As Gwarinpa serene housing estate is turned into trading post, slum with hoodlums on the prowl
We’re doing something about it — Development Control Director speaks
By Soni Daniel – Gwarinpa
Something very disgusting is happening in Gwarinpa District of Abuja, which houses one of the biggest housing estates in Africa. It is a sad commentary and an irreconcilable irony that the district which was some years ago a model of serenity, beauty, and ordered experience for the lucky residents and homeowners.
It is now a pitiable slum taken over by illegal structures, refuse heaps on the roadside, gully erosion menace threatening to cut off some of the deplorable roads, while hoodlums and other hustlers reign supreme in the once reserved area where law and order reigned supreme.
But that is just a tip of the iceberg of the major menace starring Gwarinpa residents and homeowners on the face and posing serious headache to them.
The area, which formally hosted moderate, well-designed and comfortable houses built for junior, middle class, and senior government workers, has now been replaced by massive, high-rise commercial complexes now serving as shopping malls, hotels, warehouses, eateries, 24-four hour drinking joints, pharmacies, lounges most of which are suspected to be dispensing dangerous drugs and commercial drivers and traders on both sides of the roads.
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Conducive residential area
As a result, the peace, joy, and safety that once defined Gwarinpa have since taken a flight, leaving the inhabitants to rethink whether to continue to stay or relocate to a more conducive residential area of the city.
Right now, mayhem is the word that aptly defines the chaos and confusion that reign supreme in Gwarinpa and make nonsense of the master plan of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, which was once respected as sacred law.
In the days of Malam Nasir Ahmed El-Rufai as the FCT Minister, the residents of Gwarinpa or any part of Abuja were stiffly scared to erect any structure on any plot not expressly approved and recertified by the FCTA.
Today, the reverse is the case. Speculators have boldly taken over government land; built massive structure on them without any approval since the current FCT Minister, Mr. Bello Mohammed, has not shown any interest in continuing with the El-Rufai culture of ensuring full compliance with the Abuja Master plan.
Since his appointment in 2015 by the Buhari administration, Bello is yet to shake the town by removing illegal structures that now dot the length and breadth of Abuja.
In the case of Gwarinpa, the areas that were left as ‘Green Areas’ have since been taken over by speculators, built slowly into commercial hubs, marked strips of land hosting service facilities have also been trampled upon with impunity by speculators who have also erected massive structures even on flood plains without any challenge from the FCTA.
What started as a ‘test and see’ approach by the speculators, has now blossomed into full construction business in all areas of Gwarinpa since there has been no confrontation of any kind by the FCTA since the exit of El-Rufai, which has been worsened by the current administration’s inability or aversion towards restraining the emergence of illegal structures in the district and other parts of the FCT.
The worst affected areas of Gwarinpa are Roads One, Two, Three, and Four, which serve as the main arteries of the district and which were before the invasion by speculators the most desired residential hub of the town.
In other words, these roads have since been converted into what can be described as ‘trading posts’ of Abuja with thousands of shopping complexes and shoppers competing for space, while the few residents left behind are beset with tales of frequent armed robberies, petty thefts, and drug-related crimes.
Traffic snarl has also led to a terrible travelling experience in Gwarinpa. The massive shopping complexes, warehouses and eateries, and other huge buildings that now dot the area, some stretching into the roads, have added to the woes of the residents and homeowners who now have trouble accessing their homes at any time of the day.
The area is always filled with human shoppers competing for space to buy or sell their wares especially in the day time.
“If we had known that Gwarinpa would be abandoned by the FCTA and left-handed over to land speculators I would not have bought my house,” said Ekaette Udo, a retired public servant, who bought her four-bedroom bungalow under the Federal Government Monetisation Programme.
“We have never had it so bad before this administration came. At least, other FCT ministers used to even threaten the speculators to stop building on unauthorised areas but this present administration has not said or done anything about the inexplicable takeover and conversion of the residential area of the Gwarinpa Housing estate into a trading post. It is very dehumanising and sad,” Umar Farouk, another public servant who retired from the Office of the Head of Service, lamented.
The foot soldiers of the FCTA, Development Control, which used to be feared as a thin god, has also gone into somnolence since the FCT Minister has not also shown sufficient push to sanitise the city.
In the circumstance, the highest the once-powerful Development Control officials now do to these illegal structures is simply to decorate them with innocuous warnings such as: “Stop Work and Quit”, “Revert to Original plan”, “Remove” and so on.
But as the developers continue to observe that the DC can only bark but cannot bite with no bulldozer ever deployed to demolish illegal buildings in the city, they continue to take over and build jumbo structures with impunity.
Thus, even with the avalanche of DC warnings, most speculators have continued to clean up the graffiti and build their houses from scratch to finish without any threat from the FCTA. For example, on a stretch of land from the Gwarinpa main gate at Galadima and Dawaki, which serves as a water channel, nobody was ever allowed by the FCTA to erect any structure on it.
However, about two years ago, when the first person raised a raft foundation and built a duplex closing the water channel in the process and no disciplinary action was taken to stop him, others followed suit and built even deeper into the channel and effectively blocked water flow along the area.
It is not clear how erosion, which is fast threatening Gwarinpa and has almost cut part of Road 2 into two, is affecting both buildings and humans seriously.
“We are worried that if something is not done about this wicked conversion of our residential estate into a trading hub, we would never be able to live in this area again.
We are appealing to the FCT Minister, Mohammed Bello, to wake up from his slumber and do something about this situation in which we have been subjected to,” Mikhail Terta,” who owns a storey building in Gwarinpa pleaded.
The main trouble in the area, which has been taken over by land speculators and turned into a trading hub, seems to be that it was first ceded by the FCTA to the Federal Housing Authority, FHA, who now turns a blind eye to the malfeasance that goes on unabated in the area.
But the homeowners believe that the invasion and conversion of buildings into commercial and trading centres would not have taken place if the FCT Minister had taken control of the city since his appointment.
Some believe the inability of the Bello administration to even pay routine and surprise visits to the city is responsible for the distortion of the area by speculators who are out to make money at the expense of the safety and comfort of the residents.
As a result of this failure, those who own houses in Gwarinpa Housing Estate have resigned their fate to God while their joy of owning a property in the once serene location has been replaced with sorrows and tears.
We’re not sleeping, but doing something about the Gwarinpa situation — FCT
Responding to the development, the FCT Administration admitted the chaotic development that has enveloped Gwarinpa arising from the conversion of residential buildings into massive commercial complexes.
Although the Minister declined to speak on the issue, the Director of Development Control, FCTA, Mr. Mukhtar Galadima, said that something was being done to arrest the chaos in Gwarinpa and other districts such as Wuse 2 and Maitama, where speculators have turned residential buildings into other uses not authorised by the administration.
Galadima said: “As regards the issue of land-use conversion particularly in Gwarinpa, the FCT Administration in conjunction with the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing (Federal Housing Authority FHA) recently organized a meeting on how to tackle this issue because it is becoming a hydra-headed monster where the residents of this area have not been able to live comfortably.
So, we are trying to look at what could be the planning solution to that problem. It is not that the administration is sleeping on its responsibility. We are doing something about it.
“Recently, we made an announcement particularly in Maitama and Wuse II where we have this preponderance of land use conversion that owners of such buildings that have converted without approval should revert to the designated land use failing which we shall take appropriate measures including revocation of titles because we have that provision within the law.
“You see, these are things that you cannot just rush and do. You have to follow processes and procedures. That is why you think we are not doing anything about it, but we are actually doing something,” Galadima explained.