Some years ago, the then Minister of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA), Nasir el-Rufai considered beggars a nuisance on the streets of Abuja and decided to forcefully evacuate them to a “special location”. The idea was to give Abuja, the Capital City, a facelift. However, many years after, the vision appears to have been derailed. CALEB ONWE reports
Karamajiji, a sprawling ghetto is home to both Gwari aborigines and other tribes, especially, low income earners. It is hidden right behind the National Military Cemetery, a few metres away from the popular City gate, along Umar Musa Yar’Adua Expressway.
The colony of beggars was meant to be a quarantine centre for these handicapped members of the society. Before their arrival in Karamajiji, there were people already living there, albeit on a temporary basis.
The type of structures available there do not fit into the definitions allowed by the Abuja master plan and other slums of its grade around the vicinity had been cleared by the then Minister Nafiu El’rufai’s bulldozers.
Purpose of the quarantine centre
When the clamp down, arrest and forceful evacuation of the beggars started, there was public outcry against the actions of the FCTA officials. The move was then considered as a great injustice against the under- privileged members of the society.
These were people who were only living at the mercy and by the goodwill of the public as they begged for alms on the streets. To evade the wrath of many human rights activists, who were already threatening fire and brimstone, the FCTA officials smartly hired spin doctors who concocted some sugar coated messages meant to soothe the injury that their action had already inflicted on the minds of the people.
They also employed media propagandists to brainwash the public into believing that the beggars were being evacuated to a semi-paradise, where they would be camped temporarily, before being repatriated to their various states of origin.
As these measures calmed down frayed nerves, budget was made, both for the officials who were used as evacuating contractors and those who provided short-lived care services to the beggars.
Now, after many years of opening the temporary quarantine, the promise of giving them minimal comfort, empowering them with vocational skills and assisting them to go back to their states of origin to start a new life sustaining venture has become a mirage.
It appears it was just another political gimmick to siphon money from the public treasury and create opportunities for some government officials to become richer over night.
From all indications, it appear that all the frenzy of creating a transit camp for the beggars have fizzled out, and all the promises the government made about their welfare have been forgotten. The destitute in the camp have been abandoned to their fate.
Life in the colony
The quarantine officially known as ‘Karamajiji Disability Colony’ is a separate community, about 50 meters away from where the other village residents live. The houses in the colony are simply shanties with the exception of a few.
The only houses built with concrete are those of the community school and the Emir’s palace. The community has metamorphosed from its original plan of a transit camp to a permanent abode of the less privileged members of the society.
It now has a well established Emirate Council and has a sitting Emir. However, the gory state of the environment and the living conditions of the residents have remained a challenge.
In the colony, people with different forms of physical disability like, the blind, the crippled, the dumb, even people with all manner of diseases are found here.
Inside Abuja, while on a visit to the place, observed that most of the people in the camp, especially aged women and children are not engaged in any productive activities.
While a few young men were seen mending foot wears, others were engaged in other menial jobs. A good number of men and women in the camp move around on wheelchairs. Some of the them were seen sitting in clusters in front of the Emir’s palace.
The environment is a far cry from what a human habitat ought to be. A first time visitor to the camp would vow not to return to the place, if by divine providence the visitor leaves without contracting any communicable disease.
Inside Abuja had an uphill task communicating with the people, because of language barrier. However, some of the who managed to respond to the inquiries of our correspondent, said they survive in the camp by donations and gifts from good spirited individuals and philanthropic organisations.
Inside Abuja could confirm that they get support from organisations because going by the inscription, the Mosque in the colony was built for them by the Turkish Embassy.
One of the barriers encountered by Inside Abuja in the camp was the alleged order by FCTA, specifically, the Social Development Secretariat,that the residents should never talk to anyone suspected to be a journalist.
The Emir of Karamajiji, Alhaji Suleiman Katsina, was not around, but the Secretary, Mr. Mohammed Dantani, who was called upon to come and attend to the issues raised by this correspondent, emphatically said, ” there is an order by FCT that we should not talk to people like you, until we get permission to talk from the office.
The reason is because there are many stories that media people have done about us which that we did not even appreciate” To get an official reaction from the FCTA Social Development Secretariat, Inside Abuja reached out to Mr. Shaka Sunday, the Public Relations Officer.
Though, he did not pick the calls put through to his line, but responded to a text message. Sunday said in response to the text message: ” I’m on break officially. May I plead that you re-direct your queries after the break, my regrets, thanks”.
