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Abuja: A city gradually falling apart

BY DYEPKAZAH SHIBAYAN Towards the end of 1992, I and my family landed in Nigeria after I had spent four years in Germany – following…

BY DYEPKAZAH SHIBAYAN

Towards the end of 1992, I and my family landed in Nigeria after I had spent four years in Germany – following the death of my father. That was the first time I set foot in Nigeria and since then, I have grown to call the federal capital territory (FCT) home after spending more than 20 years here.

I began to pay attention to the development of the territory under the Abacha regime that had Jeremiah Useni, a lieutenant general at the time, as minister of FCT.

From 1993 when Useni was minister, Abuja saw the gradual development of phase two which are the areas known today as Gudu, Durumi, Utako, Jabi, Wuye, Kado, Mabushi, Katampe and Katampe Extension to mention a few of these places.

After Useni left office following the death of Abacha in 1998, the FCT had three ministers who had brief periods in office before Nasir el-Rufai, the current governor of Kaduna, was appointed by former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration in 2003.

Many have described the period between 2003 and 2007 in the FCT as a “game changer” because of the way el-Rufai ran the affairs of the territory.

Under el-Rufai, the FCT witnessed a remarkable face-lift and not only was infrastructure maintained, but there were also new ones put in place. There was also the provision of mass transit buses, ridding the streets of beggars and hoodlums, restoring “green areas” by demolishing structures on waterways and there were efforts to make the territory largely safe.

Though many residents did not like el-Rufai’s methods at the time and he also had his shortcomings, what he attained in terms of development in the territory cannot be easily erased. The FCT had some sanity under his stewardship.

Bala Mohammed, the current governor of Bauchi state, was one FCT minister who came after el-Rufai and stayed a while in office – about five years.

In between el-Rufai and Mohammed, there were Aliyu Moddibo and Mohammed Aliero who spent short periods in office. Not much was done in the FCT under these two men.

However, Bala Mohammed, who served in the Goodluck Jonathan administration, struggled to sustain the legacy of el-Rufai.

Then came Mohammed Bello, the current minister, in 2015, and things took a turn for the worse in the administration of the nation’s capital city.

It is painful to remember that it took President Muhammadu Buhari about six months to appoint Bello as FCT minister. At the time, I thought it was worth the wait but after seven years, the affairs of the territory have descended into disarray.

Agencies like the Abuja Environment Protection Board (AEPB) which used to be efficient in the past have nearly gone comatose, resulting in a filthy city riddled with beggars and hoodlums.

It is amazing that many agencies that needed the FCT minister to appoint a board so that they could function properly have been abandoned.

One such agency is the FCT urban and regional planning tribunal which did not have a board under Bello for more than three years. This meant land disputes in Abuja could not be heard.

The city has increasingly experienced an influx of motorcycles that had been banned previously.

A number of districts do not have functional traffic and street lights. Some of the functioning traffic lights confuse many motorists, putting them at avoidable risk of accidents — yet nothing is being done about it.

Also, many of the major ongoing projects (particularly roads) in Abuja were awarded under the Jonathan administration.

Rather than initiate and provide meaningful infrastructure for residents, mundane things are prioritised. In July, a directive was issued that recreational places should close by 7:00 pm.

Why? “To instill a sense of sanity in the parks and recreation sector.” Unbelievable!

Ikharo Attah, the senior special assistant on monitoring, inspection and enforcement to the FCT minister, had said the policy was not meant to kill people’s businesses. Funny!

On the other hand, crime in the FCT has seen an astronomical increase owing to the bold activities of “one chance” operators and kidnappers.

The administration of Bello appears to be struggling to match the achievements of its predecessors, and the consequent damage being done to the territory may take a long time to fix.

Given the present state of things, the onus is on Buhari’s successor to appoint a vibrant and effective minister to head the FCT.

You can reach Shibayan on Twitter @dyepkazah