Friday, 16 December 2016

Living in Cages: A Peep Into the Lives of Abuja Dwellers Who Live Like Animals

A yet another investigative report has revealed the conditions of how some Nigerians are living in the federal capital territory.
This is no fiction. They are there for anybody to see in many parts of Abuja, the nation’s capital. Be it in Garki, Wuse, Mabushi, Utako, Jabi or even highbrow Wuse 2, Maitama and Asokoro, the picture catches attention.
Some call them booth, others cage. They are better used for rearing animals, but human beings live in them. They retire in them after their daily activities, meaning there serve as abodes.
When you come across them in large numbers at first sight, you could probably take the place for dog market or veterinary clinic. But a closer look will hit you with amazement that those cages are not for dogs of any breed but shelter for human beings; able-bodied men to be precise. Hence, their occupants call them houses.
People take advantage of the cover provided by some parks and gardens in the city to construct make-shift sheds where they live. A few of such cages dot the green area between Diamond Bank regional office in the Central Business District and Headquarters of Federal Fire Service, opposite Old Parade Ground.
This strange spectacle also welcomes you to a special part of Mabushi, where heaps of waste, men, dogs and birds co-habit without actually disturbing one another.
Tucked behind Emeraldo Petrol Station, along the Gwarimpa axis of Ahmadu Bello Way, is this dingy enclave with about 30 cages where married men who rummage through piles of waste in search of plastics, metals and aluminium for sale, are housed.
The cages are pet-sized, leaving one to wonder if they can accommodate one man, but the occupants shock you with the information that about two or three of them squeeze in there and “sleep comfortably”every night.
The married among them told Daily Sun that they left their wives and children in their villages mostly in the North Eastern part of the country and migrated to Abuja as breadwinners to eke out livelihood. They transfer proceeds of their sojourn in Abuja to their families back home.
In Garki, particularly Area 1, pens of this nature litter the Shopping Centre neighbourhood. In fact, residents wake up to even see people sleeping in their frontage, without any form of cover.
One of the major attractions to these areas is that the squatters 'pride’ themselves as living within the city centre. In the case of Mabushi, it is located right in the centre of a major refuse dump site, which they have tactically converted into a hub for disused plastics and cans.
Occupants of such places have simple daily itinerary. They wake up about 6am, perform “skin dry cleaning” session with a sachet of water and then hit the road.
Many of the people living under this inhuman condition do not see anything wrong about it. Mohammed Marafa, an occupant of a booth in Area 1 said there is nothing wrong about where he is staying, so long as it gives him shelter after the day’s job: “Whether I live like animal is not the issue, so long as I am surviving and getting money to feed my family. That’s what is important to me.”
Musa Suleiman Usman, from Kano State: “I am here in Mabushi doing gon gon (tin) business. Sometimes, people come to buy containers and use them for oil, kunu, zobo and other beverages they sell with them. But for the iron, aluminium and rubber companies who have need for them come to buy them. But for yoghurt container, buyers come to buy it, clean it and use to package yogurt for people.
“I have five boys working under me and I am capable of paying them N21, 000 every month and I think they love it, but the challenge I face is that, the business is not moving well like before. Now, I can’t even boast of N1,500 in a day. My boys who are supplying me are not delivering to expectation like before.”
Another occupant of such pens, who gave his name simply as Nasiru explained that he is happy because he does not pay rent: “We don’t pay rent here. All it takes is for you to come, construct your cage and live in it as your house.
"That is what we do to manage our lives in this expensive Abuja. Many of us living here are married but of course, we cannot bring in our families here to manage with us, rather, my family is in Kano. I have one wife with five children; my first child is 10 years old and in primary 3. So, you can see the ‘house’ is very small so my family can’t stay here with me.”
It was gathered that people stay in such environment for two reasons; prohibitive rent and need to stay close to friends/place of business. A teenage sachet water vendor in Area 1, named Ibrahim from Yobe State said he was sleeping in open space for about six months on coming to Abuja before he was able construct a cage where he stays with two other young men:

“I don’t have money to pay any landlord. You can see that we are just managing life with selling pure water. And if I leave here; I will be paying transport to come out and go back. So, it’s good as we are living here.”
One major challenge occupants of such dingy environment face is water and sanitation. Because most of them do not have access to toilet facilities, they make do with the bushes around; thereby causing environmental problem. But this means nothing to them, after all, their main concern is where to lay their heads at the end of the day.
Source: Daily Sun