By Luka Binniyat
Down the slope on Ilorin Street, Area 8, Garki Abuja, the street curves a few meters from a swath of banana ‘forest’ that banks a sinuous stream. From the start of the curve, a short, rough narrow road tees off southward, leading to a narrow bridge of about 10 meters length. It is actually a pedestrian bridge, but can accommodate a car at a time. The  narrow pedestal bridge, bursts forth unto a surprisingly wide looking  arena, dotted with trees and hedges.

And from this bridge, you see a stream of cars, mostly exotic ones, parked around the 15 widely spaced  round (village like)  huts that make the place earn its sobriquet. Move on and you are now face-to-face with the place where Abuja  makes  its contribution to the  global $294.5 billion beer business which ensures that the human family  guzzle a staggering 35 billion gallons of beer annually.

Here, you will later learn that on the average, about 500 cartons of beer or 15,000 cartons per month are consumed with a consequent N3 million return to the breweries. Welcome to Abuja Beer village.

There is no official name for this open, acreage in the heart of Abuja. Some call it “wonderland” and others “Tinapa” after the Tourism haven of Calabar.

But this “village” is not designed for the rich. It is not for the low income earners either. Beer village is arguably Abuja’s drinking nest where the rich  hobnob with the mid_income earners from “17:59” till dawn. Prices of beverages  and food are on the high side and tend to discourage low income earners, tempt the  middle class while the big boys and girls have no problem with it.

Some serving and former Senators and House of Reps members sneak in once in a while. Movie and Music stars also make surprise appearances in some of the joints, as are military officers and academics.

But what makes this place so unique?

“It gives you this air of freedom”, Musa Shanno, a willowy man, with a receding forehead told Vangaurd as he sat among his friends nursing a glass of beer. “Here you can chat with your friends as you like, because as you can see, no one is allowed to play loud music here.

“The place is open, natural, almost like a picnic ground”, he adds, as he takes one long gulp on his beer, brings down the glass, and wipes the frosty looking foams from his moustache. “This beer is great!”, he declares, leaving this writer and his four friends in guffaw. But the village is not all about beer. Of course,everyone knows that drinking has its own paraphernalia.

And they are not in short supply here: barbequed fish and chicken spiced with chilly, pepper soup, Isi-ewu, and so on are sold on a la carte basis. Some spots in the village have their specialities. For example, Mary’s Place, a jumping distance from the bridge is hot for Northerners’ food, while Martha, a voluptuous lady may have conquered the cow-leg pepper soup market. And if you want Tiv variety, Vera’s place is your best bet. And the Yoruba don’t toy with Mama Bisola’s space.

“Gardens”, interestingly is what Beer Village is supposed to be.

“We were allocated this garden free-of-charge about two years ago”, says Mary Iveh, who runs her own “garden”.

“It was El-Rufai who directed that we should  be allocated this place after we were forbidden from  operating at our former places.

“The man knew this the only way that we sustain ourselves, so he allocated this place to us free-of-charge”, she insists. But this was after el-Rufai demolished previous gardens.

According to her, they were permitted to build only round huts and to plant flowers around them

The Authority also forbids them from carrying out any form of expansion, outside the huts.

The official closing time in the village is 12 midnight, she says.

“But in this business”, she observes, “you can hardly regiment people who have had some beer and want to have fun”, she adds. The result, for sure is that, people drink for as long as they wish.

Another plus for Beer Village, is the complete absence of hawking of the flesh.

It might be that Beer Villagers are always too preoccupied with guzzling their drinks, or that the ladies of the night have blacklisted the “village”  as “no service” zone.

Again, the occasional raid by bandits in some smaller gardens in the city has never been re-ordered at Beer Village.

Indeed for a marauding gang to invade the place successfully, it may have to come in a size of maybe, 100. And it is unlikely that such and army of Armed Robbers can easily have a base in Abuja.

But Beer Village is just one of the may gardens that adorn Nigeria’s Federal Capital City.

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