Inside deteriorating fortunes of Abuja Capital City | Dailytrust

Inside deteriorating fortunes of Abuja Capital City

There have been growing concerns over the fast deterioration of infrastructure, rising insecurity and other anomalies bedeviling the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja. Daily...

Some of the grounded AUMTCO buses at the head office of the company along Kubwa express way, Abuja
Some of the grounded AUMTCO buses at the head office of the company along Kubwa express way, Abuja

There have been growing concerns over the fast deterioration of infrastructure, rising insecurity and other anomalies bedeviling the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja. Daily Trust in this special publication highlights some of the issues. 

From the major roads to the alleys, it is a story of decaying infrastructure – blocked drainages, pot-holed roads, failing traffic lights and streetlights in disrepair. This situation has given rise to cases of security breaches and accidents in the Federal Capital City, Abuja, and, by extension, other parts of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

Service delivery, utilities suffer as minister fails to appoint secretaries 2 years after

The condition of the municipal services and other public utilities is said to have gone bad as the result of apparent lull in government activities due to the inability of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Minister, Mohammed Musa Bello, to appoint mandate secretaries two years down the line into his second term.

Residents are concerned that the absence of the political heads of the secretariats has greatly affected service delivery in different ways, but mostly in the provision of Abuja light rail services, traffic light, street lighting, sewerage and sanitation.

The secretariats have been running on ad-hoc basis since Bello was reappointed for a second term in 2019.

The most senior civil servants in the various secretariats have been appointed acting secretaries.

The secretariats, which are equivalents of ministries in states, include Health and Human Services, Education, Agriculture and Rural Development, Social Development, Transportation, Legal Services and Area Councils Services.

The Abuja Metropolitan Management Council (AMMC) and Satellite Towns Development Department (STDD), both of which heads are usually coordinators, have also been run on an interim basis.

Findings by Daily Trust reveal that the absence of these heads has piled pressure on the FCTA Permanent Secretary, Olusade Adesola, the head of the bureaucracy in the administration.

Sources in the FCTA, who prefer to remain anonymous, said that all files from the secretariats are channeled through his office, putting severe strain on him, encumbering government business and slowing down the pace of service delivery and development in the territory.

“The truth is the administration is grinding to a halt because of the snail speed at which government business is moving.

“The acting heads have an approval limit of just N250,000 per item, so it is very difficult for achievements to be recorded in a system that works without substantive heads that can make approvals for services.

“Besides, that kind of system puts pressure on the head of the bureaucracy, in this case, the permanent secretary, who at present, is overwhelmed with work since files from all the secretariats are routed to him,” the source said.

A non-functional traffic light at Jabi Garage intersection

 

A taxi driver, James Ogbu, on his part lamented that almost all traffic lights in the city are not working while those that work malfunction most times, thereby contributing to the number of accidents at traffic junctions.

He said the situation is worst in the evening and at night.

He also said it is tough and unsafe driving in darkness at night, as streets and even major roads are not illuminated.

“There are reported cases of armed robbery, carjacking, kidnapping and ‘one-chance’ mostly happening at night, thereby making driving in the city at night increasingly unsafe,” he added.

Daily Trust has also observed that evacuation of refuse and general sanitation, especially in satellite towns, have suffered from the vacuum created by the absence of the secretaries and coordinators.

In Nyanya for instance, there’s always a heap of refuse at the footbridge by Local Education Authority (LEA) Primary School on the Abuja-Keffi Road.

Another source also claimed the absence of the heads has stalled the commencement of the multi-million dollar Abuja light rail transit services.

“What has been one of the biggest and most impactful projects Bello’s administration would have given to the people has been stalled due to the absence of a substantive secretary for transport,” he said.

On the political front too, there are concerns that the delay in the appointment of the secretaries and coordinators will affect the fortunes of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2022 FCT area councils elections.

Findings have shown that politicians in the territory are disgruntled as they feel abandoned having worked to win the 2019 general elections for the party.

Appointments into the positions are usually made for political expediencies.

