A Kaduna state three-week demolition notice served to a Zaria settlement that is inhabited by about 10,000 people is raising nerves in the ancient city
The mood of the residents of Bayan Alhudahuda community, Zaria is not only infectious but that of apprehension following the notice of demolition served them last week by officials of the Kaduna State government.
The reason is simple. Some of them have been living in the area for about 30 years, but were taken unawares last week when the state said the land upon which they built their houses belongs to the famous Alhudahuda College.
On this basis, the owners of the about 500 houses were asked to vacate within three weeks or face the government bulldozers. Apparently, this notice by the Nasir el-Rufa’i-led administration has unsettled the residents of the community. The residents are confused on what to do and where to relocate to.
In their attempt to get an intervention, leaders of the community were at the emir of Zazzau’s palace where the leader of the community’s association, Malam Muhammad Munir Suleiman, told the emir that it would be an act of injustice if the government go ahead to demolish their houses since their houses were not erected on the Alhudahuda College’s land.
“We went to the emir’s palace because he is our father. He also knows the history of the area and even how the Alhudahuda College was established. Some officials from the state survey office have visited our settlement and they have traced the beacons that were installed by the colonialists when they established the college.
“We bought the lands and erected structures that we are living in with our families. The fact that we are less privileged people who have nowhere to relocate should be enough for government to shelve its plan.
Most residents here are petty traders, junior workers and other low income earners,” Malam Muhammad said.
He added; “as I talk to you now, I have lived here for over 20 years. Right now, I have four wives and 25 children. Most of us find it difficult to even fend for our families; how do they expect us to move out of our houses? We are appealing to government to allow us to continue to live in our houses that we built with our hard-earned money.”
Abdulsalam Ibrahim, a resident of the area, also has four wives and 18 children. He said he moved to the Bayan Alhudahuda settlement from Zaria city. According to him, he has been living in the area for the past 11 years.
“If they go ahead to demolish this house (his house), I would have no option than to migrate from Zaria to where I don’t know for now. For my family, I would leave them for the government to take care of them or each one of them to also find his or her way. I would not have any other option than this because this is the shelter that is covering our heads and if it is demolished, what else can I do?” Abdulsalam asked.
He added; “it took me many years to build this house. Before the construction of the house, my wives and I were living in different apartments. It is unfortunate if this is the first reward that we will get from our struggle to elect Malam el-Rufa’i. We are now a laughing stock of some of his opponents. They now confront us to say ‘this is the change you voted for’ and the opponents are right, because the government has not done anything for us so far but threatening to demolish our houses.”
Abdulsalam however pleaded with el-Rufa’i to ensure the verification of where Alhudahuda’s land begins and ends in order not to victimise innocent citizens who are entitled to shelter.
A septuagenarian, Malam Yahaya Ayuba, who is also a resident of the area, said he knows the boundaries of Alhudahuda College. He went down memory lane.
“I know the college when this settlement was not established. This settlement was a Fadama then. When the owners of the then Fadama contacted the white men to buy the plantation to become part of the college, the white men declined, saying that Fadama was not suitable for school. This is how this area was left out from Alhudahuda. The beacons mounted by the white men are still there. This is why I even bought my plot. It is therefore unfair for anyone to come here to say this place belongs to Alhudahuda.
“We are calling on governor el-Rufa’i not to allow himself to be used by some elements to diminish the goodwill that usher his government and his party the APC. We all supported and worked hard for his election, therefore we don’t deserve demolition since we did not encroach into anybody’s land,” Yahaya said.
He explained that instead of demolishing the settlement, el-Rufa’i, who was nicknamed Mai Rusau (master of demolition) during the campaigns of 2015, should provide road and other amenities to the area.
“Asking us to leave this place is like parading us before firing squad. Since the song of this government is governance with fairness and justice, then the justice should be done. They should come and properly survey this place to know where Alhudahuda boundaries start and end. We are confident the government would be fair to us,” Malam Yahaya said.
Adding his voice, a chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in Zaria, Alhaji Zulkifilu Amfani, described the decision of demolishing the community without compensation as a betrayal of the people that stood firm for the election of el-Rufa’i.
“No responsible government would overnight come and ask its citizens to vacate where they are living. They bought their lands after following the known processes. A responsible government provides shelter for its citizens. These people stood firm for our party despite intimidation and attempts to entice them with money and other valuables. Therefore, the decision to demolish their houses is a betrayal of the highest order and military approach to governance.
“This action will add more enemies to APC instead of gaining more supporters. It is also an attempt to destroy APC. My candid advice to government is to rescind the decision with a view to solving the problem amicably,” Amfani said.
The protocol officer of the emir of Zazzau, Alhaji Abubakar Ladan (Chiroman Shantalin Zazzau) confirmed that the leaders of the community were at the palace to seek for the intervention of the emir.
“The emir has told them that an investigation would be conducted to ascertain their claims. His Highness has also told them to remain calm, peaceful and allow government to verify if actually some people have encroached into Alhudahuda College. He said anyone that did not have question to answer should have nothing to worry about,” Alhaji Abubakar said.
When contacted, media assistant to Governor el-Rufa’i, Samuel Aruwan, simply replied the text message sent to him thus; “I will cross check and get back to you.”
However, up to the time of filing this report nothing was heard from Aruwan. A state official, who pleaded for anonymity, said the government has right to claim its land when encroached upon by any individual.