The Federal Capital Territory (FCT) with a population of 778,567 (2006 census) and land area of about 8, 000 square kilometres, is set to witness another historical change that transcends politics. A change since 1999 beckons on the nation’s capital with new government set to come onboard in two days’ time.
Expectedly, the incoming administration would appoint the 15th FCT minister.
With six area councils making up two Federal Constituencies, the territory is bounded on the north by Kaduna State, on the west by Niger State, on the east and southeast by Nasarawa State and on the south-west by Kogi State. Though identified as a probable seat of government in the 70s, the transition from Lagos came in 1991, turning Abuja into the Centre of Unity – the nation’s capital’s nickname.
For the incoming administration to hit the ground running, there are many issues that are awaiting the governor of FCT and president-elect of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari. However, the chunk of the work would be on the minister, who would be delegated by the president to carry out these functions.
The success of the incoming administration hinges on how it tackles many areas where the PDP administration recorded low success and building on those sectors already transformed.
The economic situation in the territory calls for urgent attention. Before the fall in oil prices, many area councils in the territory have already suspended development projects, citing fall in allocations. Sources in the FCT Area Council Joint Accounts Allocation Committee (JAAC), said the council bosses have complained bitterly over deductions from their allocations, saying what gets to them could hardly have anything left over for embarking on project after paying salaries.
Appointing an indigenous minister
The governor of the FCT has the sole responsibility of appointing anybody whom he deems fit as the FCT minister as the constitution provides. As seen in some cases in the past, some presidents appointed lawmakers for this role. Nevertheless, the first test for the incoming administration would be if it would give in to the demand of Abuja natives to get ‘a son of the soil’, as one of the natives puts it, to be in charge of affairs in the territory.
The indigenes, though having different languages and needs, are however united on this front. The appointment could also be a determining factor to the support the government would receive from the natives. With many factional leaders of the natives saying there are capable hands within the original inhabitants to steer the affairs of the territory, time would tell if Buhari would appoint the first indigenous minister for the territory.
There have been inconsistencies in policy implementation with succeeding administrations picking holes in the policy formulated by their predecessors even among those within the fold of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The sustenance of the land swap policy engineered by Sen. Bala Mohammed’s administration to cushion infrastructural deficit in the territory would be in the test. “Am not sure the government will scrap it.” The coordinator, Abuja Infrastructure Investment Centre (AIIC), Farouk Sani, expressed so much confidence in the legal framework of the policy, saying it is formulated to outlive the Bala administration.
The project, which covers 3, 886 hectares of land, involving about 15 developers would provide additional housing for more than one million residents, over 1,500 jobs, and infrastructure like roads, water, electricity and payment of resettlement and compensation cost to natives of affected areas.
Also, there are calls from residents for a general audit of the activities of the Abuja Geographic Information System (AGIS) and a revisit of demolished areas. In some quarters, there are agitations that Sen. Bala Mohammed should be probed.
Upon his emergence, the Fulani socio-cultural group, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) has appealed to the president-elect to curtail the scourge of cattle rustling in the territory.
According to Abdullahi Adamu Madawaki, chairman of MACBAN, several herders have been killed with more than 1,500 cattle stolen. With the spate of killings caused by cattle rustling in some parts of the country, it becomes imperative to stem the tide so that it would degenerate into chaos. Counting his military experience and expertise, security is one area in which residents would want to see a change.
In the FCT in particular, though the FCT Police have been up and doing but their best seems not good enough in checking the various acts of criminality among them the activities of car thieves and the popular one-chance syndicates. Unchecked killings by security operatives attached to government agencies are another area where the clout of the incoming administration through the FCT minister would be tested.
Rapid increase in the FCT population without corresponding increase and improvement in available infrastructure is what experts have attributed to the overstretching of facilities in the territory. The territory is now home to more people – twice the number it was originally planned for, and it is still increasing.
With insecurity in some parts of the North and kidnaping and clashes in the South, the FCT serves as haven to all including the internally displaced persons. The city centre and the satellite towns are faced with dearth of infrastructure with the rural areas bearing the heaviest brunt. Roads get worse during the rainy season while in the dry season, farmers cannot undertake irrigation farming. On many occasions, lives have been lost to water borne diseases as large number of rural dwellers drink from the streams that some share with cattle and other stray animals.
Electricity is a luxury though many communities are lined with electric poles and cables but without power.
In Pasepa, Bwari Area Council, there is an electric transformer in the community but electric poles are kept in neighbouring Niger State, the government said there is no fund to complete the project even after four years. In Kilankwa, Kwali Area Council, residents still guard the transformer, which they said, has been kept in the community for more than four years without poles or cables to connect it.
Similarly, the electricity project in Takushara, AMAC has not exceeded the installation of poles and mounting of cables for about two years, while the residents of Ibwa, Gwagwalada Area Council are watching helplessly as the electric poles that line the over one kilometre road to the community and the transformer are gradually rotting away.
Completion of projects
Even within the 16 years of PDP government in the territory, some projects suffered due to change in administration. The Bala Mohammed administration would leave some multimillion-naira projects uncompleted when it leaves office on May 29. Prominent among these is the Abuja Light Rail Project. Though it has suffered some extensions towards attaining completion, it is still in process with President Goodluck Jonathan expressing satisfaction in the project recently. But would the incoming administration express satisfaction? Financial experts posit that stopping the project would cost much more than completing it. So they said it could be revisited. The Lots 1A and 3 of the project traverse the Central Business District – Idu Industrial Zone – Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport and Kubwa, covering 45.245 kilometres.
Lot 1B of the Abuja Light Rail Project, which is expected to take care of Garki I District, Wuse I & II Districts, Utako and some districts in Phases II and III of the Federal Capital City, covers 31 kilometres. The project is handled by CCECC.
Resettlement and compensation
The new FCT minister would need more than about N200 billion to compensate and resettle villages within the 250 square kilometres of the Federal Capital City. This amount does not include the resettlement and compensation of several other communities in the FCT. While the government is yet to come to terms with means of tackling this, many court cases by the natives point to their resolve in not letting go of their entitlements.
Opposition from council bosses
For the first time in the territory, five council chairmen would be on the opposition with the centre, with two of the three lawmakers from the FCT. With council election not due until 2016, APC should be ready for a showdown with Sen. Philip Aduda, who would be the eldest PDP stalwart in the territory, saying recently that he would not jump ship.
The council bosses and lawmakers in the National Assembly from the territory have already stated their readiness to work to the betterment of the territory but such collaboration rarely lasts with both parties having different ideologies and approaches. “The council bosses have to obey the minister in tandem with the constitution,” Musa Salihu, a native said though he added that ‘friction’ could likely occur.