Why FCT administration demolished popular Gidan drama
Ikharo Attah is head, media enlightenment and advocacy, FCT COVID-19 Enforcement Team. He is also Head, FCT Traffic Decongestion Committee which has been involved in cleaning and clearing trouble spots in the FCT.
Recently, Attah led his team to clear the popular Gidan Drama (Dembe) where local wrestling takes place now notorious for stripping as well as drug peddling. Attah, in this interview with BEN ADOGA, explains the rationale for the crackdown on the centre.
Recently you led your team to demolish Gedan Drama, also known as Gidan Dembe; how did the place constitute any nuisance?
Even before COVID-19, we had heen having problems with Gidan Drama and Gidan Dembe. Based on NDLEA report, they are places for drug addicts and drug cartel in the FCT. That, indeed, is very troubling, These are the things we are looking at when we talk about Gidan Drama and Gidan Dembe.
Coming from the angle where I come in now, that is the issue of COVID-19 pandemic, if you have been there, you discover that they are like local, ancient chief’s palace, fenced with bamboos, sometimes with zinc, wood with wooden seats with a centre stage and always over crowded. People usually gather in very large number to watch the local drama and local wrestling. It is extremely crowded.
In Gidan Drama, we may not discuss government from the point of morality, but the issue of nude dancing is disturbing. There, they enter into the dance normally fully dressed, but progress to nudity when they strip completely for men to watch, scream and spray money. But within my purview, we look at the fact that in COVID-19 compliance enforcement, the crowd there is simply unacceptable.
We had warned them to shut down business because the crowd was uncontrollable, too massive and too large for control, but they refused to cooperate. After pleading with them not to put people’s lives at risk, we had to move in.
In which locations and how many of them did you bring down?
We demolished five of them in Jabi and Utako areas of the FCT. One close to Vision FM, another close to the road while the other is deep into the forest where heavy crowds gather at night and pose heavy security risks.
I understand the events are quite popular where popular socialites and Kaniwood stars come all the way from Kaduna, Kano to mingle and socialise.
From what we gathered before we went there for clean-up, it is a big place. Managers and promoters of the places get Kaniwood stars to make appearances and that boosts the popularity of the location. The crowd and the gate takings as well. Once a particular popular star is announced to make appearance, the place becomes fully booked, over flows, drink sellers, drug sellers and the strip dancers all make more money. These stars make appearances once in a while.
One of the owners of the of the place was said to have claimed that he thanked God that the enforcement team did not come in December; that he had made all the money during the festive period. He said with what they made during the festive season, they will simply lie low and return and rebuild the place.
Have you checked since after the demolition, if they have started rebuilding the places?
We checked recently and we have been monitoring, they have not rebuilt. The surveillance group is keeping an eye on them. They have not rebuilt.
If they rebuild what will you do?
We will steal go back there to clean up.
To do an enduring job, if we have to go back there again, after this demolition, we will arrest and prosecute the owners and managers. Normally when we go there, we don’t go at night because the crowd will be too much. We don’t want to record casualties from stampede. We go there when customers are not there. If they rebuild any demolished location, we will prosecute the operators in court.
Lastly, and away from Gidan Dembe, can you tell Nigerians what challenges you face while enforcing COVID-19 protocols?
The challenges are quite enormous. We face land or property mixed use challenges in the sense that parks and gardens are supposed to be closed during COVID-19, restaurants and churches are supposed to be open. Almost every park is being used as a church and a restaurant. In this situation, what do you do? That is one of our biggest challenges.
The other one is societal challenge. There is so much talk about COVID-19. The advocacy is really much, but we have major clerics who have come out openly to tell people that COVID-19 is fake, from the underworld and from the apocalyptic prediction of the mark of the beast and a strategy to alter and reorder the genetic structure of mankind, thereby alter God’s divine creation and go against the people of God.
When these conversations are on the front burner, no matter how much one goes out to enlighten, you find out that people will not believe and compliance becomes difficult. Even people who carry facemasks only do so to avoid arrest, very much like vehicle seat belts that are only used when they see enforcement officers.
It is a major challenge. Some people have been told not to believe by some opinion moulders. Even a state governor who should know better, in a neighouring state to Abuja whose chief judge came to Abuja for treatment and died of COVID-19 is engaging in general deception that COVID-19 is not real.
I want to use this opportunity to reiterate that we should keep to the protocols and maintain them. It is easier to keep to the protocols than seeking treatment. Let’s just persevere. Very soon, we will be done with the second wave. I pray we don’t have the third and the fourth waves, so we can move on. I know and believe that COVID-19 is real, the death rate of the second wave has been very high and we must do everything to ensure that we keep ourselves safe.