THERE is no doubt Abuja is a unique city that all of us as Nigerians feel very proud of. It’s the only city in the entire country that is a creation of law; a city that was created when the founding fathers some 40 years ago decided to get a place that is going to be the centre of unity for all. Abuja is a project in progress, a city that was designed and planned to be developed in 25 years into 74 districts, as well as sector centres with integrated infrastructure. Thus, we all have our passion and feelings about this city.
But, what type of city did the FCT Minister, Muhammad Musa Bello, inherit in November 2015 when he assumed office? He met a city where facilities are grossly overstretched because they were meant to cater for a very much lower population than what we currently have. Though the concept was to have Abuja as the administrative centre for the country, along the line there was population surge due to various reasons, including economic, social and religious problems in various parts of the country because most of the federating units seem not to be working.
In fact, he met a city where the planning and the concept initially envisaged by the founding fathers was gradually being eroded and being bypassed. The city was developing towards some level of chaos; chaos in service delivery, chaos in traffic management and some level of chaotic development in terms of buildings, infrastructure and social facilities. Bello met a city where a number of the contractors had stopped work, laid off staff and abandoned sites; many uncompleted projects due to deliberate refusal by previous administrations to fund these critical projects that have led to the myriad of problems which many perceive as a sign of poor performance on the part of the present administration.
The Apo – Karshi road for instance, is a mere 14km road project that was scheduled to be completed in December of 2011, but was starved of funds and abandoned until the present administration took the bull by the horn and provided N1.5 billion in the 2016 budget to complete the very important road to provide alternative route to motorists coming into the city from the Nyanya-Mararaba axis.
The same fate was what befell many parts of the city and Satellite Towns, where deliberate refusal to relocate indigenous settlements away from the city center, had hindered the completion of critical infrastructure within the city centre, thus leading to the ugly situations you find around places like Garki village, Utako, Jabi, Mabushi districts, and a host of others. Because the road and sewage networks have not been completed and fully integrated, the roads are usually flooded with storm water any time there is heavy downpour while the drainages are blocked with refuse sometimes recklessly dumped by residents who cannot observe simple hygienic habits but are expecting the government to everything for them including cleaning of their household toilets.
What did the Minister do? First and foremost, the contractors were encouraged to return back to site. From the record, throughout 2015, there were no capital releases to the FCT Administration until in December of 2015. So, basically, for 11 months, no payments were made. It also became necessary to request for the extension of the budget by additional three months, so as to be able to mobilize all available resources to pay the contractors. That’s why you will notice during the last few months, some semblance of construction activities have returned to the city. Construction works on the roads and other critical infrastructure are now being continued. The essential part of the liability especially for the smaller sized companies were paid and encouraged to continue to provide the services that they were expected to be providing.
Basically, the whole idea was to try and wake the city up and return to what it used to be. Of course, all of these are being done against the backdrop of serious funding challenges, which is a reality we are all facing as a nation but which also will make us stronger as a people, make us prioritize our objectives and obligations and above all, appreciate the need to be prudent managers of resources.
No doubt, many Nigerians would love to see the FCT develop and grow as a model capital city and to this end they usually write and speak firmly against any perceived shortcomings. But when these socio-political criticisms are made out of outright ignorance, they create more problems for the Nigerian State than they are intended to solve.
Some people appear to be speaking in a manner that one would have thought they were contributing to the genuine efforts targeted at the development of the city but only ended up displaying sheer ignorance on the activities and the initiatives taken by Bello since his assumption of office. It is really surprising and disheartening too, for any discerning individual to feign ignorance of the remarkable feats so far recorded by the Minister and his team. For the avoidance of doubt, the Change Agenda of the government means putting all things aright but however, not with impunity like it used to be in the past.
There are some, who recently, even talk obliviously that the minister considers himself a superman who can deliver by a solo effort, which definitely is mischievous at best. Since the Minister has answered such critics in his recent outing at the NUJ Abuja Council Special Congress meeting, there seems to be a change of style to the mischief. Thus, the running of the FCT Administration and indeed Abuja, has not in any way suffered because everything has been moving as planned. The Minister is equal to the task of effectively and efficiently managing the affairs of the Federal Capital Territory and that would always be done in accordance to extant rules. Moreover, bureaucrats led by the FCT Permanent Secretary, Dr. Babatope Ajakaiye have been giving the right guidance.
- Bamya, is a public affairs analyst, writes from Abuja.