Eunice Josiah is afraid of what is to come. She is pregnant and unsure if her frail body can bear the weight of her daily struggles to access water.
"Water is exceptionally important for a pregnant woman, especially after giving birth, but with everything that is happening, I wonder how I will cope when I give birth. The worst part is that I will give birth during the dry season, which will be very challenging," she said.
Josiah looks around with an air of helplessness, stating, "Things are very tough, and it hasn't been easy. Nobody assists us, not even with the water we need daily. When it rains, we get a glimmer of hope, but if it doesn't, we suffer while searching for water in people's houses far away. We cannot afford to buy water every day because it's expensive," she elaborated.
Josiah doesn't live in some distant community; she resides in Abuja, Nigeria’s seat of power, and she is one of the 133 million Nigerians lacking access to clean water. This is the situation for many indigenous communities in the Federal Capital Territory.
Josiah is from Guzape, a large community that nears the neighbourhood of Asokoro to the north, Apo to the south, Gudu to the west and Garki to the Northwest. The main routes to the area include Murtala Mohammed Expressway and Hassan Musa Katsina Street. Also, It is a 10 to 15-minute drive away from Abuja’s Central Area.
The community is largely populated by the Gbagyi people and several other indigenous tribes like Bassa, Gandara and Nupe. Other tribes like the Hausa, Igbo and native Gbagyi of Kaduna have also come to live there.
This community lacks access to public water, and change is happening, but not necessarily for the better.
Bitrus Yakubu still remembers when Abuja became the federal capital, and he has witnessed firsthand the transformations that have occurred around them.
"I was born and raised in this community and was just a child when Abuja became the Federal Capital Territory. Now, I am an adult with grandchildren, and I have witnessed the significant changes that have taken place in the region," he told Prime Progress.
Yakubu, at 55 years old, now leads Kpaduma 2 and the entire Guzape district. He acknowledges that as Abuja grows larger, the plight of his people worsens.
"We also have Kpaduma 1 and Kpaduma 3, along with many other areas around here, but they are under different district chiefs. Each of them has their specific areas of responsibility, and my decisions do not affect those areas, despite being the chief of this part of Kpaduma," he further explained to Prime Progress.
But despite the expansion that has occurred around them, Yakubu points out that the community lacks basic amenities such as schools, water, and healthcare.
In this regard, the chief stated, "There is no hospital here. No matter the emergency, we must arrange vehicles to transport patients to healthcare centres outside the community. We have complained repeatedly, but nothing has been done."
He added, "There are no schools in the community. The government has not built a single school here. Our children must travel to AYA, Wuse, and other distant areas to attend government schools because we do not have schools here."
The chief said that there have been instances where children had to walk long distances to school when parents were unable to transport their children.
He said, "We are not wealthy, and since we want our children to receive better education than us, we provide them with the little we can for transportation. However, since we cannot afford this every day, our children walk several kilometres to and from school just to learn."
Godwin Ezra was one of those students who had to walk to school as a child.
"I attended Modern Primary School opposite ECOWAS, and I always had to walk home, dealing with school pressure and harsh weather that made me fall sick regularly," he told Prime Progress. Ezra added that this is why many children in the community frequently fall ill.
"They are constantly exposed to the hot sun while trekking to school. I personally endured this suffering."
The Threat of Demolition
Community members fear being forced out of their ancestral lands due to the increasing number of large buildings encroaching on their territory.
"The government has already failed us by not providing social amenities and education, and that's not all; they still want to take our community away from us," Ezra said.
"We are surrounded by towering buildings owned by wealthy individuals and politicians, and we are right in the middle. Every day, these buildings keep encroaching on our community. We are afraid that this might affect us in the coming years," he expressed.
Yakubu added that the community has been defending themselves and their land legally in court, but this often comes at a significant cost.
"Last year, on December 26th, 27th, and 28th, 2022, the Federal government, represented by Mohammed Musa Bello, the FCT Minister, allocated and demolished houses in the community. We took the case to court in hopes of resolving the issue."
"After a prolonged legal battle, we won the case, but by then, the damage had already been done," He added.
Also, recent threats by Nyemsom Wike, the FCT Minister, to demolish some communities have left the hearts of Guzape residents heavy with concern. They fear he may follow in the footsteps of his predecessors.
"The new minister has a big house right at the entrance of our community, which is a very worrying sign. Individuals like this can potentially cause even more harm than we can imagine," Ezra said.
For now, as they continue to live, Yakubu hopes that their suffering will end before they are left homeless.
"We have faced numerous persistent challenges, and every day, I wonder when things will improve because we are truly suffering here," he said, his head bowed.