currently residing, she said “A friend borrowed me N400,000 to pay for my rent since I have been deprived of living in my own house for now.”
Another resident, Christian Madu, that owns plot A315 where he built his multimillion naira house said he was at home preparing on the rainy morning of 1st September 2022 to go to work when the fully armed demolition team with a bulldozer arrived and started destroying houses.
He said when they got to his house, the father of four children with two dependants and a wife was asked to come out of the house, after which the bulldozer started destroying the house living Madu and his children in a pool of tears under the heavy rainfall.
When asked if he has the right document of the land, he said, “Yes, I have the right document, I have the approval of Customary Right of Occupancy, FCDA approval form, and a receipt of payment to generate plot number. However, I am appealing to the relevant authority to come to our aid,” Madu pleaded.
Mr Okonji Kingsley owns a newly built house and was about to pack in when the demolition took place. Kingsley said he is going to seek justice because he has the right documents from the Area Council.
According to him, “The matter got worse when some hoodlums began stealing our properties during the demolition and I tried to stop them. They (hoodlums) lynched me to a comma and I was taken to the hospital where I regained consciousness.”
Following the outcry by the residents of Kutunku V extension, Neptune Prime found it expedient to speak to the Director Department of Development Control, Mukhtar Galadima Usman, who narrated that the land is within 91.6 hectares which is statutorily allocated to a corporate entity as farmland.
But as a result of development and urbanisation, the title of the land has been modified and has been converted to a residential layout. And the documents that the victims claimed to have is subjected to verification and confirmation by Urban and Regional Planning.
He said, “Nevertheless, we at the Department of Development Control are statutorily empowered to demolish any structure without proper building approval in Abuja,” the Director asserted.
When asked about the proper way to acquire land in Abuja, Usman said, “First, you have to obtain a valid title document, consult the Department of Development Control to know what type of building and the land use that you are to put in that land then you submit your design for proper vetting and approval.
“Because the land use act of 1976 and the Nigeria Urban and Regional Planning law have clearly stated that for any development to commence, there must be express approval by the relevant authorities.
“Also, the Court of Appeal in FCT, clearly stated that any development in FCT without approval stands illegal and the authority reserves the right to remove the structure even without notice. This is the pronouncement of the Court,” he reiterated.
However, in an Amnesty International report, forced eviction is prohibited under Nigerian land law and under international legal instruments. In exceptional cases backed up by court order, all due process of alternative remedies or full consultations with supposed affected individuals is expected.
Similarly, the United Nations Human Rights Commission Resolutions 1993/77 and 2004/28 affirmed that forced evictions violate human rights. In addition, adequate written notice is to be served to affected persons within a reasonable time with plans of compensation.
But all of these are yet to be complied with in Abuja.