There is tension in the Cable Point Area of Asaba following what residents described as plans to evict them from the area they claim to have resided in for over 200 years.
The development followed plans by the Delta State Government in conjunction with a private development company, Rexwood Nigeria Limited, to convert the area into “smart city” that will include “leisure to playground, hotels, shopping malls, office complexes, residency quarters and luxury apartments” in what has been termed “New Dubai.”
Members of the community said they were approached three months ago by one Mr. Ubaka J. Ubaka with proposals to relocate them in order to build the New Dubai. They said they kicked against the move because he did not provide any clear plans for their future. “We have been living here for over 200 years,” the Sarkin Hausa of Asaba, Alhaji Ibrahim Baba Gero said. “I was born here. My father was born here and my grandfather was born here. They came to trade and settled here and this is home for us. We contribute to the economy of this place; we have huge markets here and are engaged in legitimate businesses. The graves of our ancestors are here and now they are asking us to leave our houses,” he said.
Cable Point is a sprawling residential and market area in Asaba with over 2000 houses and shops. The Hausa community said they have about 20 houses of worship in the area and their shops and business places.
In the last week, tensions peaked when some men came to the community and started X-marking houses in the area. Members of the community mobilised and chased them out.
“A week ago, some men came and started marking our houses,” Danazumi Malam Garba, a youth leader in the area said. “We heard rumours of this three months ago. We went to ask the DG of the Asaba Development Authority and he confirmed that this was the case but there is no date for the project yet. We told him we are not interested in relocating.
“And then a week ago, some men came and started marking houses with red paints, until they marked about 71 houses. The Arewa community has 109 houses here. They were marking houses and handing out power of attorney documents to illiterate people and asking them to sign them,” he said.
The Sarkin Hausa, however, told the Daily Trust on Sunday that the Director General of the Delta State Capital Territory Development Agency (DSCTDA), Chief Clement Ofuani had told them that they would be evicted from their houses to make way from the project.
“He said we must leave,” Baba Gero said.
The development has led the community to petition the Police, the Northern Governors’ Forum, the DG of the Department of State Services, the Emirs of Kano and Zazzau, among others in a letter dated 9th November, 2017 and titled “The Neferious Activities of Ubaka Johnson Ubaka.”
In the petition, signed by the Sarkin Hausa, the community accused Mr. Ubaka of serving “Power of attorney” in the Hausa community of Cable Point, (Ogbe Hausa).
The residents vowed to resist any attempt to force them out of the area.
Alh. Gero, who said his community is 30, 000-strong, insisted that they don’t have plans to leave because they have no other home than Cable Point, where their ancestors graves have been buried since the 19th century.
“In compound alone, I have over 100 occupants. My father was Sarki and he was buried here in the compound housing the palace, same as his father. In most houses, you would find graves. Our cemetery is also located within Cable Point and we have over 10,000 grave sites there.
“We have reached out to our leaders in the North to intervene and stop the Delta State Government from this planned eviction. We have petitioned to the Sultan of Sokoto, the Arewa Consultative Forum, the Inspector General of Police and other security agencies.
“We have nowhere to go, all our lives we have lived here in Cable Point, Asaba and you won’t believe it that most of our children have never been to the North. This is not the only Hausa community in Delta State; we have settlements in Warri, Utomi Road, Agbor, Sapele and other major towns in the state but Cable Point is the chief,” he said.
However, CEO of Rexwood Nigeria Limited, High Chief Ubaka denied the allegations against him, saying that he was not aware of any petition written against him or his company and that his company’s plans to develop the area were well-intentioned.
“There is no problem in Cable; there is no tension in the area,” Mr Ubaka told the Daily Trust on Sunday yesterday. “You know there is a market in that area and the government is saying they want to redevelop Asaba and that area is marked to be developed as a market.
“Government is trying to go into an agreement with us to redevelop Asaba. Nobody is asking anyone to leave his house. Nobody is pursuing anybody. What we are saying is that let us look at what you have, even if it is not habitable, let the government pay you and relocate you but most of them don’t have documents for the houses and that is their fear.
“We don’t want government to acquire because you know how government acquires, they could do compulsory acquisition but I decided to intervene and make sure everything is done amicably so they can move,” he said.
Mr. Ubaka said he had been in dialogue with the community leaders for months. “Even the Sarki of the Hausawa knows me. I was even on his house on Sallah Day, we ate together and I told him that I don’t want the government to come in,” he said.
On the activities of his company in the area on November 5, he said, “What we were doing was a census of the houses in the area so that we will know the number of houses in the area, to know who are living in rented property and know how to go about the valuation of these property,” he said.
Attempts to speak to Mr Ofuani over the matter yesterday did not succeed but the DG had during a parley with journalists at the Correspondents Chapel office in Asaba recently, insisted that government would undertake a renewal plan in the area.
According to him, the project was in line with the Okowa administration’s urban renewal programme and the entire expanse of land along the River Niger coastal lines from the base of the Niger Bridge through Abraka/ Hausa market, Cable Point down to Anwai-Asaba have been marked out for the Dubai model project.
“The Asaba International Market Land has come under our focus. The government has decided that we should turn that place into a smart commercial city that has an economy and life. From leisure to playground, hotels, shopping malls, office complexes, residency quarters and luxury apartments that will be reminiscent of a modern city with reference to global standard,” the DG told journalists.