Some media report had earlier quoted the Emir as saying that, “the former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, established the colony eight years ago. Mallam El-Rufai then had the disabled people relocated from their former settlement at Ruga, near the City Gate, to the present location.
“This place is supposed to be a temporal site,” the Emir said, “but many years after, we are still here, and nobody has said anything about relocating us to a permanent site.”
Inside Abuja also observed that apart from the school built as a transit camp school for the children of the community, there is no other social amenity that showed the seriousness of the government in empathising with these handicapped persons. Inside Abuja observed two non functioning boreholes within the environment.
“We don’t have electricity, even though we have been paying electricity bills for many years. We have no water. We have no roads. We want the government to come to our help on these things,” a resident of the community said.
Since then, the government appeared to have forgotten its initial plans of having the place as a transit camp, and have practically abandoned them to their fate.
The members of the community have gone back to their trade of begging for alms. Those who can engage in menial jobs have also started roaming about in search of what they could do to fend for themselves.
Checking livestock diseases in Abuja
The Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) has responded to a timely warning issued by the Food and Agriculture Organisation, FAO. CALEB ONWE reports
The Food and Agriculture Organization( FAO) an organ of the United Nations ( UN) recently raised an alarm about the re-emergence of Rinderpest, a livestock disease in Nigeria.
However, the impending disaster, both to the livestock industry and human population may have been averted in the Federal Capital Territory with the flagging off of the mass treatment and vaccination of animals.
Minister of the FCT, Malam Muhammad Musa Bello, who flagged off the mass vaccination, said that the action could not have come at a better time in the nation’s capital, considering that FAO’s report revealed that this deadly virus killed millions of livestock globally in 2011 before it was brought under control.
The minister, who was represented by the Secretary, Agriculture and Rural Development Secretariat (ARDS) , Stanley Nzekwe, said the exercise was designed to forestall the outbreak of any disease that could threaten livestock, and as well as human lives.
His words: “The FCT Administration through the Agriculture Secretariat has been carrying our various animal health programmes such as the campaign against Avian influenza, the vaccination of sheep and goat against goat catarrh and this exercise is a preventive measure to protect our livestock from contacting the various diseases. It will be carried out all through the nooks and crannies of the FCT where we have cattle sheep and goats.”
Inside Abuja gathered that Rinderpest, a Trans-boundary Animals Diseases is so deadly that early vaccinations could help to salvage a devastating condition that will not only deplete the livestock industry, but human lives.
It was also learnt that to demonstrate the importance of keeping the disease away from the country, FAO initiated a campaign using major local Nigerian languages to ensure that the messages were properly communicated, while saving the livestock industry from imminent depletion.
To underscore the urgency required in preventing the animals disease, the United Nations through the FAO also commended the awareness Campaigns on the platforms of FRCN regional stations in Enugu, Ibadan and Kaduna in four (4) different languages (Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa and Fulfulde, to disseminate comprehensive information regarding the highly contagious epidemic animal diseases, Rinderpest and TADs to all stakeholders.
Justifying the timely intervention of the FCT minister, was another FAO report which had revealed that ” Rinderpest, also a Trans-boundary Animal Disease (TAD), was stamped out but virus samples were kept by some institutions for research purposes. At an African regional conference in 2015, five (5) countries, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal and Sudan, agreed that the Virus Containing Materials (VCM) kept in laboratories should either be destroyed or sent to the Pan African Veterinary Centre of the African Union (AU-PANVAC) in Ethiopia for safekeeping”
Warding off Avian Influenza
Inside Abuja also learnt that the fight against livestock diseases in the Federal Capital was launched holistically, as proactive steps were taken too to sensitize residents and poultry farmers on Avian Influenza, with the aim of preventing any possible outbreak.
The campaign was said to have been necessitated by the fact that FCT was among the 26 other states in Nigeria where the impact of the diseases was recorded more, with huge losses which farmers were yet to recover from.
Nzekwe, who commenced the campaign in Garki, within Abuja Municipal Area Council, warned all poultry stakeholders and residents in the territory to observe all standard rules guiding the handling of poultry business, noting that Bird flu has no cure, just like the HIV which attacks human being.
According to Nzekwe, FCT was among the worst hit by the diseases the last time it ravaged the country, and there was need to be on guard to prevent it. He also noted that though poultry farmers in FCT were among those that Federal Government compensated for their loss, but since the compensation cannot equate the losses, it would be more effective to prevent recurrence.
