Investigation: How FCT minister is administering Abuja despite funding challenge

FCT Minister, Muhammad Musa Bello (middle), Chairman, Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC), Abdullahi Adamu Candido (right) and his Vice, Lawrence Onuchukwu, cutting the tape to commission the LEA Iddo Maji Primary School built by the AMAC chairman.

Despite many challenges, including what he described as a territory developing towards some level of chaos he inherited, the Minister of Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Musa Bello, has taken strong steps towards improving the status of the territory, checks by Abuja Xtra have revealed.

Investigation revealed that there were virtually no capital releases in 2015 to the FCT Administration until December, a development which halted projects’ execution including the 14km Apo-Karshi road which ought to have been completed in December 2011.

It was further revealed that other existing facilities were getting grossly overstretched following the growing influx of people into the territory.

The investigation by Abuja Xtra revealed that the minister had offset the over N2 billion owed cleaning and maintenance contractors so as to enable them resume work on evacuation of solid waste in the city centre and satellite towns.

It was equally gathered that the FCT administration, in the first quarter of 2016, also released the sum of N5, 744,835,928.38 to various development partners being counterpart funds for the projects that they were executing in Abuja.

According to the investigation, the minister approved payment of over N1.7 billion to the Universal Basic Education Board, which included arrears that have not been paid since 2013.

Also, he approved the release of N2, 939,681,413.96 being counterpart funds and N808, 075,585.62 for consultancy services for the Abuja Light Rail project.

The current administration has intensified planting of trees along road corridors to improve the city’s ecosystem and aesthetics, it was observed.

It has equally made provision of N1.5 billion in the 2016 budget for the completion of work on the Apo/Karshi road.

The checks revealed that the FCT administration, under Bello, has carried out rehabilitation work on some roads in the city centre like the M20 road leading to Utako Motor Park, the road shoulders on the Shehu Shagari Way in Maitama District and the Ring Road 1 (Nnamdi Azikiwe Expressway), in addition to the complete rehabilitation of the road between the National Assembly Complex and office of the Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF.)

It was gathered that the administration has concluded arrangements to install new model traffic lights in 98 intersections of the Federal Capital City before December this year in order to improve traffic management in the city.

Perhaps, one of the disturbing incidents was that the current FCT administration inherited over 1,300 court cases due to what the minister described as “previous impunity or a sort of executive rascality.”

Investigation by Abuja Xtra showed that major contractors have returned to many construction sites.

At the interchange on the Airport Road and Bill Clinton Drive which was previously abandoned, it was observed that the projects were being completed.

Checks revealed that just a few weeks after he assumed office, the minister intervened in the unpaid salary arrears owed Area Council workers and approved funds for the councils to offset the debts even though the workers did not fall directly under his purview.

It was gathered that the FCT administration was at the stage of developing waste transfer stations for the purposes of recycling wastes and preparing them for would-be-investors.

This is outside the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) which has been strengthened with capable leadership as well as the setting up of FCT Task Team on Environmental Protection comprising 200 officers/men of the Nigeria Police Force and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps for enforcement of environmental laws in the territory.

Speaking on the activities of his administration, the minister said: “We have also been working hard to rid the city of nuisances such as street trading, street begging and some of the things that we all agree are not supposed to be seen in a city of our standard and pride like Abuja.

“We have tried also to enforce a lot of regulations with respect to building. Particularly, you would have noticed on Ahmadu Bello Way, as you drive close to Apo, that the road is now much freer because all those institutions that decided to change the entrances of their properties and premises against what was originally planned were compelled to reverse to what it was because that is a very important artery into the city that is meant to be free at all times.

“What we have done and which, in my view, will not manifest immediately, are some of the invisible actions that the administration has taken and will continue to take. For instance, we have tried to instill the rule of law in all that is done in all the offices and agencies of the FCT.

“This is something you cannot feel or see physically, but it’s very fundamental if we want to run an efficient city and an efficient community and societal rule of law.

“The focus of our administration really is for us to make the city more efficient. And how do we make the city more efficient? It’s to make sure that all ongoing projects are completed.

“For instance, for those, who drive on the Umaru Yar’Adua Expressway, as you go towards the airport and then beyond to Gwagwalada, you will notice the uncompleted bridge at the intersection of the Bill Clinton Avenue and the Expressway. That should be completed and, of course, you will notice within the next few months that the entire stretch of road from the airport, right through to the military barracks, will all be completed so that as you complete projects, you move on.”