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FCT minister: More haste less speed

Abuja was the first ever planned city built by Nigeria, and its current problems highlight the monumental failure of planning since the incursion of the…

Abuja was the first ever planned city built by Nigeria, and its current problems highlight the monumental failure of planning since the incursion of the military into governance in 1966. In the beginning, there was no town or city situated in the present location of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

The people living in mud huts in the few inhabited settlements were relieved of ownership of their lands, which now “belongs” mainly to treasury looters building expensive high-rent estates, and friends of the various FCT ministers building mansions on lands shared with them.

On February 3, 1976, the then Military Head of State, General Murtala Muhammed, announced the creation of the FCT after “consideration” of a report by a committee set up to review the need for a new federal capital and the suitability of Abuja for the purpose.

Abuja was chosen over better locations supposedly because of its centrality, supposed ethno-religious neutrality, availability of land for expansion, and non-ancestral dominance by any of the nation’s major ethnic groups.

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The decision to build a new capital city was rightly criticised at the time, and the lack of attention given to all the criticisms are responsible for today’s lamentable reality. Firstly, people questioned the rationality of such humongous expenditure which could have modernised every state capital in the nation or at least provided constant electricity nationwide.

Secondly, critics pointed out that many major capital cities in the world such as London, Washington DC, Amsterdam, and Beijing are not centrally located, and are mostly situated near rivers where goods could be brought in by boats.

Abuja was constructed despite having no access by rail or by river, resulting in almost one-third of the cost of the city being the cost of transporting materials to the location. Everything needed was brought in by roads, and within a short time, the roads became worn-out death traps.

As Nigeria wallowed in unnecessary expenditure on Abuja, the nation’s finances dwindled. Abuja was ill-conceived in the sense that the belief that only federal government workers would relocate to the city was nonsensical. There was no provision for low-cost housing for those who would serve the government elite, there were no public toilets, and there was no effective mass transportation system.

During the term of Nasir el-Rufai, a myopic decision was taken to start an unsustainable bus service, and hundreds of the buses remain abandoned in public view on land adjacent to the Zuba Expressway. The problems of the FCT include high unemployment, degradation of the environment, shortage of urban services, deterioration of existing infrastructure, crime, and inaccessibility to social services.

 The environmental issues include poor refuse disposal, dry valleys, narrowing of water courses, forest depletion, and epidemics. As far as security is concerned, there is an increasingly high risk of falling victim to terrorist attacks and kidnapping. In 2022, terrorists and bandits launched a series of attacks within the FCT, including a jailbreak at the Kuje Medium Security Prison. More than 800 inmates escaped, including 60 suspected terrorists. Three weeks later gunmen slaughtered eight Guards Brigade soldiers while on patrol in the Bwari area. In addition to all these problems, FCT residents are experiencing a new scourge in the form of FCT Minister, Nyesom Wike.

Rather than take time to sit down and study the situation to conceptualise and put in place a system that will ensure sustainability, he is proceeding like a bull in a China shop, failing to appreciate that he was not elected and cannot ride roughshod over procedures and protocols in a manner similar to that in which he and many other governors acted during their time in office.

For reasons best known to himself, the most imperative action on the minister’s agenda isn’t to build but rather to demolish structures that he considers illegal. The idea of actually obtaining a court order before proceeding to demolish structures appears alien to him, especially considering that his allegation that structures violate the FCT master plan, is countered by many who are in possession of valid papers bearing valid FCT stamps of approval.

Minister Wike has not been known to visit any of the FCT’s six area councils. There is no effective public water system in the FCT, and many of the area councils are still like rural towns. Houses are being built on lands with no asphalt roads or drainage, and FCT teachers have been on strike for over six months, yet somehow demolition of property is considered to be a priority. In truth, no amount of demolition will solve FCT’s problems. Critics point out that all good plans are meant to be adjusted with the passage of time, and furthermore, the Presidential Villa and army barracks are not in the “master plan” which Wike insists must be reverted back to, and it would be nonsensical to even consider demolishing those structures.

Consequent upon the Presidential Election Petitions Court (PEPC) ruling that FCT is to all intents and purposes a state, the idea of an FCT minister answerable only to the president should be shelved and a governor who will act upon the wishes of the electorate should be voted for.

Therefore, in order not to exacerbate the increased level of suffering caused by policies of the new administration, the FCT minister would be well advised to first identify the pressing problems, then proceed with more haste and less speed.


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