By Sunny Eze
Shelter is an important component of human existence, comfort and survival. From time immemorial, the essence of life is completely lost without a desirable roof over peoples’ heads. That was why, Abraham Maslow, a psychologist, in his world acclaimed Hierarchy of Needs strategically placed SHELTER, food, water, sleep, warmth and sex, second to none in the importance of human needs in its first stage model. Today, Nigeria cannot be said to have met the housing needs of her citizens. The former Managing Director of Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN) Gimba Ya’u Kumo had disclosed that over 68 million Nigerians are either homeless or improperly housed. The ministry of housing had also revealed that Nigeria needs a minimum of 56 trillion to bridge the yawning gap of more than 17 million housing deficit for citizens. Consequently, the need for the people of Kaduna state to have good roof over their heads prompted the administration of late Patrick Yakowa to approve the development of Gbagyi Villa: a new community behind the Sabon Tasha Campus of Kaduna Polytechnic.
At the time of Yakowa’s administration, contentious issues of the real owners of the land arose between the Indigenous People of Gbagyi and Kaduna Polytechnic. The latter claimed the entire land belongs to them. The prompt intervention of the late governor Yakowa and the court brought relative peace to the new settlement leading the Polytechnic to fence its own parcel of land. With the issues permanently laid to rest, many were encouraged to return to site. Recently, rumours begun making the rounds that the government of Mallam El-Rufai will demolish the Villa. It was said that in every rumour, there is an element of truth. True to that assertion, Kaduna State Urban Planning and Development Agency (KASUPDA) had a few days ago given the inhabitants of Gbagyi Villa twenty-one (21) days’ demolition notice to vacate their abodes or risk demolition of their houses at a cost they will ironically bear.
The Demolition Notice reads: the board has noticed with dismay that you have illegally embarked on developing a structure at the above mentioned plot without obtaining planning permission from the agency. This action of yours is a contravention of section 26 and 27 of KASUPDA law. In view of the above, you are hereby given Twenty-One (21) days with effect from the above date, within which to remove all structures so erected. Failure to comply with the above directives, the Kaduna State Urban Planning and Development Agency would have no option than to demolish the illegal structure at your expense, in accordance with section (48)(2) of the aforementioned laws, please.
Government may wish to know that very many residents have got their building planning permission before embarking on construction. One thing left in the opinion of this piece is for KASUPDA to cross-check their files to determine those who have crossed the hurdle and give a time line for others who are yet to comply to quickly tow the path of honour. Since the news broke out, life has not been the same in Gbagyi Villa. Some residents have died of hypertension while many are presently bed- ridden in hospitals. The current harsh realities of life are already telling on all of us and the news of demolishing ones house is akin to pushing one to early grave. Gbagyi Villa is a residential area hosting various strata of the society ranging from indigenes to non-indigenes, businessmen, retired and serving public servants alike. Some people took bank loans with huge interest rates and collateral to build these houses. Others did with their retirement benefits and hard earned life savings. And for the reality of demolition of one’s house to stare one in the face is worrisome. It was Elephant which says that it lacks the courage to pull down houses because; it takes toll on peoples’ energy, money and time to construct one. If ordinary animal could understand the underlining trouble one passes through to build, and attach value to it, human beings too should.
This piece is a passionate appeal to the Executive Governor of Kaduna State; Mallam Nasir El- Rufai’s to prevail on KASUPDA to reconsider the planned demolition of Gbagyi Villa in the interest of peace and harmony. It is well understood that government want to restore the beauty of Kaduna and bring sanity in the way land businesses are done. However, the decision to destroy a whole community for failure to get building plan permission amounts to killing an ordinary fly with a sledge hammer. The solution to this problem does not lie within the law barring its fangs but in the consideration of untold hardship the exercise will expose thousands of families to. The letter which was signed by the General Manager, KASUPDA, Tpl. Saratu M. Haruna, explicitly stated that residents do not have plan permission. Suffice it to say that what is expected of all is to do the needful and everything possible to get one. In fact demolishing these houses for only contravening the law of not obtaining building plan permission cannot be said to be commensurate with the threat and grave consequences of pulling down these houses. The government is graciously appealed to, to tamper justice with mercy.
Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs affirms that we must satisfy each need in turn starting with the first which deals with the most obvious need for survival itself. It is only when the lower order needs of physical and emotional well-being are satisfied are we concerned with higher order needs of influence and personal development. If things that satisfy our lower needs are swept away, we are no longer concerned about the maintenance of our higher needs. The government of Mallam Nasir El-Rufai is called to note that actualisation of goals of government are tied to that of the lower needs of the governed which should work in pari-passu for even development. Residents of Gbagyi Villa are law abiding people who would not want to interfere with the laws of the state for no one can fight the government and ignorantly doing so amounts to shooting ones foot. The people are ready and willing to cooperate with government in resolving all the grey areas. Being punitive in this case will not serve the people and the government they elected any good. Sai Mallam!
Sunday Onyemaechi Eze, a Media and Communications Specialist wrote via [email protected]