Though an APC chieftain, Alhaji Tanko Abari, said the party will still perform well in the 2022 area councils’ elections, he stressed that the appointment of mandate secretaries and coordinators was belated.

Responding, the Special Assistant to the FCT Minister on Media and Communications, Alhaji Abubakar Sani, said service delivery in all sectors was still being delivered efficiently.

“As you are aware, during the first tenure when it became expedient, the minister appointed mandate secretaries and they did their job. Now that he is back for a second tenure, the process is on and I believe at the appropriate time, the appointments will be made as desired.

“On the issue of services and city management, you can bear witness that the system is being run efficiently and there is no impairment whatsoever. None of the Secretariats, Departments and Agencies (SDAs) is suffering because of lack of appointees. All the directors that have been given the responsibility to act in the capacity of mandate secretary have been efficiently doing their job. So the system is running and there is no obstacle, obstruction or disruption whatsoever to service delivery to residents.

“The system is always working and if any resident of the city anywhere has any issue about any service that is not properly being rendered, the call centre is there and the lines are open, they can always phone to lodge complaints and I can assure you that action will be taken to address that particular complain,” he said.

On the concerns that the permanent secretary is being overburdened, he said as the chief accounting officer of the administration, it was a matter of procedure that all memos should pass through the permanent secretary.

“The permanent secretary is the clearing house for all policies, so, whether directors or secretaries, they all have the responsibility to report to him as far as the procedure is concerned. Every officer has to submit their memos to him for appropriate decision making,” he explained.

He also disagreed that the non-appointment of the mandate secretaries has stalled the commencement of full services of the Abuja light rail.

“The Abuja light rail is an ongoing project and in 2017, the president flagged off a trial run of the train services and since then the coaches have been running but with the advent of the COVID-19, services were suspended.

“In spite of that as we are waiting for the commencement of services and the locomotives that are expected to make the Abuja light rail operate full commercial services,  are already on ground, they call them diesel multi-purpose unit. So the agencies responsible for managing the Abuja light rail are doing their bit so that at the appropriate time, as soon as the system is clear enough—when the pandemic has been defeated and people are able to go about their normal businesses, services will resume as expected. So the absence of the mandate secretaries has nothing to do with services of the Abuja light rail.,” he said.

Traffic lights are signalling devices positioned at road intersections, pedestrian crossings and other locations to control flow of traffic.

In the FCT, there are over 170 traffic light intersections meant to ensure smooth movements of road users.

However, the non-functionality of some of these traffic lights for a long time, have become a source of worry for many motorists and other road users.

Besides the malfunction of the existing traffic lights, there are a number of major intersections in the capital city which don’t have traffic lights to control movements of vehicles, a development which often leads to chaotic traffic situations and most times, accidents.

Only 62 out of 172 traffic installations in good condition – FCTA

Corroborating the disturbing situation, Acting Secretary of Transport in the FCT, Alhaji Usman Musa Yahaya, while speaking at a news conference in July 2021 said only 62 out of the 172 traffic installations across the various districts in the FCT were in good condition and functioning.

“Regrettably, as many as 110 are at various levels of non-functional condition,” he said.

He assured that efforts were on in the areas of repair of non-functional traffic light installations, provision of critical spare parts required for periodic maintenance of installed ones and commencement of installation of traffic lights in new areas of coverage.  

Residents, motorists bemoan situation

Meanwhile, some residents of the territory, among them, motorists, commuters and pedestrians have come hard on the FCT Administration over the non-functional conditions of traffic and street lights in the territory. They blamed most of the road crashes and traffic gridlock in the territory on malfunctioning traffic lights.

Some of the intersections identified by residents as notorious due to faulty traffic lights include Wuse Market; Chida Hotel Junction, Utako; Jabi Garage; Gwarimpa Flyover from Life Camp Roundabout; Durumi Junction along Oladipo Diya Way in Gudu; Garki Ultramodern Market Junction on Ahmadu Bello Way and intersections on Yakubu Gowon Crescent, Asokoro, amongst others.

