ABUJA GAMES VILLAGE: Looming mega slum?

By Luminous Jannamike, Abuja

Originally designed as a well developed district to accommodate athletes that participated in the 2003 Commonwealth Games, Kaura, more commonly known as the Abuja Games Village, is on the brink of infrastructural decay.

Kaura is one of the very green and beautiful areas within the metropolis of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja. It is a predominantly peaceful residential neighbourhood, which has hitherto maintained its lush ambience of nearly two decades.

But in recent times, social amenities within the neighbourhood have been shrinking due to the activities of new real estate developers. Even the well paved walkways, lined with luxuriant trees before the perimeter fence of the entire Games Village, have been destroyed.

Like many districts experiencing unprecedented expansion due to population growth, the Abuja Games Village is also facing a serious challenge in the area of environmental health.

For instance, due to the absence of an effective and transparent property development and regulatory system, new project developers in the neighbourhood have resorted to the indiscriminate felling of over 43 well nurtured ecological trees which beautify the vicinity.

The downside of this disorderly arrangement is that these poorly untamed property developers simply distort the master plan for this posh district in the Phase II of Abuja city centre, the heart of the nation’s capital.

This has been going on for some years now with the Federal Capital Territory Administration and the Municipal Area Council looking the other way.

A visit to Games Village reveals that the one-time most sought after neighbourhood in Abuja is literally groaning under the weight of increasing infrastructure deficit, impunity of some moneybags with strong government connections and criminal dereliction of duty, particularly by the regulatory authorities, which appear to be more interested in generating revenue.

Residents say that given the rate of infrastructural decay, the Kaura district could be having as many urban ghettoes and slums as can be found around Lagos Island in a few years.

The growing number of houses which do not match the approved prototype for the neighbourhood is also a source of concern for residents.

In recent years, many housing and hospitality projects have sprung up in different parts of Kaura district and they are largely in violation of its master plan.

Perhaps, a bigger cause for concern is the presence of a large number of unidentified youths living in some emerging shanties around the Abuja Games Village.

A first-time visitor to some of these shanties might be shocked by the size of their population and the fact that most of their inhabitants are living on the brink of destitution.

In fact, it is hard to believe that such settlements exist in the heart of Nigeria’s capital city.

Investigation by Sunday Vanguard shows that the virus known as infrastructure abuse is not restricted to the developing parts of Kaura district.

It is also gradually creeping into upscale residential areas occupied by the rich and influential.

A few years ago, living in the Games Village was a pleasure. Residents enjoyed a smooth and wide road network, clean environment and a perfect drainage system.

Well trimmed trees lined many streets while children and fitness enthusiasts did not miss out on the opportunity to engage in their daily rounds of pastime.

Today, one of Abuja’s most sought after neighborhoods is fast transforming into a mere shadow of itself.

Walkways and street lights are generally in a bad shape and have been annexed by irresponsible property developers.

There are also clear signs that security in Kaura district has seriously deteriorated. For instance, last December, a resident of D22, 24 Street, Abuja Games Village, Dr. Obisike Donald Ibe, 37, working at Zenith Lab and Kidney Centre, was robbed and gruesomely murdered alongside his friend and housemate, Ezekiel Edoja, 31, allegedly by three youths in their 20s few hours before the deceased were supposed to leave the country for a trip to the United States.

With the increase in the population of shanties around the Games Village and the unscrupulous activities of some property developers, having one’s permanent home in Kaura district has become a nightmare.

Checks also show that the master plan for the neighbourhood has been badly twisted and misrepresented with structures designed as shopping malls, hotels, eateries and clubs, among others, springing up in areas mapped out for residential houses.

While this has raised the value of the properties in Kaura district, the once pristine environment of this elegant and stylish luxurious neighborhood is being corrupted and debased day-to-day.

No more street lights
There are no more street lights in some strategic parts of the Abuja Games Village.
Many residents have increasingly reported losing their phones, bags, money and other personal effects to street urchins living in slum communities located around the neighbourhood.

In spite of the fact that the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, presided over by Justice Abubabar Hussaini Musa, had ordered the suspension of all infrastructure development in some parts of the Abuja Games Village, pending the determination of a substantive suit between some estate developers and the Registered Trustees of the Games Village Residents Association, Abuja, construction activities are ongoing in the area under heavy security cover by the police.

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More worrisome is the perceived collaboration of law enforcement agents with those who flagrantly disregard the valid order by Justice A. H. Musa that status quo be maintained and all parties should keep away from site until March 14, 2021, the next adjourned date for the court to resume hearing on the case.

Although the Federal Government, particularly the FCT Administration, led by the Minister, Muhammad Musa Bello, has also repeatedly asked the developers of buildings in Abuja Games Village to stop work, the directives appear to fall on deaf ears as hundreds of masons, carpenters, plumbers, tilers and other artisans still report to various disputed sites in Kaura.

A pioneer resident, Alhaji Abdullah Yahya, attributed the apparent impunity and the attendant pressure on existing infrastructure in Abuja Games Village to the growing number of unplanned and unregistered structures springing up in the neighborhood.

He observed a contrast between the Federal Executive Council’s resolution on the Games Village Estate – referenced as EC(2005)19 – which prohibits the distortion and defiling of the ambience of the Games Village and the dishonest land allocations by the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA).

For instance, he cited the FCDA’s allocation of the storm water drains, floatplanes with sewer lines, children’s playground, amphitheatre, sports center and green areas in the neighborhood to developers for building constructions.

Yahya, who is the Board of Trustees Chairman, Games Village Residents Association Abuja, said, “What is obvious in many parts of Kaura district is the growing disorder, distortions, and infrastructural failure. What has happened to the social amenities in once admired neighborhood?

“Amidst this emerging chaos, there is noticeable landscape of haphazard buildings that litter the Games Village and provide hideouts to criminals and hoodlums.”

Open Spaces Sharing
The Residents’ Association BoT Chairman also stated that policies, such as the continued sharing of open spaces in the neighborhood to developers, must be stopped to contain the additional pressure on the available infrastructure.

He argued that the execution of such policies without any resistance meant that the palpable fear by residents that the Abuja Games Village would go to rack and ruin in a matter of time was certain.

To deal with these mounting challenges, he called for the recognition of the Games Village as a bonafide-gated community in the FCT as envisioned by the Federal Executive Council in its Resolution.

The BoT Chairman also wants President Muhammadu Buhari “to prevail on relevant agencies of government to revoke the approval to building constructions on plots that are inimical to the continued existence of Games Village and its infrastructure and common facilities so that the Court Injunction where the Judge ordered all parties to maintain status quo would be enforced.”

He also demanded the immediate reversal of the cesspool to its original plan/use as well as the prompt demolition of buildings not aligned with the Games Village prototype.

Meanwhile, the FCT Minister, Bello, has, once again, cautioned against the building of structures within the nation’s capital, without proper approvals from relevant agencies of the Federal Government.

According to him, all buildings must fit into the overall structure of the Abuja master plan.
He insisted that the FCT is a creation of law and, as a result, no building should be erected within its borders without supervision and approvals.

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