The Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, is unique for a number of reasons. Beyond being the seat of power, it is adjudged the only city in the country that has a semblance of modernity.
The beautiful ambience, the architectural designs and the superb road networks are alluring. When you drive through the dualized lanes of Abuja at night, you sometimes forget that you are in Nigeria. It could be likened to some streets in Dallas in the United States of America or Johannesburg in South Africa.
Abuja, within the last six years, has witnessed an unprecedented human influx. For some, Abuja has become the city, where dreams come true. For others, factors that were beyond their immediate control, forced them to take refuge here. Since the last national census conducted in 2006, which put Abuja population a little above 776, 298, the astronomical growth, due to biting insurgency in the North, and the economic hardship in the South has doubled.
According to the United Nations (UN), Abuja grew at the rate of 39.7 per cent between 2000 and 2010, making it the fastest growing city in the world. As at this year, the city still experiences an annual growth of at least 35 per cent. The unofficial metropolitan area of Abuja has a population of well over three million and comprises the fourth largest metropolitan area in Nigeria, surpassed only by Lagos, Kano and Ibadan. Therefore, the infrastructure built to service an infinitesimal number is being overstretched. Sooner or later, the centre may not hold.
Despite the scenarios painted, the city has several towns of glamour and squalor, and stakeholders in different sectors as well as residents of the city are worried that urgent steps are required to halt the dwindling fortunes of Nigeria’s pride. They all concluded that the new minister, Muhammadu Bello, needs to hit the ground running. They have also listed priority areas the new minister must focus on in order to reverse some of the ugly trends threatening the peace of the city. They were unanimous in their submissions to Abuja Metro that the immediate-past minister, Bala Mohammed, allegedly did a lot of damage that must be salvaged.
The controversial land swap, land racketeering, abuse of the Abuja master plan, poor supervision of Area Councils, skewed appointments, non-development of satellite towns and villages, lack of affordable housing for the poor, among others, are part of the hallmarks of the last minister’s tenure, which many residents are hopeful, will be addressed.
Catherine Agbo is the editor of Sunday Leadership Newspaper and she believes, like other respondents, that the new minister needs to address salient issues begging for attention. “Satellite towns development, review of mass housing scheme, transport system, issues of indigenes resettlement/integration and proper city security are the things he should focus on”, Agbo told Abuja Metro.
There is more. She was very emphatic when she spoke about flagrant abuse of the Abuja master plan by the immediate-past administration of Senator Mohammed. Her words: “The new minister must check abuse of the city master plan and review it where necessary in line with present realities. The way it is right now, I am worried that Abuja may end up like other big cities like Lagos, if something urgent or drastic is not done. This is one area that gives me concern and we need to act fast.”
Mr. Boboye Onduku is an architect and journalist. For him, security of lives and property of Abuja residents is vital. He also placed serious emphasis on the provision of affordable housing for the middle class, adding that the deplorable condition of roads in satellite towns should take the centre stage.
“All residents of Abuja would point to security of lives – and by extension, property – as the most important aspect for the new minister. Abuja has had its fair share of security breaches and the new minister would do well to ensure that he liaises with the key stakeholders to ensure safety and sanctity of life.
“Affordable housing is still more or less in Abuja. The new minister should focus on tackling the housing deficit and by extension, make houses affordable either by way of mortgage or rentals in the city. Interior roads in the city centre and satellite towns still present Abuja in bad light. It behooves the incoming minister to face headlong, the many dilapidated and poor roads in the FCT.
“Traffic management and control in some satellite towns and suburbs should also be given a look. The likes of Nyanya, Apo Mechanic Village, Galadimawa and Lugbe can do with better traffic management. These are key areas that can help bring succour to residents of the FCT”, Onduku said.
Former president of National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN), Mr. Wale Ajani, holds the view that the abused Abuja master plan should be reviewed in tandem with modern realities. He urged the new minister to engage more youth in his administration, while tackling corruption in the territory.
He said: “The new minister should go back to the original Abuja master plan. He should make Abuja clean, fight crime and improve the infrastructure. He should engage younger brains with appropriate expertise in his administration. He should also focus on fighting corruption within the FCT, build and support more indigenous businesses.”
Festus Adebayo, president of Housing Agenda Roundtable, was more specific in his responses. Adebayo, who is a lawyer and an expert in real estate and housing matters, listed a number of urgent priority areas the new minister must focus on. He listed staff welfare, effective road networks, security of lives and property, low cost housing for residents, development of the satellite towns, among others, as part of the areas he wants attention focused on.
Adebayo said: “Setting agenda for the new FCT minister is important. The issue of land allocation is important. Genuine developers must have access to land. The issue of mass housing and private sector participation must be reviewed by the new minister.
“He must devise a way to relieve Abuja city of pressure by providing infrastructure in satellite towns. Developing infrastructure in satellite towns must be on his priority list. The quality of houses that some estate developers build is terrible. The new minister must check this.
“He must address the issue of staff promotion in the FCT administration to motivate them. Many of them have been complaining. Also, revenue generation is key. Thank God we now have revenue generation board. The board must harness every window of revenue generation.
“He must address the issue of multiple taxation from the Area Councils because residents are complaining. Rail system that is supposed to link the satellite towns to the city centre must be looked into. Infrastructure within the city is going down. He must do something. The cost of education in the FCT is very high. Most of the private schools should be controlled by the quality assurance department in the education secretariat.”
Several other respondents, who spoke to Abuja Metro, identified other key areas like the menace of Fulani herdsmen, who disrupt the peace in the city; violent activities of motorcycle riders, taxi drivers that have gone wild in lawlessness, unwholesome behaviour of Vehicle Inspection Officers (VIO), street urchins and beggars, as well as kidnapping, among others, as issues deserving urgent attention.