A Kaduna State resident, Rukayat Azeez-Ayodeji, who hails from Osun State, tells GODFREY GEORGE how the state government marked residential buildings, which she and her husband built for N17m in 2018 in the Kurmin Mashi area of the state, for demolition to pave the way for road construction and offered a compensation of N5.9m

Where are you from?

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. I work in the private sector. My husband is a builder and a quantity surveyor.

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

We acquired a plot of land in 2015 for N1.6m opposite the Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna. It is along Poultry Road, behind the MS filling station, Kurmin Mashi, Kaduna. We built a three-bedroom flat for our use and another set of two-room self-contained apartments for rent. The place was ready in 2018 and that was the year we moved in. Two years after we moved in, I came back from work and my neighbours came to inform me that some government officials came to mark my house for demolition. The officials kept on coming for two years. When they came in their vans, they moved to the front and back and wrote something; they took pictures and left.

What purpose is the demolition supposed to serve?

They didn’t tell us, but when we inquired, we found out that the government was planning to construct a road around that area. My entire three-bedroom flat and two self-contained flats were affected. We learnt the government had chosen a different spot, which it said would cost more money. So, they decided to move to the other side of the road, where residential buildings, including ours, were situated. They just kept marking, leaving and going back to remark. They came for the final marking a few months ago.

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

Of course, we do. We have our certificate of occupancy and all other documents required to prove the land was legally acquired for our use. What we thought was that they would call us and compensate us the way they ought to. I was shocked when they called me last week to come to their office. When we got there, what we saw was not what we expected. What we were offered as compensation is nothing to write home about. They gave us N5.9m. My husband is a quantity surveyor. So, what he spent from the first day to the last, as of 2018 when cement was sold in Kaduna for N1,600, was over N17m to build that house. This does not include the two-room self-contained apartment that we later built for rent. In that area, land is being sold for N5m per plot now. I want to know what type of valuation was done that would have made them offer us N5.9m in 2022 for a house we spent over N17m to build in 2018.

Nobody is talking to us. Even in the office when we were angry and shouting, they just told us that it was not their fault. Are we to pay when the government is constructing a road or any other infrastructure that encroaches on our property? Is it the poor me that will pay for such? It is not like there is a master plan, which states that houses should not be built there in the first place. I don’t really know what they want us to do. I am just confused; I cannot even think straight since I visited their office.

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

Of course, we did. Everything is here to prove that we did. They gave us documents and everything. The land is in Kaduna metropolis. The land now in that area is more than N5m per plot. How do they want me to survive?

Was there any letter given to you or any other occupant of the apartments?

None at all. They just marked the houses and left. We asked them, but they didn’t even respond to us at all. Whenever they came around, we tried to engage them in conversations, but they never responded. They won’t talk. They will not say anything, maybe, not to implicate themselves, but I don’t know why they will not talk to us.

How many houses will be affected by the planned demolition?

For the one that will clear everything, there are up to seven houses. But, for others, which can be partial, it will be more than that.

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Have you met the government on the N5.9m compensation?

Two months ago, when they called us to come to get a form, we went to meet them. We asked them how the valuation was done and things around that and to know if there was a place for negotiation. We also asked if there was anything they would want us to do from our own end. Nobody replied to us. Last Monday (November 7, 2022), they called my husband saying that he should come with three passport photographs and a means of identification, and he went there to meet them the following day. That was when we were offered a cheque for N5.9m. My husband just threw the cheque away. He couldn’t even contain his anger. I don’t know how to say this nicely, but he is nursing high blood pressure as a result of the shock. I am just grateful that he is fine now. He is supposed to be the one doing all the walking around, but he cannot. They have not invited us to hear our side of the story.

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

At first, we felt it would be something we would sit together and talk about how to reach the governor, but other neighbours, who are also affected, have given up and handed over the case for God to judge. Everyone is avoiding using the small money the government has managed to give them to pursue a case that they know they will eventually lose. I have spoken to a lawyer and he reviewed my documents and found out that everything was complete, including the land papers. My husband is also a quantity surveyor and he valued the property. The lawyer said the law would not recognise his (my husband’s) valuation.

Have you secured the services of a professional valuer yet?

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

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

Some people have yet to receive their compensation cheques.

Has your husband gone back to collect the cheque from the government after the encounter with the officials?

Yes, he got the cheque that day but he has not cashed it. They even forced him to take a photo to show that he had collected the cheque. We haven’t even touched it.

How has this affected your family?

We are about to lose our property worth over N17m. It is a crazy experience. That day when we got that cheque from the government, I cannot even explain what I was going through. For four years now since I started living in Kaduna, I have been sleeping in my own house. No landlord disturbed me; nobody told me what to do and where to put my stuff. Going back to that kind of condition now is affecting my mental health. I don’t even know what my four kids and I will do. I am trying to survive this.

I need to live for my children, so I am trying to get over it and face the reality. I don’t want this to weigh me down, because this is very heavy for me to bear. Look at my husband. As Muslims, we believe that our bodies and souls belong to Allah. None of these things we are fighting for now belong to us. When we die, there will be no more tomorrow. We are all trying to be fine. We struggled for over 20 years and saved money to build this property. It is depressing to watch it flee away right before us.

What do you want the government to do at this point?

I need the entire country to come to my aid. The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.); the state governor, Nasir El-Rufai, and his wife and all stakeholders involved should come and help me. We cannot lose our property like that. Where are we going to start from? This is all we have got.