The federal government of Nigeria has claimed that Mpape, one of the 19 slums slated for demolition, is a hiding place for members of Boko Haram, and should therefore be destroyed. Already a make-shift market in this community has been demolished. Meanwhile, the residents have debunked claims by the government that the area was marked for demolition because it served as haven for members of Boko Haram.
This unapproved settlement in the Federal Capital Territory is presently inhabited by about one million people, most of them working in Abuja metropolis. It has 110 schools, 90 private hospitals, and thousands of women and children who will be displaced without any plan of resettlement. The Residents who had a two-month demolition notice are now ruminating over the impending demolition of their houses by the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) . Some of the tenants had paid their one-year rent only a week or less before the marking of their houses.
Speaking while welcoming the Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, Dr. Chidi Odinkalu, who was on a tour of the area, the Chairman of the residents association, Mr Peter Magoh, said some people in government merely labelled Mpape a haven of Boko Haram to justify the decision to demolish the houses there. According to him, residents of the place have a security arrangement which made the place safe for all the residents.
He, however, said since the demolition started the security arrangement had collapsed and there had been an upsurge in crime rates. “If Boko Haram is the basis for demolishing houses in Mpape why has Maiduguri not been pulled down by now? It was a mere plot to justify the demolition. A case of calling the dog a bad name to hand it.”
He said since the threat of demolition started children could no longer go to school, while the only non-private and least expensive health center had stopped functioning.
According to him, some of the residents died as a result of shock occasioned by the threat to demolish their houses.
“People here are traumatized. They are under apprehension,” he added.
Residents of Mpape had written several petitions to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) claiming that the leadership of the FCT had threatened to demolish their houses. Addressing the residents, Odinkalu said the commission was concerned about the possible violation of the rights of the Mpape residents due to the demolition exercise. He noted that the right of children in Mpape to go to school under the Universal Basic Education (UBEC) scheme was already being violated. Odinkalu said he would convey the messages of the people to government.
He explained to them that the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister for Justice, Bello Adoke (SAN) had already written to the minister of the FCT to comply with orders of courts with respect to the demolition. Abuja was planned as a federal capital to accommodate all Nigerians, while relocating indigenous people to neighbouring states.
NHRC has commenced investigation into the planned eviction and demolition.