Experts contributions to the fight
FCT Director of Veterinary Services, Dr. Regina Adulugba, told farmers to deploy all the reasonable measures within their reach to avoid a repeat of the disastrous bird flu wind that blew through the Federal Capital Territory in 2015 and unleashed on farm owners unquantifiable losses.
Adulugba told Inside Abuja that advocacy campaign alone was not sufficient to preventing the recurrence, but a proactive measures both by farmers and all stakeholders was necessary to ensure that the diseases was kept away from FCT.
According to her, all participants should help spread the information to let other poultry farmers, poultry processors, poultry transporters and help everybody in the value chain to keep Avian Influenza away from the FCT.
Another expert, Dr. Columba Teru Vakuru, Deputy Director, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, also warned that poultry farmers should be careful not to allow infection as a single mistake can wipe out a farm within three days of notice.
He advised farm owners to always ensure that their farms were disinfected. He further warned that only staff should have free access in farms while staff who have visited other farms should take a holiday and be disinfected before returning to the facility.
#Redcard revolt debuts in Abuja
Last week, the Redcard Movement, a pressure group seeking good governance and regime change in Nigeria launched its first public rally in Abuja. CALEB ONWE reports
The Red Card Movement has been trending on the social media for some time but last week, it’s promoters decided to bring to reality by organising a rally on the streets of Abuja.
This public perception of the group was boosted by the fact that it is led by a former Minister of Education, Mrs Oby Ezekwesili, a dogged fighter and prime mover of the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) fame.
In this latest outing, Ezekwesili and her group are angry about the poor level of governance in Nigeria today and have vowed to mobilise well meaning Nigerians to dislodge what she described as an incompetent leadership.
Social media enthusiasts are familiar with the barrage of criticism that followed her declaration of a lofty dream to achieving a paradigm shift in the process of choosing leaders in Nigeria and also mindset conversion in part of those who chose leaders.
One thing counting in favour of Ezekwesili is her ability to remain resolute in pursuing this her new project, particularly when one considers her track records in moblising and sustaining her vision in the BBOG campaigns against all odds.
The launch of the movement in the Federal Capital Territory took place at the popular Berger Roundabout in Abuja. It was designed to feel the pulse of the public about this new pressure group.
The first hurdle the movement struggled to dismantle was the embargo the FCT Police command placed on the Unity Fountain, a place where citizens gather to exercise their constitutional rights of free speech.
Amidst heavy police presence, Ezekwesili took the Red Card campaign to Nigerians from all walks of life. She, supported by other members of the team, emphasized that political power belongs to the citizens, who must wake up and stand up against a “failed government”.
According to Ezekwesili, the country would remain in the claws of politicians who were not prepared to reward those who voted them with good governance, if nothing drastic was done to chase them out of office in 2019.
“We are here today to activate the office of the citizen which is the office that every Nigerian citizen occupies. A citizen doesn’t have to be in government in order to have a voice as to how they are governed.
“We want to mobilize citizens so that they will know that they have the power to determine the kind of government that will lead this country, a government that is competent, capable and has character
“When citizens don’t put their voice in how they are governed, then we are going to stay as a failed country forever. We decided to use our red card as a way of saying to people who have failed in governance to go and get out of the field of governance,” she declared.
Armed with the determination to see her dreams fulfilled in 2019, Ezekwesili also disclosed plans to have the movement launched across the 36 states of the federation.
Similarly, another member of the movement, Aisha Yesufu, who is also a member of the BBOG, said the vision of the movement was to lay the foundation for a new Nigeria.
Yesufu, while refuting the claims that the movement was being sponsored by a political party to discredit the current government, said the movement was purely a platform for citizens to express their will and take possession of what belonged to them.
“This movement is not sponsored by anyone. It started organically online by Nigerians who are tired of the bad governance that the APC and PDP have offered over the years. As citizens, we want to entrench leaders who believe in the people.
“Leaders, who are competent and capable of moving Nigeria forward. There is no sponsorship anywhere as this is just a movement by the Nigerian people,” she noted.
Another leader of the movement, Maureen Kabirk, noted that one of the most disturbing things about the current crop of leadership in the country was their penchant for sacrificing the interest of the masses to achieve their selfish aims.
“How many of the incompetent leaders will ever bring out their children to lead a political protest? When employment opportunities are available in places like the CBN, NNPC, these selfish leaders would secretly fix their own children there.
