Wails and lamentations as soldiers pull down houses in Kaduna

Posted by News Express | 2 September 2013 | 5,897 times

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Residents of Kurmin Mashi, a suburb in Kaduna metropolis which comprises the old site of the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), have been rendered homeless after soldiers from the 1 Mechanized Army Division, Kaduna, came with bull dozers and demolished 57 houses. They army said they were illegal structures.

The raid, our correspondents gathered, lasted from 7:00am to 9:00pm on 5th August, 2013. It continued the next day until they had demolished 57 houses. Very few residents were allowed to go into their houses to evacuate their belongings as soldiers cordoned off the area while the demolition took place.

Musa Nababa who said he was born in Abakpa 67 years ago spoke: “The military has not been fair to us. The Nigerian Defence Academy was established in our presence – it met us here. I was a youngster when late Sir Ahmadu Bello [Premier of Northern Region] came here and said from a certain point far from where we are now had been given for the establishment of NDA. He told our parents that no one would tamper with our farms.

“After his demise, Major Hassan Usman Katsina came here and told us about the construction of the major road that leads to NDA from the highway. He told our parents then that they were preparing to send the soldiers to war front and would use the place as a shooting range.

“Few years later, the military came to us saying they wanted to establish a golf course but they would compensate us. Our parents’ land papers are there till today – they were not paid.

“There was a man known as RSM Kano. He compounded our problem. He was in service then. During the era of Garba Duba [as commandant of NDA], he wanted to farm on NDA land but Duba refused to allow him. We were farming then when he came and wanted to take over our farms and we objected. We told him that the one taken by the military was not yet paid for – how would they come and take over our only source of livelihood? Then he threatened us, saying since we refused him our parcel of land, we would live to regret it.

“They started encroaching on the land. They used barbed-wire to fence off the golf course. The last time we sat and agreed was when Major General Abdullahi Yerima was commandant of the academy. A particular palm tree was used as boundary. We agreed just to allow peace to reign. But when he left, this problem started again and they want to encroach further,” Nababa lamented.

Narrating his ordeal, a man who gave his name as Abdulganiyu explained: “That morning soldiers came to the area, gave me 10 minutes to pack my things out of the house. They told me that the land belongs to army authorities. I brought out the papers to show them proof of ownership but they told me it was none of their business.

“I hurriedly packed some of my belongings but I could not take the heavy ones. Immediately I left, my belongings were destroyed by the caterpillar. I bought that piece of land since 2009 from one Salisu who gave me all the papers. The District Head also signed it. The land was 40/90 feet. I bought it at the cost of N500,000 then.

“It was a three-bedroom flat. I spent about N2.5 million to erect the structures. I’m with a wife and six children. Now I’m squatting. The suffering is too much. I plead with the government to come to our aid; even if it means allocating us another piece of land,” he pleaded.

The Chairman, Land and House Owners Committee, Dahiru Road New Extension, Ibrahim Tanko, said: “We did not encroach on the land. When Governor Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa set up a committee on the issue and they drew up a boundary that gave us confidence.

“But on 5th August, we woke up to the presence of hundreds of soldiers with a caterpillar. They stopped everybody from coming into the community or going out.”

He said the problem was instigated by the state Ministry of Lands and KASUPDA, stressing that a woman lost property worth N10 million. Mrs Cleopatra Musa, a widow from Edo State who has been in Kaduna for 32 years, said: “I bought the land in May 2012 through the District Head of Kurmin Mashi. Unfortunately, when I started building, rumours came that the place belongs to the army. When the rumours persisted we met the local government chairman and the House of Assembly. We petitioned, NDA appeared before the assembly and we were all told to maintain the status quo.

“They said they were going on recess and when they resume on the 13th of August, the issue would be the first they would tackle, only for me to wake up on the 5th of August to see soldiers invade this place.

“I’m a widow! I struggled to erect that building for my children to have a roof over their head. From the land to the structure, I have lost over N4.5 million because the house was almost ready. I envisaged moving in by this August,” she said.

Patience Joshua, a labourer in a bread making factory and a mother of four, said: “My husband is a casual worker with Peugeot Automobile Nigeria. We have lived here for long.

“The day the soldiers came, they ordered me to move our things out. I moved those I could. Then another soldier came and said our house was not among those to be demolished. So, we moved the things in again. As I was rounding off, I heard the sound of the caterpillar and before I could come out, the caterpillar was hacking our house down.

“I ran out screaming. I could barely rescue any of our belongings. My husband is a technician, so all the electronics people gave him for repair were destroyed,” she lamented.

 The District Head of Kurmin Mashi, Alhaji Muhammad Abdul-Jalil, said: “The demolition is not ideal. The place belongs to farmers and not the military. For many years, we have been struggling for compensation on the land the military encroached on since the days of our grandparents.

“Right from the place they lay claim on to the side of the new Panteka, the people of Kurmin Mashi have been struggling for compensation for a long time. Ninety-six people have been officially documented for compensation since the time of our grandparents.

“From Unguwan Shanu around Asma’u Makarfi School, there are pillars used as boundary down to Kurmin Mashi. NDA was carved out of Kurmin Mashi and no compensation has been paid since then,” he explained.

He said he had taken copies of the letters between the community and House of Assembly to necessary authorities. “The day the soldiers came for the demolition, I was on my way to Zaria and when I got to Zaria, I explained to His Highness the Emir of Zazzau,” he stated.

He pleaded with those affected, saying: “We’re civilians and can’t fight the military who are with arms. Kurmin Mashi is one of the most peaceful communities in Kaduna State and is very heterogeneous. But the people have their right just as the farmers there. Wherever I go, I’ll be bold to say the land is theirs and not the military’s.

“I plead with the state government to compensate them. You can see that the affected people are of different faiths and ethnic groups. We live with religious and ethnic harmony. There are widows and orphans among them.

“Even if the land belongs to NDA, I don’t see what they will benefit . . . Ordinarily, a military formation relocates when residential buildings spring up close by. But the opposite is the case here in our country.

“Close to the area in question, all they do is golf course. Many golf balls land in people’s houses. Thank God, no one has been injured by it. We’re supposed to benefit from the establishment of NDA but the opposite is the case,” he maintained.

The Deputy Director, Army Public Relations 1 Division, Colonel Sani Usman, did not answer questions put across to him by our correspondent.

•Credit (except photo): Daily Trust. Photo shows a demolition by the military but not the one in the story.

Source: News Express

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