A motorist, Ifesinachi Okoli, said he had witnessed accidents which happened due to malfunctioning of traffic lights at a busy intersection.

Also speaking, a taxi driver, Mohammed Umaru, who plies Berger and Wuse axis, said the deteriorating traffic situation was not making transportation business lucrative anymore as so many traffic lights in major areas of the city are no longer in working condition.

A motorist, who identified himself as Onogwu Daniel, described the non-functionality of over 100 traffic lights in a capital city as an aberration that must be addressed.

Residents spoken to also complained that major streets such as Herbert Macaulay Way; Muhammadu Buhari Way, Obafemi Awolowo Way, Jabi; Aminu Kano Crescent; Ahmadu Bello Way; Area 1 route, specifically from Dantata to Apo Bridge; and the Airport Road axis, among others, do not have stable street lights, thus, leaving many parts of the territory in darkness at night.

FCT tops chart on road traffic crashes in 5 years

Perhaps, there could be some correlations between the non-functionality of traffic lights and high rates of road traffic crashes/fatalities in the territory.

Data published by the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) between 2015 and 2019 as analysed by the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) indicated that the FCT topped the chart in most of the road traffic crashes and fatalities.

The corps’ quarterly publication, ‘Statistical Digest’, which reports all its administrative and field activities, shows that Bayelsa, Ekiti and Borno states have the lowest road traffic disasters in the country within the period.

Reps urge FCTA to fix faulty traffic lights

Worried by the development, the House of Representatives recently passed a resolution mandating the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) to ensure all traffic lights within the Abuja metropolis are working.

This followed the adoption of a motion moved by Rep Yusuf Tajudeen at plenary.

The lawmakers also mandated the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) and other traffic management agencies to ensure that offenders of traffic regulations no matter their status are apprehended and prosecuted to serve as deterrent to others.

FCTA blames situation on vandalism

Efforts to get the reaction of the Acting Secretary of Transport in the FCT, Alhaji Usman Musa Yahaya, proved abortive.

However, in an earlier reaction to Premium Times on the issues of non-functional traffic and street lights, spokesman of the FCT Minister, Abubakar Sani, described the situation as part of the problems inherited by the present administration.

He however attributed part of the blame to vandalism of the facilities.

“Unfortunately, we have cases of vandalism. People climb the poles to remove some of the integrated circuit. It is unfortunate.

“But I can assure you that all these challenges have been identified and gradually being overcome. As a matter of fact, the administration is introducing lights that will be less vulnerable to vandalism so as to ensure that traffic flows steadily around the city,” Sani said.

Wastes, dirt take over FCT

The minister of state, Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Hajiya Ramatu Tijjani Aliyu, has said the administration spends an average of N8 billion on waste management annually.

She said the money represented money paid to over 64 cleaning contractors engaged by the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) and Satellite Towns Development Department (STDD).

Aside from this figure, the six area council chairmen in the territory also earmark a certain budgetary allocation to waste management.

The government in a bid to ensure a cleaner city engages cleaning contractors that use their facilities and personnel to clean the city which is shared among them. The activities of the contractors, in the city centre, are supervised by the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) while the Satellite Town Development Agency (STDA) are responsible for the cleaning contractors in satellite towns.

Bothered by the money spent on waste management, a resident, Kelechi Adams, said the government has little or nothing to show for the money expended on waste management. He said the government is interested in how their offices and residences look, forgetting other parts of the territory.

While he commended the FCT Administration in ensuring that some parts of the Central Business District (CBD), Maitama and Wuse are clean, he said there is filth in satellite towns and some locations closer to densely populated areas.

“The government only focused on where they reside and work. Yes, the roads in some highbrow places in the territory are clean. You always see garbage trucks moving in some places, especially in the morning; does that mean that the entire FCT is clean? What occurs in most places in Maitama, Asokoro, some parts of Wuse and Garki is late evacuation of wastes. That is when you see the waste piling up on rare cases because those areas are where rich people stay,” he said.

