By Mike Agunwa, Abuja.
Mpape is one of the informal settlements in the Federal Capital Territory. It was originally inhabited solely by the native Gbagyi tribe. Following the influx of people into the Federal Capital Territory in search of greener pasture and consequent upon security challenges which has engulfed some parts of the country especially the north east, Mpape became a
destination for most sojourners.
Mpape is five minutes’ drive to the highbrow Maitama district of Abuja and remotely along the AYA- Kubwa Expressway. Despite its proximity to the city centre, it is in Bwari Area Council. It is made up of the following districts: Ajegunle, Eneje, Mashafa, Area 1, and G.R.A.
With the rural urban migration in the country, the Gwari populated village has grown into a large settlement with a population of about 1.5 million inhabitants without commensurate infrastructure. The vast majority of inhabitants are the so-called “settlers”. Mpape population grew in geometrical progression following the demolition of some settlements in the Abuja like Karmo, Durumi, Gwarimpa village, Kado village, Apo and various other settlements along airport road, by the former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory and the incumbent governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasiru El-Rufai.
Mpape is an assemblage of all the major tribes in Nigeria namely Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo among others and each group stamp their relevance in the village with their unique businesses and cultural activities. Each tribe has a traditional leader who coordinates the activities of their tribe and also acts as a liaison between the people and constituted authorities.
Mpape, noted for its hilly and rocky environment has for decade been home to a number of major mining sites owned by major construction companies – Berger, Arab Contractors, Crushed Rock, et al – which benefit from most Federal Government contracts for road and other infrastructure projects in Abuja and across Nigeria. Indeed, many Mpape districts derive their names from that of the closest company, i.e. “Berger Quarry Road I,” “Berger Quarry Road II,” and “Arab Road.” These explain the usual noticeable movement of heavy trucks in and out of Mpape from time to time.
Residential areas in Mpape lay side-by-side with mining construction companies’ blasting sites and over the years Mpape residents have suffered the expected consequences – roofs blown off, damage to structural integrity, noise pollution etc. Aside from building access roads to their sites, construction companies have done little to help develop Mpape’s infrastructure.
In July 2012, the immediate past FCT Minister Bala Mohammed who is currently the governor of Bauchi state, announced by radio and television that his administration intended to demolish 19 villages around Abuja including Mpape. Numerous houses especially those belonging to the settlers were marked for demolition. However the demolition exercise did not take place.
Some residents attributed the inability of the FCT to carry out their demolition threat to the efficacy of their prayers while others attributed it to luck and fortune. Others hinged it to the series of court cases which was instituted against the FCT by the community.
With the influx of people, security agencies like the police started to provide cover for residents and police posts began to emerge to maintain peace and security. The residents also started to organize vigilante groups to provide security cover against bandits.
But despite the perception of Mpape as an informal settlement, one can notice the recent emergence of modern building and estates existing side by side with the slum.
The new structures seems to have the approval of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) as one cannot ordinarily risk that degree of investment unless backup by the proper title. However, could not confirm with any of the developer as to the status of their title.
The present dual developmental nature of Mpape incites enquiry. NIGERIAN NEWSLEADER ONLINE spoke with some residents on the implication of the estates that are co-existing side by side with the slum.
Mallam Muhammed who is an estate agent in Mpape confirmed to Metro the fear of the appearance of modern buildings in Mpape particularly among those who owns unapproved houses in the area.
“Infact, to be sincerely with you, as human beings we feel threatened by the appearance of these modern buildings because all of them fall in the area that have what is called statutory allocation from the FCT authority, some are with certificate of occupancy while some have right of occupancy, and the larger part of Mpape where I even have my own house, we don’t have such things, that is why we are worried that sooner or later they may gradually taking over Mpape from us.
“There was a time government had a plan to extend the issuance of statutory allocation to other parts of Mpape, at that time, we gathered that they intend to allocate it to some big men in the country but with the help of some lawyers especially Femi Falana who went to court to challenge the decision, saying that FCT cannot just send us packing without providing us with alternative place to live, and as I am talking to you now, the case is still pending in court.
“You can imagine some of us have been living in this place for more than 20 years where do they want us to go. Those lawyers involved in our matter are doing it on humanitarian ground.”
Another resident, Sam Adindu who claimed to have lived in Mpape for the past 15 years expressed fears over the spring up on modern structures in the area.
“Sometimes ago there was this rumors that the immediate past first lady, I mean Mrs. Patience Jonathan was planning to buy Mpape in order to build estate there, although I don’t know how far that is true, but we have observe the presence of some estate project in Mpape, we know our closeness to Maitama has been a threat to our continuing existence, I believe that is where you derive that question which described Mpape as existing on two civilization, that is, modern which is in organize setting, while the other which most of us belong are in informal arrangement which in other words means slum, infact I quite agree with you.
“No matter what the government have in mind to do to Mpape, I will only appeal to them to tamper justice with mercy on the issue of land titles, they should know that before now there are people who have been living here for more than 30 years, infact I have been living here for the past 15 years and I am a landlord here. So whatever they want to do, they should carry us along through a town hall meeting with us where some issues will be tackled headlong, they should come and discuss with people on how they can arrange this place like satellite town, because the population here is huge, that will be better instead of sending people out of this place. Provision of infrastructure here in Mpape can be done in a synergy between the government and we the residents, we need to be treated as human being”.
He went further, “Last year we had election in the country, they came here to campaign soliciting for our votes, they gathered the votes, they did not say our votes was from illegal land occupants
Sunday Adaji who corroborated what previous respondents said that he has been observing some sign of modernity in the kind of buildings that is coming up in Mpape now and the possibility of it spreading to the rest of Mpape entirely, but he however appeal to the authority to consider the plight of the present inhabitants of the area.
“I think Bwari Area Council can just come and tell the residents to build or arrange their houses according to the town planning rules and regulations.
One thing that is clear in Mpape is this palpable fear among the residents of the possibility of those modern buildings which appears to have FCTA approval gradually taking over the whole place thereby rendering most of them homeless.