Development is leaping through Bwari Local Government of the Nigerian Federal Capital city of Abuja but leaving a good number of people who have lost their temporary structures to the bulldozers weeping. The dual carriage way from the city to Kaduna in adjoining Kaduna State passes through Bwari. The portion of it already completed has made commuting between Abuja and Bwari such a pleasant deal but not so for a huge percentage of those who have survived on what are known as illegal or temporary structures in the language of officialdom. All such structures are being pulled down to give way for the road to snake though Bwari town and meet the portion already completed from the Kaduna end.
The demolition of such structures peaked this week, leaving the victims with sad tales. Intervention which happened at the last sites of the demolition observed many in last minute efforts to salvage anything or packing such stuff to new sites of existence.
It was not clear if they were suffering from their own negligence to heed earlier notices or were victims of a preemptive demolition exercise. Signs indicating disapproval of such structures obviously because they infringed on the standard measurement could be seen on such structures but the question being posed is when did the FCT notice these structures? That is, people are asking why they were allowed to be erected at all and whether those who erected such were willfully disobeying the law or responding to existential challenges.
It brings up the problem of failed dialogue between such victims and the Federal Capital Territory, (FCT), management, historically. The FCT has a history of demolition, reaching the point in 2006 or thereabout when UN agencies rated it with the figure of highest IDPs at a peace time. The unanswered question is how much of demolition is part of the toolkit used in managing other mega cities such as Cairo, Paris, London, Canberra, Rome, Delhi, Brasilia, New York, Ottawa, Beijing or Tokyo.
Most civil society critics say the FCT has a rulebook whose concept of development they think gives them a license to use such tactics on citizens considered to have infringed on the building codes. That is why, it is argued, the FCT finds it difficult to negotiate accommodation with such categories because they see them as people willfully obstructing development and should be cleared, irrespective of the context of the infringement.
Interestingly, the sites of demolition turn out to be entertaining for a vast number of the circle of victims who gather to watch the power of the bulldozers doing what development scholars call ‘stressful modernisation’ for majority of the citizens in many developing societies that contribute to their alienation. Such scholars further link alienation to resorts to fundamentalism, radicalization and counter-cultural activities within that rank in such societies where they get such shock treatments from the state almost all the time. Might the FCT officials, therefore, need tutorials in the larger implications of its preference for test of strength with those it might see as the dregs of the society and whom it wastes no time in demolishing their structures when the structures should not have been allowed to exist in the first case?