Scores of protesters on Tuesday morning blocked the Zuba-Kaduna highway in Abuja to protest what they said was the excessive granting of land to the Army in the Nigerian capital.
The protesters carried placards with diverse inscriptions and halted movement of traffic on the usually busy highway.
The protesters said they are original indigenes of Abuja and that their farmlands had been given to the army without adequate compensation.
The vice chairman of Gwagwalada council, Kasimu Muhammed and the Emir of Zuba, Bello Muhammad came to the scene of protest to address the natives appealing to them to not block the highway.
According to Mr. Muhammed, a committee has already been set up to discuss the issue.
“The committee has been set up to discuss this issue. It includes the chief of army staff, the (FCT) Minister and the Emir of Zuba”, he said.
The Emir of Zuba also expressed shock at the development.
According to him, the army should be held responsible if the protest degenerated into a free for all.
“I expect the Nigerian Army to be law abiding people. If there is any violence in the course of this protest by the youth, the Nigerian Army is to blame because the committee that was set up to deliberate on this matter includes the Chief of Army Staff himself. Resolution has not been reached yet but the Nigerian Army has started working on the land.
“We are not anti-development, if the federal government wants to cede the land to the Nigerian Army, let there be consultations so that the people are relocated and compensated adequately”, he said.
A former vice chairman of Zuba, Abdullahi Alhassan, said that it was during the Babangida regime that some parts of the land were ceded to the Nigerian Army to build barracks as a security measure. He said since then, there has never been any official letter from the government to the natives ceding the ”whole land to the Nigerian Army.”
The chairman, FCT Koro Youth Association, Adamu Isyaku, said the Nigerian Army had taken over their land which covers areas from the FCT College of Education Zuba to Giri, Iddo and the airport road, ”without any reason and without due consultations.”
“From FCT College of Education, Tunga-Mage to Giri and Iddo to Airport road all round. The Nigerian Army is taking over our land beqeathed to us by our forefathers without any reasons and consultations. We did not buy this land. We own it as fellow Nigerians have their own lands in other states and local governments.
“A year ago, we channeled our grievances through our village head, district and paramount chiefs, through the minister to the federal government and the federal government ordered the Nigerian Army to stop the work. They stopped the work.
“As a result of that, the federal government has just constituted and inaugrated a committee. If the indigenes are patiently waiting for the outcome of any resolution by the federal government with regards to this land, then why shouldn’t the Nigerian Army patiently wait?”
He said the protests would continue until the army ceased work on the said land.
Effort to speak with the defense spokesperson, Rabe Abubakar, proved abortive as he did not pick his calls.
The protesters later dispersed and opened the road for human and vehicular movement again.