Marcus Fatunmole , Abuja, Nigeria
Iddo is one of Abuja’s (Nigeria’s Federal Capital’s) sprawling satellite communities with about 30,000 residents in January 2012. The village is predominantly occupied by non-indigenes. While the natives are virtually farmers and artisans, the non-natives mainly work in the city while others engage in both artisanal and business activities.
Located few metres opposite the new site of University of Abuja, the community exists without significant infrastructure. The road leading to the village is ramshackle. With erratic electricity supply, residents of the community are most hit by acute water shortage. There is no functional public borehole even as the population of the University students living in the community keeps increasing, daily.
However, a public primary school with a separately-built junior secondary school, including a single-room police station are the only facilities bearing government presence in the settlement.
In April 2012, many houses in the village fell under the wheels of bulldozers of the Department of Development Control of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). The Development Control had listed some villages along the airport road for demolition. Reason: structures in the villages, the Department claimed, did not get approval from the Federal Capital Territory, (FCT) administration. Iddo was unfortunately one of such communities. It was a period of multiple torments for the community. First, stench, oozing malodorous smell from different sections of the village blended with dust that enveloped the community, as the bulldozers tore down the structures.
Priscilia Jonah is a resident of the community, which currently has about 20,000 occupants. He told our reporter that “For those of us remaining in this place, we are not happy with the way people are managing their wastes. You see people dispose of domestic waste in the already blocked drainages. Every rainfall in this village is a threat because we are so close to the river. You know anything can happen should the flood refuse to get out of environment where houses are closely built near one another. I have always been afraid of the attitudes of our people. Go to their houses, many of them don’t have toilet. They defecate in the open. They litter everywhere with wastes. If you try to correct them, it will lead to quarreling.”
Iddo is no doubt one of the city’s communities that are on the precipice of environmental hazards. Since the community witnessed the rage of the FCT administration through its demolition exercise, many of the hitherto manageable problems have been compounded. Some persons who had dug boreholes in their homes before the demolition exercise have moved out of the village; while they left with the water equipment. The relics of fallen buildings in the village have also further disfigured the settlement. Files of fallen bricks are everywhere in the village; making them easy habitat for snakes, scorpion and other harmful reptiles.
Meanwhile, as houses of non-natives were mostly affected in the flattening exercise, many of the remaining houses in the community do not have basic toilet facilities. Many people, especially children defecate in the open. More worrisome are the polythene products that litter everywhere. Some of these products, which have been buried for years, surface whenever flood or heavy wind blows of the sand upon them.
Like many settlements in Abuja, domestic animals contribute to growing filth in the community. There are goats, dogs, fowls and other domestic pets that move around the village unchecked. They defecate wherever they see and most often, no one cares to attend to those wastes. On many occasions, the wastes disappear with the flood, blown away by wind or trodden by residents.
Another major environmental disaster in the village is lack of motorable roads. Major roads in the village are footpaths which residents have forced their vehicles through. At every rainy season, these car owners find it difficult to drive their vehicles into their homes. The vehicles are usually parked at considerably “secured” places; sometimes in the homes of friends or neighbours.
There is a major river that flows across the farthest end of Iddo village. The natives usually find respite in this water, especially during the dry season. While the children have free bath in the river, the adults fetch it for domestic use. Meanwhile, this water dries up during the dry season. Then comes a great water challenge for the villagers. Many of them dig the dry channel to scoop water into their basins; even when such water is not safe for human consumption.
On the other, in very few houses where borehole water is available for sale, it takes resident more than a day to get the water. Many of the residents keep broken basins at the borehole site to help determine when it would be their turn. In most cases, they do not get the water until the following day.
Another dimension to water crisis in this village is that while young men, popularly called “Meruwa”, who sell water in their wheelbarrows in the nation’s capital sell as low as N20 during dry season, challenge of bad road makes the persons who sell water in Iddo community increase the price even above N50 per 20 litres. The situation is also worse with the very few persons who sell through private boreholes to the community. They increase their prices at will.