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Minna: Inside Nigeria’s decaying city

After 112 years of existence, Minna, the Niger State capital, has remained in a serious state of decay. Most public facilities, including schools, police barracks,…

After 112 years of existence, Minna, the Niger State capital, has remained in a serious state of decay. Most public facilities, including schools, police barracks, health care centres, markets, among others, are all in bad shape. The poor economic and social life in Minna is also an embarrassment to residents, Daily Trust Saturday reports.

Minna is always a very busy city, however, all the roads connecting Minna, the state capital, to other parts of the country are not motorable. Township roads in Minna and other major towns including Bida, Suleja, Kontagora, New Bussa are also in deplorable conditions, crippling businesses and social activities.

Daily Trust Saturday also found that acute water scarcity was another major challenge facing residents of Minna over the years.

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Some residents attributed the decay to the lack of maintenance of existing facilities and lack of vision and roadmap for the development of towns and cities in the state.

They said serious efforts have not been made by civilian administrations since 1999 to consolidate on the infrastructures inherited from the military administrations in the state.

The railway, which was believed to have made Minna city boom in the 80s, has become history as the rail has completely collapsed while the staff quarters have also become ghost houses.

Findings by Daily Trust Saturday revealed that some relaxation centres built by the administration of Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu like the Murtala Mohammed Amusement Park, Bosso Road; the Democracy Garden and the Magartada Garden Tunga Minna have been poorly managed.

Also, the Minna Central Market, which was demolished by the immediate past administration of Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu for construction of a city centre has become a space for defecation and breeding ground for reptiles.

 

The Minna City Centre, expected to be built after the demolition of the former Central Market at Mobil Round-About was to serve as a business area. The centre was initially planned to house a shopping mall of about 5,000 shops as well as Shoprite, and a 25-storey tower that would serve as a cultural centre, among other edifices.

This gigantic project, estimated to cost the state billions of naira, was abandoned a few months after it took off.

Another challenge facing the town in recent time is the rising incidences of youth restiveness, drug abuse, thuggery and robbery. 

However, the Director General, ICT in the office of the governor, Abdulberqy Ebbo, said the administration of Abubakar Sani Bello had made efforts in giving public schools face lifts through “The Whole School Renovation Approach.”

He listed the renovated schools in major towns including Minna, the state capital to include Maryam Babangida Girls’ Science College, Government Girls’ Secondary School, Bida, Mu’azu Bawa Secondary School, Kontagora, Government Science College, Izom among others.

A resident, Dr. Hamza Kamar, attributed the decaying state of Minna city and other major towns to lack of seriousness on the part of governments to take advantage of its numerous opportunities, especially the landmass and natural resources, therein to develop.

“The initial factor was the railway factor. When the railway transport system was working very well, Minna was a melting pot because people transported goods from Baro to Minna and vice versa through the railways. So, the collapse of the railway affected most traders at Minna market that time because instead of going to Lagos, Zaria and Kano to buy goods, they no longer had the capacity to go because of the dilapidation of the railway transportation.” 

A police officer who resides at the Police Barrack, a few metres away from the Railway Station, told our correspondent in confidence that he had not enjoyed staying in Minna because of the boring nature of the city.

“I have served in many cities including Lagos, Kano, Abuja and Lokoja. Life in Minna is very boring. The social life and general development of the town is poor. From my assessment, two things are responsible. The town is blessed with rich men but they don’t invest in the town. In the aspect of social life, religion has an influence. I don’t mean opening beer parlours; I don’t drink alcohol, but one doesn’t really know what’s happening,” he said.

Multiple sources said the town only booms whenever civil servants are paid. While the population of Minna and other towns in the state have continued to increase, the facilities are not increasing while existing ones have become dilapidated.

Dr. Kamar said “that is why we have overcrowded public schools. If not for the private schools, the public schools would have been overpopulated, and as it is now, even the private schools are overpopulated. The government and the town planning department did not do enough to uplift Minna to the level of other state capitals. 

Investigation by Daily Trust Saturday revealed that the Niger State Urban Development Board, which ought to provide layout for building in towns and cities, has no existing plan to properly guide residents in the construction of houses and erection of other structures.

