Gov­ern­ment In­sists Houses Must Give Way For Ho­tels, Play­ground, Shop­ping Malls, Oth­ers Res­i­dents Say: ‘We Can’t Aban­don 2,000 Houses, Shops, 20 Places of Wor­ship, An­ces­tors’ Graves, Over Hun­dred Years of His­tory’

Sunday Trust - - FRONT PAGE - By Abubakar Adam Ibrahim (Abuja) & Vic­tor Sorokwu (Asaba)

There is ten­sion in the Ca­ble Point Area of Asaba fol­low­ing what res­i­dents de­scribed as plans to evict them from the area they claim to have resided in for over 200 years. The de­vel­op­ment fol­lowed plans by the Delta State Gov­ern­ment in con­junc­tion with a pri­vate de­vel­op­ment com­pany, Rex­wood Nige­ria Lim­ited, to con­vert the area into “smart city” that will in­clude “leisure to play­ground, ho­tels, shop­ping malls, of­fice com­plexes, res­i­dency quar­ters and lux­ury apart­ments” in what has been termed “New Dubai.”

Mem­bers of the com­mu­nity said they were ap­proached three months ago by one Mr. Ubaka J. Ubaka with pro­pos­als to re­lo­cate them in or­der to build the New Dubai. They said they kicked against the move be­cause he did not pro­vide any clear plans for their fu­ture.

“We have been liv­ing here for over 200 years,” the Sarkin Hausa of Asaba, Al­haji Ibrahim Baba Gero said. “I was born here. My fa­ther was born here and my grand­fa­ther was born here. They came to trade and set­tled here and this is home for us. We con­trib­ute to the econ­omy of this place; we have huge mar­kets here and are en­gaged in le­git­i­mate busi­nesses. The graves of our an­ces­tors are here and now they are ask­ing us to leave our houses,” he said.

Ca­ble Point is a sprawl­ing res­i­den­tial and mar­ket area in Asaba with over 2000 houses and shops. The Hausa com­mu­nity said they have about 20 houses of wor­ship in the area and their shops and busi­ness places.

In the last week, ten­sions peaked when some men came to the com­mu­nity and started X-mark­ing houses in the area. Mem­bers of the com­mu­nity mo­bilised and chased them out.

“A week ago, some men came and started mark­ing our houses,” Danazumi Malam Garba, a youth leader in the area said. “We heard ru­mours of this three months ago. We went to ask the DG of the Asaba De­vel­op­ment Au­thor­ity and he con­firmed that this was the case but there is no date for the project yet. We told him we are not in­ter­ested in re­lo­cat­ing.

“And then a week ago, some men came and started mark­ing houses with red paints, un­til they marked about 71 houses. The Arewa com­mu­nity has 109 houses here. They were mark­ing houses and hand­ing out power of at­tor­ney doc­u­ments to il­lit­er­ate peo­ple and ask­ing them to sign them,” he said.

The Sarkin Hausa, how­ever, told the Daily Trust on Sun­day that the Di­rec­tor Gen­eral of the Delta State Cap­i­tal Ter­ri­tory De­vel­op­ment Agency (DSCTDA), Chief Cle­ment Ofuani had told them that they would be evicted from their houses to make way from the project.

“He said we must leave,” Baba Gero said.

The de­vel­op­ment has led the com­mu­nity to pe­ti­tion the Po­lice, the North­ern Gover­nors’ Fo­rum, the DG of the Depart­ment of State Ser­vices, the Emirs of Kano and Zaz­zau, among oth­ers in a let­ter dated 9th Novem­ber, 2017 and ti­tled “The Ne­fe­ri­ous Ac­tiv­i­ties of Ubaka John­son Ubaka.”

In the pe­ti­tion, signed by the Sarkin Hausa, the com­mu­nity ac­cused Mr. Ubaka of serv­ing “Power of at­tor­ney” in the Hausa com­mu­nity of Ca­ble Point, (Ogbe Hausa).

The res­i­dents vowed to re­sist any at­tempt to force them out of the area.

Alh. Gero, who said his com­mu­nity is 30, 000-strong, in­sisted that they don’t have plans to leave be­cause they have no other home than Ca­ble Point, where their an­ces­tors graves have been buried since the 19th cen­tury.