Adams advised the government to channel same energy towards waste management in other locations in the territory.

“Go to Jabi Upstairs, you will be surprised at the kind of filth in that area because there is a densely populated settlement not far from that place. From that road beside the hotel opposite The Apostolic Church, there are times that you may have to hold your nose from inhaling offensive odour oozing from the area,” he said.

Another resident, a dispatch rider, Abubakar Kabiru, said the government has only focused on waste evacuation, “they are only packing waste from bins and cutting grasses while people defecate openly in several areas,” he said.

He said scavengers and hoodlums take advantage of poor illumination to defecate under bridges and some locations with fewer human activities.

“I was walking around Area 11, Garki and I just noticed that the man walking behind me was gone. At first, I was scared because it was getting dark but as I looked around, the man had stooped to defecate in the grasses by the roadside. I am talking about the road not far from NTA Area 11. Can you imagine what would happen to pedestrians passing that spot the next morning?” he said.  

Kabiru said Mabushi underbridge is also notorious for similar activities, “you can also check under the Wuse Market Bridge, you will see these things happening,” he said.

He advised that the waste policy of the government should also involve ensuring a good hygienic environment for residents, adding that the bleeding manholes in some locations raise questions on waste management in the FCT.

“There are some places that you see dirty water coming from the manholes. This water smells a lot, and it discomforts residents,” he said.

While commenting on the bleeding manholes, a resident simply identified as Zephaniah said the junction at Solomon Lar Way, about 100 metres from Kpadna Village is known for such bleeding manholes.

“There is an offensive smell that comes from that location. It is by the right-hand side when you are driving to Jabi Garage from Shehu Yar’adua Expressway. The place stinks and I can only imagine how people reside there. The water is like indigo,” he said, adding that such environment breeds diseases which could be disastrous considering the lives already lost to coronavirus.

Touts trying to arrest a car for flouting traffic rule at Wuse Market

However, another resident, Mohammed Aliyu, said satellite towns in the territory deserves urgent attention from the government in terms of waste management.

Aliyu said, “while I know of communities in AMAC and Bwari area councils, I am very sure that there are dirty places in other area councils, because if these area councils within and close to the city centre can have dirty locations, what would you expect from other area councils?”

“Go to Gwagwa, Karmo, Gishiri, Bwari, Dutsen, Nyanya, Karu and several communities, you will see huge wastes, especially after a heavy downpour. Most residents in these places dump wastes by the roadside or other places or dumpsites that had not been evacuated.”

Aliyu said he knew some people that bring their waste from the urban slums to dump in some places in the city centre because they are sure it would be evacuated while others pay locals who use wheelbarrows to evacuate wastes. He said the wheelbarrows waste evacuators end up dumping the wastes in restricted areas, thereby compounding the problem.

A resident Jubrin Audu said it was a shame that the FCT Administration is yet to get it right with waste management in the territory. Audu said the government needs to learn from global best practices in ensuring sustainable waste management, “waste business is a good business as they say. The FCT Administration would continue to struggle with waste management until the government finds a way to profit from it,” he said.

FCT commuters groan as AUMTCO buses remains grounded

The Abuja Urban Mass Transport Company (AUMTCO) popularly called ‘El-Rufai bus’ was initiated by the former minister of the FCT, Malam Nasir El-Rufai, under former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration.

The AUMTCO, which was registered under the companies and Allied matters Act, 1990, was meant to serve as vehicles to address the transportation needs of a city that is witnessing a daily upsurge in population. The outfit, among other things, was designed to provide the best value for money and safest, most reliable schedule and bus hire service in Abuja.

The over 400 fleet buses were brought and distributed to various routes across the city centre and satellite towns across the six area councils of the territory, which included Nyanya, Mararaba, Kubwa, Lugbe, Karu, Dutse-Alhaji, Bwari, Kuje, Suleja, Zuba, Madalla, Karmo-Gwagwa, Gwagwalada, Rubochi and Abaji.