“But when it is time for recruiting the youths into the Police, the military, it would be made open, because they want people they will push to where they would be killed” she said.
A citizen, Chizoba Nnamani, who probably had been looking for opportunity outside the social media sphere to express his desire for a change in government, got one at the Redcard Movement rally when he was given the microphone to talk.
Nnamani said: “I am a trader, I came to Abuja and have not benefited from the social welfare of the government. I have never voted in any election before but have decided to get my voters card in order to vote out these politicians”.
The last word
Despite the efforts the proponents of the movement had made to sell their agenda to Nigerians, cynicism is on the increase.
However, with the benefit of hindsight, Ezekwesili and her supporters appear to be overlooking the threats on their ways with unflinching commitment to the project.
One thing that remains outstanding about this idea, is the need for citizens to be actively involved in all the processes that produce their leaders, by voting and making their votes count. This is the cardinal point the Redcard Movement wants promoted. Whether the movement will withstand the opposition that is coming from all frontiers against it and leave its footprints on the sand of history is a matter of time.
When Army served Boko Haram ‘final’ warning
After nine years of bloodletting campaign, the Nigerian Army has served Boko Haram a red card, as it vowed total defeat of the sect within four months.
The implication is that the Army will advance from “technical defeat” of the insurgents, who adopt gun, suicide and ambush attacks on targets, to “total” decimation.
Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, gave the indication last week at a press briefing held at the Army Headquarters (AHQ), Abuja. Buratai was represented at the session by the Chief of Training and Operations, Major General David Ahmadu. He said the final onslaught will be executed through an operation codenamed “Operation Last Hold”.
“The complex and adaptive nature of the Boko Haram insurgency has resulted in the dissident group still sometimes being engaged in abductions, attack on soft targets, Improvised Explosive Device attacks and suicide bombings. “It has become expedient for the Nigerian Army to change operating tactics, techniques and procedure in the North East region.
Accordingly, the Nigerian Army Day Celebration (NADCEL) 2018 will be commemorated with the conduct of an operation tagged Operation Last Hold in Northern Borno within the North East Theatre.
“The design is to deploy personnel and equipment to showcase the combat efficiency of the NA and thereafter conduct operations to totally destroy Boko Haram locations in the Lake Chad Basin.
“Operation Last Hold is expected to last for 4 months and it will entail deployment of 6 additional manoeuvre brigades and other critical assets in Borno State.
“The operation is intended to facilitate the clearance of the Lake Chad waterways of sea weeds and other obstacles obstructing the movement of boats and people across the water channels”, Buratai had declared. He further assured that: “It (Operation Last Hold) will also ensure the destruction of Boko Haram Terrorist camps and strong points in the Lake Chad Basin.
The operation will also facilitate the rescue of hostages.
“The operational endstate of Operation Last Hold is the total defeat of the Boko Haram Terrorist Sect.
Strategically, the conduct of Operation Last Hold will facilitate the restoration of fishing, farming and other economic activities in the Lake Chad Basin.
Additionally, it will facilitate the relocation of Internally Displaced Persons from IDP camps to their communities.
“Operation Last Hold is conceptualised to involve the conduct of population influence activities targeted to improve Civil- Military relations in the North East region.
It is pertinent to note that Operation Last Hold is set to record remarkable achievements that would make the nation proud of the Nigerian Army’s determination at sustaining its constitutional role of defending the territorial integrity of the nation as well as its commitment to aid the civil authority to bring about peace and security.
“In this regard, law abiding members of the public in Northern Borno State are enjoined not to panic as their safety and well-being have been deliberately factored in the operation.
“The general public is requested to remain vigilant and be security conscious, as suspected insurgents may be fleeing from military operations in the North East and finding safe haven amidst our communities.
The public is also reminded to report any suspicious activity or movement to the nearest military formation or other security agencies for prompt action.”
Also speaking during pre-exercise briefing, Chief of Civil/Military Affairs, Maj-Gen. Nuhu Anyanzo, announced that the 2018 Nigerian Army Day Celebration (NADCEL), will hold in Operation Lafiya Dole Theatre, in the North East.
He added that the NADCEL will witness such activities as combined Church Service/ Juma’at Prayer in all Formations, sanitation exercises, as well as seminars/ Workshops. Hear Angbazo: “NADCEL 2018 will take place in OP Lafiya Dole Theatre.
It is designed to allay fears and to showcase the capability of the NA and subsequently conduct operations to totally destroy BHT locations in the Lake Chad Basin.”
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