Natives of the Federal Capital Territory yesterday barricaded the Kaduna-Abuja-Lokoja highway at Tunga Maje, near Zuba, to protest what they describe as seizure of their ancestral land by the military.
The protest, which began at about 7:30am caused a gridlock on the busy road for hours.
The natives who were mostly from Tungan Maje, Zuba, Yelwan Zuba and Anagada communities in Gwagwalada Area Council, claimed that military authorities deployed trucks to the land, which necessitated the protest.
Travellers to the southern part of the country were stranded as the protesters in their numbers blocked the expressway with logs of wood and chanted solidarity songs.
A truck driver, Mustapha Abdulkadir, said he was at the scene for three hours. He said he was coming from Katsina on his to Cotonou to sell cattle. He expressed his frustration considering the distance he was travelling.
A passenger, Mercy Anda, who is travelling to Ondo State, told our reporters that she was going for an assignment and didn’t know if she would catch up having spent two hours already in the traffic jam.
Ukasha Salihu who is a bus driver transporting cucumber from Jos to Lagos, said the produce was perishable and expressed feared that it might spoil before he reached his destination.
“All what we motorists are pleading is that the natives should liaise with the army so that the road can be opened; we don’t know how long we will stay here which is not fair,” he lamented.
One of the natives, Abubakar Baba Iya, said the problem started last year when soldiers invaded the land and said the natives should leave.
According to him, their community leaders wrote to the FCT Minister, Muhammad Bello, for intervention adding that the reply from the minster is that he was not aware that soldiers had land in FCT.
“After we saw the FCT minister’s reply, we still wrote to the National Assembly for prompt action through our representatives there, and even when the committee has not sat yet, the soldiers brought their trucks and started work there.
“Therefore if they want us to unblock this road, the soldiers should remove their trucks from the land or they should kill us,” he added.
Chairman of the FCT Youth Koro Association, Alhaji Adamu Isyaku Koro, who led the blockade, said he mobilised the natives to protest alleged takeover of their ancestral land by the Nigerian military.
He alleged that the army started digging for the foundation and fencing of their farm land from Iddo down to Zuba.
“A committee has just been constituted but the Nigerian military is refusing to adhere to the court order given last year.
“We decided to hold this peaceful protest so that the Nigerian government can see what we are passing through in the hands of the military. Our only weapon is our rights and our mouths to speak so that they can hear our cry.
“They brought their bulldozers to start clearing the land, but we are not going to leave the land for them until they move away from our land,” he said.
He urged that the Nigerian military should wait as a committee has been inaugurated by the minister to settle the land dispute.
When contacted, the Nigerian Army spokesman, Brigadier General Sani Usman, said Nigerian Army was trying to demarcate the portion of its lands against encroachment.
The villagers wanted compensation for economic trees as question of ownership is not in doubt.
Therefore we referred them to Ministry of the FCDA. However, we stopped work and asked them to contact FCDA. The road barricade was removed by the residents of the area voluntarily and movement restored long ago. There was no fracas or physical contact with anybody.
The situation is very calm all over. There was no basis for the protest because the land rightfully belongs to the Nigerian Army more so that the FCDA is looking into the matter. People should always take advantage of better means of making complaints rather than disturbing public peace through unnecessary protest that obstruct traffic and disturb public peace.