It was before the arrival of these fleets of capacity buses that the FCT administration, under El-Rufai banned not only commercial motorcyclists, but mini buses from operating within the city centre in 2013 in a bid to make a smooth operation of AUMTCO.

The AUMTCO, which is the largest transportation company in Nigeria, with a staff capacity of 518 staff, took off with funds amounting to N1.3bn, capacity buses aimed to enhance smooth transportation system in the FCT, especially for civil servants who reside in satellite towns but come to work in the city centre.

However, the aim for which these high-capacity buses were procured was defeated as they could not serve the purpose they were meant for especially after the exit of El-Rufai.

The buses started disappearing on some major streets of Abuja after the exit of El-Rufai as FCT minister, as some of them were seen broken down, especially at their loading points in Nyanya, Kubwa and Gwagwalada.

Some of the few functional ones are being chartered by various groups, either religious or political.

Daily Trust on Sunday reporters visited some parks in Kubwa, Suleja, Nyanya-Mararaba, Kuje and Gwagwalada, observed how some passengers struggled to board the buses.

A civil servant, Ugochukwu Samuel, who resides in Kubwa, said he works at the federal secretariat but wakes up as early as 6am to be able to board a vehicle to work.

He said it takes him nearly two hours to get a vehicle to work because of the population of passengers who stand by the roadside to board vehicles, even as he said only few of the AUMTCO buses ply the route.

“Sometimes, I will wake-up as early as 6am just to make sure I board the bus, but sometimes I will stay for almost one hour without seeing any. And whenever the bus comes, the rush for the bus is something else,” he said.

Mrs Chidiebere Nwankwo, another civil who resides in Kuje, also shared her experience of how she stays by the Kuje-Airport junction for several hours before she boarding a vehicle to work in the city centre.

“In fact, sometimes I stand for two hours without getting a vehicle, even when the bus comes to pick passengers, people will start rushing. I recall how my purse and Android phone were stolen from my hand bag while struggling to board,” he said.

Another civil servant who works at the federal secretariat, Ajakaiye Balogun, attributed the disappearance of the AUMTCO buses to corruption on the part of the management.

“Yes, it is corruption that killed the AUMTCO buses. If you go to their office along Kubwa expressway, you will discover that majority of the buses are grounded. And the management has failed to maintain them and they can’t buy new ones,” he said.

A staff of AUMTCO who preferred anonymity, confided in our reporter that 70 per cent of the buses have been grounded for years due to lack of maintenance by the management.

“In fact, just go to the backyard and see for yourself; most of the buses have remained broken down for over 10 years without being fixed or new ones being purchased,” he said.

When Daily Trust reporter visited the company’s premises located along Kubwa express way, over 100 of the buses were seen grounded, as grasses have taken over some of the buses.

The Head of Marketing and Communications of AUMTCO, Tunde Akintola, said he was too busy and asked our reporter to call later in the day.

Several calls were put across to him, but there was no response, likewise, no responses to text messages sent by our reporter.

How Abuja drivers battle touts amid lack of motor parks

Commercial drivers plying major roads in Abuja have been warned against picking passengers along the road but to rather visit designated parks to wait for passengers going to the areas they commute. This habit, at times, results in accidents as they swerve unannounced while on the road without notice to other road users.

Aside from that, they park on road shoulders and sidewalks of popular places where residents throng to make use of them as unofficial motor parks, an act Daily Trust learnt was as a result of inadequate parks for them to use.

This development makes some areas within the Abuja Municipal Council (AMAC) to be congested with cars, leading to heavy traffic in those places.

Areas like Wuse Market, Area 1 roundabout, Apo Bridge, among others usually witness huge traffic, especially during rush hour.

It was a bedlam when our reporter visited the Wuse Market, with every available space surrounding the market parked with fleet of cars.

It was observed that cars coming from Wuse Zone 4 had to contend with the unruly and indiscriminate parking of taxi drivers as well as private car owners who leave their cars on the road with a little space left for moving vehicles.

