Banana Village: From swamp to shelter



Banana Village: From swamp to shelter

By blessing Onyeaka

A retired civil servant, Mr. Jacob Akpaso, moved to the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) with his family after his retirement in 1977 in search of greener pastures.

The Akwa Ibom native told the Nigerian News Agency (NAN) that he had moved from Lagos to Abuja and started farming for a living.

Akpaso said the need for shelter prompted him to move to Banana Village, after one of his farms where he had built a house was acquired by the Major-General. The administration of Sani Abacha.

“I had farms in various places when I moved to Abuja. I was growing bananas around Abuja National Hospital before it was taken over and used as a garden.

“Although the garden no longer exists, it is the banana that I got from there that I used to establish the Banana Village.

“I bought the Banana Village in 1999. At the time, it was swampy land and the original owner grew rice there.

“I moved to the village the same year after being moved from my home,” he said.

Akpaso said he built his house from scratch and started cultivating the land, adding that he named the village after the banana plantation because it had become the dominant crop on the land.

“The land was a thick forest with tall trees and monkeys everywhere. I first built two bedrooms, one for myself and one for my wife and children.

“I built my house with abandoned concrete slabs from road construction and what was left of my demolished house.

“After I built my house, I started to cultivate sugar cane, after which I cultivated bananas, which was more profitable. The banana plantation worked so well and soon after all the land was filled with bananas.

“It is because of the abundance of bananas that I named it ‘Banana Village. I could have given it my name, but Banana Village looks better on me and sounds more attractive, ”he said.

The former painter said the change in his original intention to cultivate the land was influenced when neighboring farmers began selling portions of their land to individuals, who built houses there.

He said the population of the community has started to increase as more people build homes and move their families around the area.

“I saw that people were settling in the area, and there was no point in living in a forest with my family alone.

“So I started to build houses to rent to people, but I never sold any part of my land to people, even to this day.

“Gradually more and more people came to live with us and I had to cut the bananas to build more houses.

“The plantation is still there, I cultivate the land to this day. In fact, my wife is a banana seller, but the banana plantation is not as big as it was years ago, ”he said.

Akpaso also recounted the challenges he faced during his transition to the Banana Village, and what they were currently facing as a community.

“I lost my only daughter while living in my old apartment. After that, one of my sons died years later due to harsh environmental conditions, now leaving me with eight children.

“It was only by the grace of God that we survived because I was always killing snakes of various sizes in my house. I once killed five snakes in one day!

“Currently we have devised ways to survive as a community, but our main challenge is the floods. We are always afraid when the rain comes because the impact is always devastating.

“Although we have tried to reduce the impact of the flooding by building raised sidewalks at the entrances to our homes, we still need help because most of the time the water level is higher than the elevations.

Despite these challenges, Akpaso noted the different strengths of the community.

“We have a stable power supply in this village. This is one of the things we value the most and once there is a power supply, people will be more productive.

“We also have a natural spring near the village. Before, we used to go directly to the source, but the owner of the land fenced it off, cutting off our access to the source.

“We had to channel water from his land to the entrance to the village, then we made a small basin to shelter the water.

“However, we don’t drink and cook with the water, we just wash and clean with it. The water level rises especially at night and in the morning.

“The ‘meruwas’ (water vendors) used to provide us with water, but now we have a borehole right at the entrance to the village where we buy water at a lower price,” he said. .

The retired official, however, appealed to the government to compensate him with a house or land for diligently serving them.

“I worked for the Lagos State Government under the Federal Ministry of Public Works for eleven years before retiring. Most of my friends received land in Abuja, but not me.

“If only the government can give me a piece of land or at least an apartment now, I will be very grateful,” he said.

Banana Village is a small village in Durumi District, Abuja. It has an entrance which leads to a number of houses that are closely built to each other.

NAN reports that the village has single rooms, detached houses and one-bedroom apartments.

Single rooms range from N70,000 to N80,000 per year, self-catering apartments range from N120,000 to N150,000 or more per year, and one bedroom apartments range from N250,000 and above per year. (NAA)


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