Life in an Abuja Slum

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Kpaduma Village...begging for government's presence

Adjourning the high-end Asokoro district in Abuja is a cluster of shanty settlements known as Kpaduma village. Olawale Ajimotokan writes on the plight of the people of the community

The mid-day sun was at its peak as it radiated over Kpaduma Village in the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC), combining to create a perfect mix with the hazy weather.

The associated communal noise produced by the horde of commercial motorcycles, market people and the underage children is reminiscent of the cacophony symbolic with unplanned settlements within the Federal Capital Territory.

Kpaduma is a Gbagyi settlement to the south of Asokoro District, Nigeria’s prime destination mainly inhabited by the diplomatic corps, the powerful with deep pocket and almost all the 36 states that have their liaison offices in Abuja.

Yusuf Bala Usman Street is contiguous to Kpaduma Village. Like Baroness Linda Chalker Street, JK Gadzama Street and Jose Marti Crescent, it is one arterial road that directly interconnects Asokoro District with the village.

Serving as the terminus for commercial tricycle and bicycle operators, Yusuf Bala Usman Street is in fact the demarcation line between Kpaduma Village and Asokoro.

The terminus offers temporary spot for hawkers of all sorts to display their wares for prospective buyers.

Separating poverty and despondency from affluence is no difficult task once a visitor leaves Asokoro District symbolised by high walls and manicured lawns and enters the derelict and rodent infested haven called Kpaduma Village.

It is the distinction that is easy to establish between broad day and night.

“We can’t engage in the talk that government will develop this section as people in this area (Kpaduma Village) though mainly indigenous community are illegal squatters. The whole place has been bought by prominent people and all the houses shared to prominent individuals. The inhabitants realised that one day the slum will go down one at a short notice because they are considered to be squatters,” Aliyu Mohammed, one of the cobblers explained.

Attempt by Development and Control of Abuja Metropolitan Management Council (AMMC) in the past, particularly in 2013 to mark the houses for demolition, was fiercely resisted by the community leadership, which accused government of refusing to look into the plight of the indigenous community.

It is a rarity to find in Asokoro an open space where fans occasionally converge to watch the English Premier League (EPL) matches after paying the nominal fee.

This is because most residents of Asokoro own pay-per- view television in the comfort of their homes. Therefore having to offset the monthly subscription fees is not an issue.

There were no scheduled matches for airing on the day our correspondent visited Kpaduma 2. The development made it possible to feel the pulse of Bernard Michael, who operates a viewing centre in the village.

Michael lamented that the resultant hardship inflicted by the nationwide recession had impacted on the business which no longer booms like it was two years ago.

He said the recession affected football diehards who could hardly afford the flat rate of N100 for Champions League fixtures and N70 for EPL matches.

The supply of electricity to the dwellers of the village is at best erratic impacting on the cost of the viewing centre business.

He said in order to stay in business, he regularly buys petro to power his aging generator to provide alternative source of electricity.

However, Michael, who hails from Ogoja in Cross River State, attributed the greatest challenge confronting the inhabitants of Kpaduma to security which he said is affecting him and other businesses.

“Thieves are ubiquitous in this place. We have lost countless phones to pickpockets and on one occasion there was a break in at our second viewing centre. Security is really an issue here. We have vigilante people but it does not appear they are up to the task of securing the community,” he said.

His concern on security was reinforced by Uche Gabriel.

Gabriel pointed at a stall belonging to a woman, which thieves vandalised and made away with her wares after a break in.

The residents of the community also complained about lack of attention from government regarding provision of primary healthcare in the area.

As private medical centres are rare to find, they are at the mercy of local chemists and are often referred to the Asokoro General Hospital for their immediate health requirements.

Gabriel said that despite the fact that Kpaduma is a thriving hub, there is irregular provision of electricity and lack of job which pushes the youths to crime.

In addition, he raged that small scale businesses are at the mercy of AMAC which often subjects them to multiple charges payable on business premises.

“I like Kpaduma, but we often have issues with AMAC people that are fond of imposing high levies on our shops. In fact, they make us pay multiple rates on premises, charging N7,000 on locked-up shops and N5,000 on batchers and kiosks. It is something we are appealing to authorities to wade into,” he said.

His position was reinforced by Madam Kelechi Izama, who specialises in selling of fairly used clothes otherwise known as “Okrika’’. Izama says the local council is fond of disturbing the traders whenever they feel like.

The FCTA through the AMMC has often described shanties within Abuja city as illegal settlements that should be demolished to preserve the FCT Master-plan.

Two months ago, officials of Development and Control, led by the Acting Director of the department, Mukhtar Galadima, bulldozed dozens of structures at a settlement known as Mountain Village abutting the Kpaduma Village. The demolition which is a warning signal for the dwellers of Kpaduma followed a quit notice issued in August 2016 for them to remove their belongings and vacate the community.

But Michael minced no words when he noted that since Bala Mohammed, the immediate past FCT Minister left, the FCTA, headed by the current Minister, Muhammed Musa Bello has not threatened the dwellers with a quit notice with the intention to take-over their shack.

“At the time the Goodluck Jonathan administration was in power and Bala Mohammed was the minister, they used to give us problem, but this time is not like before. This current minister, Musa Bello is not even disturbing us. No one is even talking about it,” he sounded off.

Izama said Kobi Road was constituting a health risk to the public because of its bad and dusty nature accentuated by the harmattan, while Michael thanked the Dangote Group for piling the road at Kpaduma 2 with stones in the past two years, thus making it passable.