Passing through the front of the market is a nightmare for motorists as commercial drivers drop their passengers on the road while some drop their cars on the sidewalk while calling for passengers going to different locations.

It was gathered that the parking lot available in the market, which is one of the most frequented places in the FCT, is only accessible to those who are willing to pay a fee.

The scene was not devoid of activities of area boys popularly called ‘Agbero’, who collect taxi levies or ticket fees on behalf of the transport union a taxi driver belongs to. One was seen trying to forcefully remove the number plate of a car for trying to cross over to the opposite lane.

His action led to war of words with other drivers, and consequently, the retreat of the agbero as his voice was drowned by their judgement that the driver did not act above the law.

A taxi driver, Eze Chidebere, decried the situation they face in the axis, saying commercial drivers have written to the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) on several occasions to request for a permanent spot to engage their trade without obstructing traffic.

Chidebere stated that the huge number of visitors at the market daily should warrant a park for commercial drivers as they help to fill the gap of the non-virile public transport in the city centre.

He noted that the market is strategic to taxi drivers due to the number of people that frequented there to conduct transactions, thus, a huge source of patronage for them.

Another driver, Patrick Elvins, also lamented the suffering of the drivers occasioned by absence of public car park within the area.

The situation is similar in Wuse 2, which is another commercial nerve centre of Abuja.

As commercial drivers make use of the sidewalks, so do private car owners who park on the edge of the road. This is more pronounced in places like Banex Plaza and environs.

Ibrahim Auwal, who owns a shop in one of the plazas, explained that inadequate parking space in the commercial buildings was the reason private car owners use the sidewalks meant for passers-by and part of the road.

He added that since there are security guards available to watch over the cars, he had nothing to worry about.

There are only 3 national parks in city centre

Some drivers also lamented the inadequate provision of motor parks in Abuja metropolis and the sizes of available ones which they said cannot accommodate the myriad of cars on Abuja roads.

The Area 3 motor park is one of the three parks with Area 1 and Jabi motor parks completing the list.

A visit to the Area 1 and 3 motor parks indicated that commercial drivers use open spaces around the parks rather than go inside the parks.

“We have people loading to Lugbe, Area 10, 3, 7, Jabi, Madalla and Zuba. This place can’t contain all of us and it is really affecting us,” lamented Adeola Olawale.

He added that they try their best to ensure that traffic is not obstructed as they stay along the road but get arrested by the taskforce on some occasions.

“When we fail to adhere to what the government says on not parking on the road, we end up in their net. The last time I paid N10,000 because I did not drop someone inside a motor park. The person only paid me N150. Even if you want to drop someone on the road side, they will say it is not a bus stop. There is nothing we can do.”

On his part, Mohammed Abdul pointed out that staying in one location will not be good for their business as it will not be comfortable for passengers to trek from a designated bus stop to the parks.

Aside from that, he said stopping on the road is also a necessity as there are no bus stops for passengers to alight from their vehicles. “When you park at the Glo bus stops, mounted on roads, which I don’t know if it was approved by the government, VIO will arrest us, saying it is illegal to park there. We are confused as to who gave Glo the permit to mount those bus stops. Is it the government or they decided to do it on their own? If it were the government, why should a taxi driver be arrested by a government agency?”

Mixed feelings as agbero act as enforcement agency

The activities of agbero in the city centre is becoming a source of worry to drivers on Abuja roads as they arrest erring drivers while others view them as a way to make commercial driving a sole business of registered taxi drivers.

Ignatius Eze said “the issue of agbero has become legal though it is not supposed to be so. When a driver parks in a certain place to drop anyone, they will aim for the car key to arrest the driver or negotiate on a lower fee for him to go free.”

Though he said taxi drivers don’t have a problem with them once they have paid for their daily ticket, private car owners who use their vehicles to carry passengers are mostly hot targets.

For Rilwan Taofeek, their presence on roads discourages him from plying some axis within the metropolis.

By: Itodo Daniel Sule, Terkula Igidi, Taiwo Adeniyi, Abubakar Sadiq Isah & Faruk Shuaibu

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