Banana Village: From swamp to shelter

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 pasture.

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

Akpaso said the need for shelter made him move to the Banana Village, after one of his farms where he built a house was acquired by Maj-Gen. Sani Abacha’s administration.

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

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

“I bought the Banana Village in 1999. Then, it was a swampy piece of land and the initial owner was farming rice on it.

“I moved to the village that same year after I was displaced from my home,’’ he said.

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

“The land was a thick forest with tall trees and monkeys all over the place. I first built two rooms, one for me and the other 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 farming sugarcane, after which I farmed bananas, which was more profitable. The banana plantation did so well and not long after, the whole land was filled with bananas.

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

The erstwhile painter, said that the change of his original intention of farming on the land was influenced when neighbouring farmers started selling off portions of their land to individuals, who built houses on them.

He said that the population of the community began to increase as more people built houses and moved their families to the area.

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

“So I started building houses to rent to people, but I never sold out any portion of my land to people, even till date.

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

“The plantation is still there, I farm on the land till date. In fact, my wife is a banana dealer, but the banana plantation is not as large as it used to be years back,” he said.

Akpaso also narrated the challenges he encountered in the course of his transition to the Banana Village, and what they were currently facing as a community.

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

“It was only by God’s grace that we survived because I was always killing snakes of different sizes in my house. Once, I killed five snakes in a day!

“Presently, we have devised means to survive as a community, but our major challenge is flooding. We are always afraid when the rain comes because the impact is always devastating.

“Although we tried to reduce the impact of the flood by building elevated pavements at the entrance of our houses, we still need help because most times, the water level is higher than the elevations.

In spite of these challenges, Akpaso noted the various strengths of the community.

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

“We also have a natural spring very close to the village. We used to fetch directly from the spring, but the owner of the land fenced it, cutting off our access to the spring.

“We were forced to channel the water from his land to the entrance of the village, and then made a small pool to house the water.

“However, we don’t drink or cook with the water, we only wash and clean with it. The water level comes up mostly at night and in the morning.

“The ‘meruwas’ (water vendors) used to supply us with water, but we now have a borehole just at the entrance of the village where we buy water at a cheaper rate,” he narrated.

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

“I worked for the Lagos State Government under the Federal Ministry of Works for eleven years before I retired. Most of my mates were given land in Abuja, but I wasn’t.

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

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

NAN reports that the village has single rooms, self-contained houses and one bedroom flats.

The single rooms range from N70, 000 to 80,000 annually, the self-contained apartments range from N120,000 to N150,000 or more annually, and the one bedroom flats range from N250,000 and above, annually. (NAN)