The city of Abuja, Federal Capital Territory, FCT, recently witnessed a flurry of demolition activities carried out by the task force team on city sanitation.
The decision to carry out these demolition activities must have been a very difficult one for the FCT Administration due to the discomfort it has inevitably brought to the affected persons.
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But the truth must be said that those whose structures were pulled down also share in the blame.
As it has been enunciated time and again, Abuja is a creation of law. The city was created specifically 45 years ago by its founding fathers to cater for the needs of the country and to prevent a repeat of what happened in the old capital of Lagos State. That is why whatever is done in Abuja is done according to the law. The infrastructure, the city planning, the traffic and building regulations, are all very clearly spelt out in the extant laws of the FCT.
Unfortunately, the increasing influx of people into the FCT to either seek greener pastures or escape from the conflicts and unrest in other parts of the country, has brought with it the ugly consequences of proliferation of urban slums.
What you have in Abuja are residents approaching the local chiefs to illegally acquire land and erect structures in fragrant violation of the Abuja master plan.
Today, the illegal settlements and problems associated with them are daily on the increase.
Intelligence information also indicates that these illegal settlements are responsible for the increasing crime and criminality, traffic snarls, vandalism of public infrastructure, prostitution, kidnapping, armed banditry among other vices that have become more visible in the FCT.
The FCT also recently experienced an outbreak of cholera (disease) which medical experts blamed on the unhygienic conditions found mostly in these illegal settlements, ranging from open sewages, open defecation, stagnant waters, huge piles of refuse dumps, contamination of drinking waters among others.
All these issues no doubt have brought to the fore the inevitability of these demolition exercises. As the FCT Administration recently explained, Abuja is currently at a tipping point where the city could be lost completely if nothing is done to reverse this trend.
From available information, it was expected that the city would have a population of two million people at the current stage of development. However today, Abuja is home to over six million people. This huge and rapidly expanding population has outpaced the rate at which infrastructure can be provided, hence the proliferation of urban slums.
It is the fear of many that the rate at which the slums are expanding, it is only a matter of time before a breakdown of law and order in the FCT ensues.
This is one of the main challenges that the FCT Administration is currently facing; how to continue to cater for a city and a territory that is increasing at an alarming rate and the problems that have come with it.
Painful as the demolition exercises might seem, Abuja residents and other Nigerians should try to understand that the nation’s capital is the city for all Nigerians, including those in the executive, those in the judiciary, businessmen, civil servants, artisans, among others, and there is need to protect the sanctity of the master plan.
If efforts are not made to fight and save the city through enforcement of regulations, then all the reasons that were advanced for moving the federal capital from Lagos to Abuja and the gains made so far would be lost completely.
That’s why it is very important for all stakeholders, including residents, the National Assembly, the security agencies and other Nigerians to really look at the issue beyond just individuals and give their support to the FCT Administration. There is need to have a holistic look at why this city was created in order to have a better understanding of the ongoing demolition of illegal settlements.
Danladi Akilu wrote this piece from Gudu District in Abuja