A resident of Kaduna State, Rukayat Azeez-Ayodeji, a native of Osun State, recounts GODFREY GEORGE how the state government marked residential buildings, which she and her husband built for 17 million naira in 2018 in the Kurmin Mashi area of ​​the state, for demolition to pave the way for road construction and offered compensation of 5.9 million naira

Where are you?

I am from Osun state. My husband is from Kwara State. We moved to Kaduna almost 18 years ago. We met in Kaduna and got married. We have four children. I am 41 years old. My husband is 47 years old. He worked in the private sector. My husband is a builder and rigger.

You claimed that the Kaduna State government planned to demolish your property without giving you commensurate compensation for it. Can you shed more light on what you meant?

We purchased land in 2015 for N1.6m opposite the Nigerian Defense Academy, Kaduna. It is along Poultry Road, behind MS Gas Station, Kurmin Mashi, Kaduna. We built a three-bedroom flat for our use and another set of self-contained two-bedroom apartments for rent. The place was ready in 2018 and that was the year we moved in. Two years after we moved, I came back from work and my neighbors came to inform me that some government officials came to mark my house for demolition. The officials kept coming for two years. When they arrived in their trucks, they moved back and forth and wrote something; they took photos and left.

What is demolition supposed to do?

They didn’t tell us, but when we asked, we found out that the government was planning to build a road around that area. My entire three bedroom apartment and two separate apartments were affected. We found out that the government had chosen a different location, which they said would cost more money. So, they decided to move to the other side of the road, where residential buildings were located, including ours. They kept bookmarking, leaving, and commenting again. They came for the final marking a few months ago.

Do you have documents to prove that the land belongs to you?

Of course we do. We have our certificate of occupancy and all other necessary documents to prove that the land was legally acquired for our use. What we thought was that they would call us and compensate us as they should. I was surprised when they called me last week to come to their office. When we got there, what we saw was not what we expected. What they offered us as compensation is nothing special. They gave us N5.9m. My husband is a surveyor. So what he spent from the first day to the last, starting in 2018 when cement was sold in Kaduna for N1600, it was more than N17 million to build that house. This does not include the self-contained two-bedroom apartment that we later built for rent. In that area, land is selling for N5m per plot now. I want to know what kind of valuation was done for us to be offered N5.9 million in 2022 for a house that we spent more than N17 million to build in 2018.

Nobody talks to us. Even in the office when we were angry and yelling they just told us it wasn’t their fault. Do we have to pay when the government is building a road or any other infrastructure that encroaches on our property? Will it be poor me who will pay for that? It’s not like there’s a master plan, which states that houses shouldn’t be built there in the first place. I really don’t know what they want us to do. I’m confused; I can’t even think straight since I visited your office.

Did you get the necessary government approval to build on the land after you purchased it?

Of course we did. It’s all here to show that we did it. They gave us documents and everything. The land is in the metropolis of Kaduna. The land now in that area is more than N5m per parcel. How do you want me to survive?

Were any letters delivered to you or any other occupants of the apartments?

None at all. They just marked the houses and left. We asked them, but they didn’t even answer us. Every time they came, we tried to start conversations with them, but they never responded. They won’t talk. They won’t say anything, perhaps, so as not to get involved, but I don’t know why they don’t talk to us.

How many houses will be affected by the planned demolition?

For the one who will clear everything, there are as many as seven houses. But, for others, who may be biased, it will be more than that.

Have you met with the government about compensation for N5.9m?

Two months ago, when they called us to go get a form, we went to meet them. We asked them how the assessment was made and things about it and to know if there was room for negotiation. We also asked if there was anything they would like us to do on our end. Nobody answered us. This past Monday (November 7, 2022), they called my husband telling him to come with three passport photos and a means of identification, and he went to pick them up the next day. That’s when we were offered a check for N5.9m. My husband just threw the check. He couldn’t even contain his anger. I don’t know how to say this nicely, but he has high blood pressure as a result of the shock. I’m just thankful that he’s okay now. He’s supposed to be the one walking, but he can’t. We have not been invited to hear our side of the story.

Since then, what moves have you made from your end? Have you tried to contact Governor Nasir El-Rufai?

At first, we felt like it would be something that we would sit down together and talk about how to get to the governor, but other neighbors, who are also affected, have given up and left the case for God to judge. Everyone is avoiding using what little money the government has managed to give them to pursue a case they know they will eventually lose. I spoke to a lawyer and he reviewed my documents and found that everything was complete, including the land papers. My husband is also a surveyor and he appraised the property. The lawyer said that the law would not recognize his (my husband’s) valuation.

Have you already hired the services of a professional appraiser?

We have not been able to do that because people told us not to waste time on any of those things, because the governor did not answer us. They told us that the court would keep adjourning the case until we got fed up and stopped. This is just frustrating because we can’t fight the government because in the end it will win the case after we must have wasted so much time and resources.

When did the government officials say they wanted to demolish the buildings?

Some people have not yet received their compensation checks.

Has your husband returned to collect the government check after the meeting with the officials?

Yes, you received the check that day but you haven’t cashed it. They even forced him to take a photo to prove that he had cashed the check. We haven’t even touched it.

How has this affected your family?

We are about to lose our property worth more than N17m. It’s a crazy experience. That day when we got that check from the government, I can’t even explain what I was going through. For four years since I started living in Kaduna, I have been sleeping in my own house. No owner bothered me; no one told me what to do and where to put my things. Going back to that kind of condition is now affecting my mental health. I don’t even know what my four children and I will do. I’m trying to survive this.

I need to live for my kids so I’m trying to get over it and face reality. I don’t want this to weigh me down, because it’s too heavy for me. Look at my husband. As Muslims, we believe that our bodies and souls belong to Allah. None of these things we fight for now belong to us. When we die, there will be no more tomorrow. We are all trying to be okay. We struggled for over 20 years and saved money to build this property. It’s depressing to see him flee right in front of us.

What do you want the government to do now?

I need the whole country to come to my aid. The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retired); the governor of the state, Nasir El-Rufai, and his wife and all the stakeholders involved should come to help me. We can’t lose our property like this. Where are we going to start? This is all we have.