Why I stopped demolition of illegal structures —FCT minister

MINISTER of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Malam Muhammad Bello, has narrated how he was forced to abandon a style of demolishing illegal structures in Abuja in a manner that gave much pain to defaulters after an incident where the FCT Development Control Department was dragged to Human Rights Commission in the course of enforcing development control laws.

The minister disclosed that the Commission cautioned that the administration needed to apply human face in the process and make sure Nigerians appreciated why they were taking those actions, saying that since the incident, the FCT Administration adopted new approach in removal of illegal structures in the territory to give the exercise the desired human face.

Speaking while exchanging views with a delegation from the Commission led by its Executive Secretary, Professor Bem Angwe, in his office, the minister said the incident was an eye-opener as it eventually forced the FCT Administration to abandon its previous style of demolishing illegal structures and allowing affected residents to salvage any useful material in the process.

“That for me was an eye opener and since then, I have insisted that whatever we do, it is very important that we do a lot of advocacy and explanation to the people. Even if there is going to be demolition or relocation of people, there is a clear instruction now that no more destruction; give people reasonable time and notice and also encourage them to do the dismantling by themselves. That way, you reduce tension and more importantly, you allow them to salvage what has economic value. That’s what we have been doing and it has worked,” he said.

Bello disclosed that owners of such property were currently duly carried along in the process and even allowed to carry out the exercise to enable them retrieve some useful material that could be taken away.

The minister noted that the new approach had really paid off as it encouraged understanding and reduced lots of friction associated with demolitions.

He appreciated the role the Commission played in making the FCT Administration to adopt the new procedure and described the Commission as a reputable organisation that told the people when they were wrong, irrespective of their status.

According to him, the Commission, as an institution of government, gave hope to the people and served as their dependable voice.

He expressed concern over the lingering controversy at Wuye Market.

According to him, “several places we go now, we show them the law, tell them their infringement and we say to them, we will not come and remove anything. You do it yourself; salvage what can be salvaged and at the end of the day, everybody is better off for it.

“You are not supposed to waste things that ordinarily could have been used elsewhere

“Economic activities bring about employment; it raises business transactions and overall welfare of the people.

“So, each time facilities are built and developed and are not put to use due to some sort of impediments, I think everybody loses out and above all, the entire community and society lose out.

“Even though the matter is in the courts, I do hope that all the parties involved will show understanding on the matter,” he said.

Speaking earlier, the Executive Secretary/Chief Executive Officer of the National Human Rights Commission, Professor Bem Angwe, promised to continue to partner with the FCT Administration in the overall interest of Nigerians, particularly those resident in Abuja.