Residents said this has caused friction among dwellers in many areas of Minna due to illegal structures and improper building plans. In areas like Kpakungu, Bariki Sale, Sauka-Kahuta, any attempt for a proper layout would lead to the demolition of several houses.

Some residents, however, pointed out that Niger State has remained underdeveloped because it has refused to take advantage of its proximity to the Federal Capital territory. Abdullahi Umar said “even Suleja that is very close to the Federal Capital Territory is still rough and unorganized; the planning is poor. Kaduna has been taking advantage of that long ago. The dry port in Kaduna was supposed to be in Niger State; they were supposed to work on Baro and then, a dry port in Minna. But the Niger State government has never been proactive. Even the airport that was taken to Kaduna was supposed to be in Minna. The idea of the airport city that the government of Dr. Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu had was not implemented.

“So, that too contributed to the rate at which Minna was not developing at all. Kaduna has been taking advantage of those opportunities. Kaduna has Orlam in its place. Niger State has more land than Kaduna. Even the Wushishi Fields for Rice and then the Niger South Fields for Rice production too. If the Niger State government had been able to work on that, it would have realized a lot from there. The Niger State government is just talking and no action,” he added.

Daily Trust Saturday gathered that initially, there was the existence of few companies such as Minna Wire Industry, Fertilizer Blending Company, among others. But while the state government ought to have focused on establishment of middle range industries, a lot of attention paid on white elephant projects that could not be sustained.

It was also gathered that the state with electricity power generating dams had not been able to do the things that will make the federal government feel its impact. Residents said the power being generated from the dams in Niger State should have been an advantage to the state, but the state is not trying to force the federal government to dance to its tune by giving it more power that it generates.

Chikodi Christopher, who sells drinks at the Railway Station Minna, said “Patronage is low due to the poor economic state of the town. I have been in Minna since 1989. When the rails were working, our business boomed but the cessation of train movement has crippled our business totally.”  

Also speaking, Abubakar Abdul Kuta, an artiste, said “People are leaving the state capital for lack of business, which means economically we are backward. And for a state to thrive, small and medium businesses have to grow and we need small factories and more. The only factories that are thriving in Niger State as a whole are sachet water and bread factories.”

“In terms of infrastructure, if you leave Minna for 10 years and then come back, you won’t see positive changes like what has happened in other states like Kano and Kaduna. There is no infrastructural development. This is mainly due to lack of continuity in governance. There are several abandoned projects in the state,” he added.

An economic expert, Dr Abdulmumin Alfa, of the Department of Economics IBB University, Lapai, Niger State, said the decay of infrastructure in Minna and other towns has serious implications on both the citizens and economy of the state, calling on the state government to invest more in building factories to create jobs and allow small businesses thrive.

“Infrastructure is a drive for an economy and if you look at it, most of the infrastructure that you can see in other cities like Kano are not in Minna and other major towns in Niger State. When we talk about infrastructure, we are not talking about the SMEs or whatsoever, we are talking about the establishment. For instance, in Bida, we used to have Premier Publishing House where they produced books and whatever and textile companies. The lack of infrastructure has so much effect on the economy because the effect on the unemployment rate will be so high.

“We have land but the agricultural sector is not working perfectly to engage teeming youths who are mostly into okada riding. The closeness of Abuja to Niger State is an advantage if the state can put in place infrastructure and enter into alliance with some companies in Abuja. Suleja is supposed to have developed beyond what we have today because of its closeness to the Federal Capital Territory. Government should provide an enabling environment for investors to come in,” he said.

The Chief Press Secretary to the Niger State governor ,Mary Noel Berje, however pointed out that Niger State Government has spent more than N4bn intervening in federal roads across the state. 

“The Governor Abubakar Sani Bello-led administration in its bid to modernize and improve ongoing infrastructure received Suleja smart city feasibility progress report compiled by a South Korean Company DOHWA Engineering to make it liveable.

“The government is also partnering the South Korean government to carry out the project initiated by his predecessor about ten years ago to have an all-encompassing city comprising of both residential, commercial as well as agro parks, amongst others.”