“In com­pound alone, I have over 100 oc­cu­pants. My fa­ther was Sarki and he was buried here in the com­pound hous­ing the palace, same as his fa­ther. In most houses, you would find graves. Our ceme­tery is also lo­cated within Ca­ble Point and we have over 10,000 grave sites there.

“We have reached out to our lead­ers in the North to in­ter­vene and stop the Delta State Gov­ern­ment from this planned evic­tion. We have pe­ti­tioned to the Sul­tan of Sokoto, the Arewa Con­sul­ta­tive Fo­rum, the In­spec­tor Gen­eral of Po­lice and other se­cu­rity agen­cies.

“We have nowhere to go, all our lives we have lived here in Ca­ble Point, Asaba and you won’t be­lieve it that most of our chil­dren have never been to the North. This is not the only Hausa com­mu­nity in Delta State; we have set­tle­ments in Warri, Utomi Road, Ag­bor, Sapele and other ma­jor towns in the state but Ca­ble Point is the chief,” he said.

How­ever, CEO of Rex­wood Nige­ria Lim­ited, High Chief Ubaka de­nied the al­le­ga­tions against him, say­ing that he was not aware of any pe­ti­tion writ­ten against him or his com­pany and that his com­pany’s plans to de­velop the area were wellinten­tioned.

“There is no prob­lem in Ca­ble; there is no ten­sion in the area,” Mr Ubaka told the Daily Trust on Sun­day yes­ter­day. “You know there is a mar­ket in that area and the gov­ern­ment is say­ing they want to re­de­velop Asaba and that area is marked to be de­vel­oped as a mar­ket.

“Gov­ern­ment is try­ing to go into an agree­ment with us to re­de­velop Asaba. No­body is ask­ing any­one to leave his house. No­body is pur­su­ing any­body. What we are say­ing is that let us look at what you have, even if it is not hab­it­able, let the gov­ern­ment pay you and re­lo­cate you but most of them don’t have doc­u­ments for the houses and that is their fear.

“We don’t want gov­ern­ment to ac­quire be­cause you know how gov­ern­ment ac­quires, they could do com­pul­sory ac­qui­si­tion but I de­cided to in­ter­vene and make sure ev­ery­thing is done am­i­ca­bly so they can move,” he said.

Mr. Ubaka said he had been in di­a­logue with the com­mu­nity lead­ers for months. “Even the Sarki of the Hau­sawa knows me. I was even on his house on Sal­lah Day, we ate to­gether and I told him that I don’t want the gov­ern­ment to come in,” he said.

On the ac­tiv­i­ties of his com­pany in the area on Novem­ber 5, he said, “What we were do­ing was a cen­sus of the houses in the area so that we will know the num­ber of houses in the area, to know who are liv­ing in rented prop­erty and know how to go about the val­u­a­tion of these prop­erty,” he said.

At­tempts to speak to Mr Ofuani over the mat­ter yes­ter­day did not suc­ceed but the DG had dur­ing a par­ley with jour­nal­ists at the Cor­re­spon­dents Chapel of­fice in Asaba re­cently, in­sisted that gov­ern­ment would un­der­take a re­newal plan in the area.

Ac­cord­ing to him, the project was in line with the Okowa ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ur­ban re­newal pro­gramme and the en­tire ex­panse of land along the River Niger coastal lines from the base of the Niger Bridge through Abraka/ Hausa mar­ket, Ca­ble Point down to An­wai-Asaba have been marked out for the Dubai model project.

“The Asaba In­ter­na­tional Mar­ket Land has come un­der our fo­cus. The gov­ern­ment has de­cided that we should turn that place into a smart com­mer­cial city that has an econ­omy and life. From leisure to play­ground, ho­tels, shop­ping malls, of­fice com­plexes, res­i­dency quar­ters and lux­ury apart­ments that will be rem­i­nis­cent of a mod­ern city with ref­er­ence to global stan­dard,” the DG told jour­nal­ists.

One of the houses marked for de­mo­li­tion to give space for the planned ‘New Dubai’ project

Sarkin Hausa of Asaba, Al­haji Ibrahim Baba Gero

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