The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA has threatened to pursue to a logical conclusion the harassment of indigenous settlers and other residents of Ushafa in Bwari Area Council of Abuja.
HURIWA in a statement issued and signed by its coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko warned Water Board and those alleged to be sponsoring the threat to stop creating fear and unnecessary tension in an area commissioned officially by the then American President, Bill Clinton, and has since become a recognized village globally. HURIWA said a letter detailing what is happening in Ushafa is currently in the working, and will be sent to the former US president and other human right groups across Nigeria as well as the international community.
The right body in the statement revealed that it had carried out an independent investigation on the true picture of what is happening in Ushafa and that after Water Board’s several attempts to displace the people failed, it resorted to media sponsorship, concocting stories against indigenes and residents, citing a report by Daily Trust where no single community member or indigene of Gbagyi was interviewed to achieve a balanced report. According to the right group, “the desperation of Water Board to quickly displace the people who have occupied their fatherland for several years smacks of serious secret deal that must be investigated.
“Similarly, Water board on June 2nd took NTA to the area, manipulating the video to get the sympathy of a higher authority for an approval for demolition. This is not what a government agency is supposed to be doing.
“Our investigation has shown that at least two known estate developers interested in the area had under the guise of proximity to the dam threatened to displace residents. We understand that the dam was cited at least 40 years ago, and Water Board had put a barrier demarcating the Dam from the surrounding area. Around the dam are also signposts indicating restriction. We understand that the people have not encroached into the restricted area. The concern by Water Board regarding the safety of the people is ridiculous because you cannot be protecting people and at the same time attempting to displace them. We are disappointed in Water Board’s concern about the dam overflowing when since 40 years or more, the said dam had not shown any threat to Ushafa people. Where has the board being all these years? How can they wake up from nowhere to displace the people that have been here for many years? Do they know the collateral damage that will result from displacing at least 20,000 residents including women and children?
“On the issue of water contamination, we wonder how residents or indigenes can contaminate a dam secured with a fence and with security personnel at the gate. If their claim is anything to go by, then they have failed in their responsibility of doing their job. Displacing settlers who have been farming and living around the area cannot protect the dam.
“We have learnt from even a Water Board staff that the same residents they want to displace even provide security for the dam area that work with the civil defence they recently assigned to the place. How can dam claim water contamination when they have treatment machines? Is the water also contaminated through the supply channels? There is more to their interest in the area.
“Our investigation has revealed that some Water Board staff had been given farmland around the area but were resold by the staff.
“We are aware that just by the disputed area are plots allocated by the government, Water Board quarter as well as a construction company located at the lower part of the dam. So why coming to displace people without examining the economic, social and security effects of the intending action?
“Why grabbing land in a community reserved for the indigenes? We hope this is not another return of corruption to Water Board as it was in the past.
“We understand many residents have lost their lives following constant harassment by Water Board, and if this continues, we will pursue to a logical conclusion the justice that the residents deserve.
“We call on Water Board to be careful with the way they go about the dispute so as not to trigger crisis in the FCT.
“We count on the FCT Minister, a peace loving man to caution Water Board against the ongoing media sponsorship and allow the people sleep peacefully.
“Knowing Ushafa land is not captured in the Abuja Master Plan, it’s clearly an aberration for any agency of government to be claiming ownership without consideration to an earlier agreement it had with the indigenes. Water Board should stop being manipulative and face the facts.
“Ushafa indigenes deserve the best. This is the same community that has never enjoyed tap water, meanwhile, a dam is located at their backyard. This is sad!”