By Umar Shuaibu
A fortnight ago, the Senate Committee on FCT headed by Senator Dino Melaye condemned a new layout surrounding the Maitama Hill, already being implemented by the FCT administration. The committee declared that the entire layout is a violation of the Abuja master plan. However, the plots have already been shared exclusively to former President Goodluck Jonathan and some high ranking members of his erstwhile government and ruling party. It is a typical display of the extent of the land grab syndrome afflicting our so-called leaders and elite.
The Maitama Hill otherwise referred to as the Minister’s Hill, is one of the natural mounds which jut up in the body of the Gwagwa plains and form the visual backdrop to the city and major focal points. According to the Abuja city land use plan, the area is earmarked as undevelopable or a green area reservation, due to the steep ground and its surrounding trees and shrub vegetation.
Development on this area has been a very controversial matter since the commencement of physical development in Abuja more than 30 years ago. Almost all the staff of Land Planning and Survey Department of the FCDA of the initial period of commencement of Abuja development, still have the memory of the encounter between Alhaji Usman Sabo Ago, the pioneer director and the then FCT Minister, Air Vice Marshal Hamza Abdullahi.
The director refused to process the minister’s file for the initial plot allocation on the hill due to its nonconformity with the provision of the master plan. He advised the minister to write and obtain the approval of the Supreme Military Council before his order could be officially implemented. The reward Alhaji Sabo Ago got from the minister for his strict adherence to the Abuja master plan was the loss of his job. The subsequent commencement of the physical development on the hill, which is a product of impunity, made the area to acquire the name it is now popularly known, as the Minister’s Hill.
For a very long period afterwards, the city tolerated that initial violation, not until recently during the previous FCT administration, which decided to further the damage, with the creation of a layout for residential and commercial plots surrounding the hill. Alhaji Ago preferred to be fired than compromise his integrity, professionalism and the standard of Abuja development requirements. Unfortunately, the subsequent proposal for further desecration of the area by the Bala Mohammed’s administration got the approval of the present Land Department, AGIS, or Urban and Regional Planning Department, or all. This is evidenced by the beneficiaries of the allocations. Should this not explain to us the extent of the degeneration of the thoughts and psyche of the later generation of professionals now heading the system?
It is saddening that while the Senate Committee Chairman was making the revelation of the beneficiaries of the Maitama Hill abuse, the name of a highly ranking official of the authority who was right there seated was mentioned. It reminded us of the popular adage that, “If such are the priests, then God bless the congregation”. There used to be periodic purges of dubious characters from the system. Unfortunately, whenever it happens, majority of those affected used to be the innocent, leaving behind those creating the havoc within the system.
“With engineering solutions, houses can be constructed even if it is in the ocean”. However, the same technological advancement created global warming with its accompanying repercussions. Technological advancement cannot serve as excuse for land use violation. We already have a rule that when one cuts a tree he should plant two.
It is a layman that believes that plans for cities are made for only physical developments. A proper Town Planner would seek to strike a balance of the ecosystem in physical development plans, among humans, flora and fauna. This balance must be maintained, most especially now that we are experiencing the menace of global warming. Vegetation is the most vital component that ensures stability of our ecosystem. It also ensures natural beauty, as well as protects the environment against natural disaster. Thus, planning is for the overall environment and its management.
We have severally shouted ourselves hoax on the violation of green areas. But, instead of addressing the situation by effecting corrections, the plundering of the design concept of Abuja continued unabated. It usually escalates with renewed vigour, with subsequent FCT administrations, the previous administration’s being the worst in the Abuja history.
We hope and pray that the Senate Committee and the present administration shall be properly guided in line with the spirit of the change mantra that brought them to power. Rather than scouting for available area for plot allocations for themselves, they should chansnel their energies towards addressing the age-long ills inflicted on the design concept of our dear beautiful city. We also hope and fervently pray that the tempo it started with shall be sustained to address the matter diligently, and not get derailed. There is no doubt that it shall receive unalloyed sympathy from various quotas.
The FCT Senate Committee’s exposure vindicates our director, now almost 30 years after being compulsorily retired. After the praises and commendations, we wish to inform the Senate Committee if it is not aware, or if it is, to go back home and look inward in its backyard. The location where the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representative’s official residences are now being constructed in the Three Arms Zone is also on an area earmarked as a green. Its violation by the same previous administration is a more serious action than that of the Maitama Hill desecration.