Wike: Beyond the bulldozers and focus on city centre

FCT Minister Nyesom Wike during the inauguration of the projects

At a news conference shortly after he was sworn in, the Minister of Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mr Nyesom Wike, promised to restore the Abuja Master Plan even if it takes demolishing all illegal buildings and structures.

“It is not going to be business as usual. Those distorting Abuja Master Plan: If you build where you are not supposed to, the building will go down.

“If you build on a green area, sorry, it will go down.

“For those who were allocated land and refused to develop them, we will revoke such lands and re-allocate them to those who are ready to develop them.

“Those who don’t pay ground rent, we will not notify them to do so, but I will not be tired of signing revocation notices,” he said.

The minister also announced short-, medium-, and long-term plans to overhaul the FCT and reposition it to become one of the most liveable cities in the world.

True to his word, Wike has rolled out the bulldozers.

As reported by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), the FCTA is also waging war on commercial motorcycle operators whose activities were banned in the city centre.

Recently, the FCTA’s Joint Task Force Team impounded and crushed no fewer than 400 commercial motorcycles for operating illegally in Abuja.

NAN quoted Mr Abdulateef Bello, Director, FCT Directorate of Road Traffic Services (DRTS), as saying that the operation was part of ongoing efforts to take commercial motorcycles and tricycles off Abuja roads.

Many residents had anticipated Wike’s quest to rescue Abuja from decay and ensure sanity in the nation’s seat of power immediately after his portfolio was confirmed by President Bola Tinubu.

Urban renewal experts say Wike’s track record during his time as governor stands him in good stead to correct the distortions in the Abuja Master Plan.

Already, the FCTA has released the list of 135 roads for rehabilitation and resurfacing in Wuse, Garki, Gwarimpa and Maitama Districts.

During the inauguration of Phase I of the project, Wike gave the contractors a six-month completion timeline.

However, the majority of Abuja residents who live in satellite towns and other settlements away from the city centre feel neglected when it comes to the provision of basic amenities.

Victoria Ugwu, who lives in Karshi, said Abuja suburbs have been deliberately neglected.

“A former Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) once advised hawkers on the streets of Abuja to relocate to the satellite towns where they could “operate freely”.

“The inference is that Abuja was not designed for the masses. But can the city survive without the services rendered by Abuja drivers, cleaners, vendors, gatemen, painters, nannies, cooks, etc?” she asked.

Some residents of those suburbs say the much-talked-about Abuja Master Plan provides for the development of satellite towns alongside that of the city and wonder why satellite towns lack basic amenities.

The FCTA established the Satellite Towns Development Agency (STDA) in 2004 as a result of the need to accelerate the provision of basic amenities in those areas.

Four years later, the Department of Satellite Towns Infrastructure (DSTI) was also created “to provide functional, efficient and cost-effective services in the satellite towns of the Federal Capital Territory”.

Mohammed Kabir, a resident of Kurudu, said there has never been a genuine effort to develop FCT satellite towns.

“Unfortunately, the policy framework for the development of these areas only exists on paper. In reality, the poor state of satellite towns has not justified the existence of either STDA or DSTI.

“Most of the places designated as satellite towns are mere slums deprived of any semblance of infrastructure. Interestingly, it is in these areas that the low-income earners reside.”

In 2021, NAN published the story of Gbaukuchi and Gubausabo communities in Kuje Area Council where there was neither water supply nor electricity.

Helen Samuel, a resident of Gbaukuchi, told NAN that there had never been any form of social amenity in the community since she had been residing there for over 15 years.

In 2022, Tracka, a community of citizens tracking government projects, reported how Zokutu community, located in Kuje Area Council, with over 4,000 residents, does not have access to potable water.

“The community relies on water that looks like a puddle of brown mud gotten from a stream. Still, residents have continued to consume the water in that terrible condition,” Tracka said in its report.

Over the last four years, the media has reported cases of infrastructure neglect in communities within the FCT, including Gosa Kpayi Kpayi in Kuje Area Council; Wolumo in Abuja Municipal Area Council; and Rafin-Zurfi in Gwagwalada Area Council.

A 2022 baseline study on improving access to inclusive basic services revealed that only three per cent of the Original Inhabitants of Abuja (OIAs), has access to potable water.

Findings show that many of those communities rely on non-governmental organisations for the provision of basic needs such as schools, water supply, medical facilities, and even toilets.

Also, many satellite towns, such as Kubwa, Karshi, Nyanya, Kuje and Kusaki-Yanga, are dotted by heaps of refuse which sometimes make vehicular navigation a daunting task.

Stakeholders agree that Abuja was becoming squalid and chaotic and that some of the disturbing features of a decaying city have crept in on a once orderly FCT.

Indeed, Wike’s impact is beginning to be felt; open and stinking sewers are being fixed, traffic lights are now functioning and green areas are being restored.

However, every modern city in the world provides basic amenities for its low-income earners; making Abuja suburbs habitable for residents will reduce congestion and overstretching of infrastructure. These should be part of Wike’s priorities. (NANFeatures)