Food vendors, petty traders, and artisans squatting on an open field in Wuse Zone 3, along Sultan Abubakar Way in Abuja, were left in anguish on Thursday as they were evicted by the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB).
Taskforce officials of the agency arrived at the location at about 12 noon and dispersed the squatters with tear gas, after which they smashed and burnt their wares, furniture and utensils.
The squatters said they were not given any notice to quit the land before the task force officials swooped on them.
According to witnesses, members of the task force were drawn from the police and the Federal Capital Territory Administration.
“They were many, some wore police uniforms while some others put on vests with AEPB emblem,” a food stand owner who identified herself as Ada said. “I saw one of the vehicles they brought with AEPB boldly written on it.
“They didn’t seize any of our things, they only came to destroy. If they had given us notice before now, we would have vacated before their arrival.
“All my kaya (utensils), all my pots, all my chairs, everything wey we dey use, dem just dey break everything and scatter everything,” she added as she continued salvaging what she could from the broken chairs, tables, and other items scattered all around.
Mr Chidi (no surname provided) said his stand was the first to be attacked before the task force turned the whole area upside down “within 30 minutes.”
Two days earlier on Tuesday, had erected a signpost with the inscription: ABUJA RALL MASS TRANSIT PROJECT PHASE II (LOT1B & LOT1A) at the edge of the area.
“It is not about license, there was no warning, no information. They just came. But I think it is as a result of this signpost here,” Mr Chidi said.
“We know that the land is not our own, and as you can see, the structures we put on this land are moveable. It is unfair, they should have given us a notice, even if it is just a day,” Mr Chidi said as he beckoned at his boys to hasten up in clearing the ‘leftovers.’
PREMIUM TIMES contacted the AEPB acting spokesperson, John Udochukwu, and the Director of the Department of Development Control, Abuja Metropolitan Council (FCDA), Mukhtar Galadima, but both officials said they were not aware of the operation.
“The task force is a combination of various departments within the FCT. I am not aware of the incident you just talk about,” Mr Galadima said.
The Director-General of the AEPB, Shehu Lawan, did not pick several calls from this reporter before this story was filed.