The Federal Capital Territory (FCT) may indeed be the only city in Nigeria where city plan has been followed to some extent, but the dual pattern of development has exposed its flaws as a concept that favours the affluent in Abuja to the detriment of the satellite towns dwellers where majority of the population lives, notwithstanding the FCTA’s current leadership’s genuine efforts to reverse the trend. Senator Iroegbu writes
Abuja, the famed seat of power and Federal Capital Territory (FCT), which prides itself as the only planned city in Nigeria also enjoy the enviable tag of one of the fastest growing cities in the world today. That the nation’s capital can compete with some major cities of the world in terms of world-class infrastructure is not in doubt, especially the Federal Capital City (FCC) area, which has erroneously been used as a yardstick for FCT development. What is debatable however is whether the often mentioned city plan is of the global accepted standard, and that the growth is sustainably reflective in the overall living standard of the majority of its inhabitants. The answer is no.
The territory’s appearance on the surface flatters to deceive, especially the first-time visitors to the city who are unconscious of the rot and neglect that characterised the surrounding areas, commonly referred to as satellite towns.
Clearly, after spending a few days in the FCT, it will not be too long for any first-time visitor to the city to conclude that it is a city of inequalities.
The flawed Abuja master plan enjoys the record of being in the league of a few planned major cities of the world where the city centre is preserved for the privileged few, while others are pushed back into the periphery of the cities.
For Abuja, now the bubble has bursts and the authorities are daily confronted with myriad of challenges, which are by-products of poor or adulterated city plan. They include: traffic congestion, shortage of accommodation, high cost of rent amongst others
Ironically, while Lagos, the former capital which has for long been marred with these developmental anomalies is making frantic efforts to change things, Abuja is gradually edging towards what now defines Lagos-overstretched facilities and perennial social vices- amongst its young residents.
In fact, the chaotic developmental pattern of the FCT instantly attracted the attention of the Minister of State for the FCT, Mrs. Jumoke Akinjide and the director of Satellite Towns Development Agency (STDA), Alhaji Tukur Ibrahim Bakori when they were appointed.
Akinjide and her team have since assumption of office in 2011 made satellite towns’ development the main focus of the administration following numerous calls by the public that it should be accorded greater priority in terms of governance and administration.
Only recently, the chairmen of the area councils of the FCT also called for a special allocation to the territory from the federal government in view of its nation’s capital status which has made it witnessed massive human traffic from the 36 states.
Thus, the infrastructural development of the six area councils and satellite towns has been one of the cardinal objectives of President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration for the territory. He further gave his commitment to this with his approval of the re-establishment of the STDA in the last quarter of 2011.
It is believed that the provision of infrastructure in the area councils and satellite towns will attract people to live in such places, help decongest the main city and ultimately lessen the burden on infrastructure in the FCC.
The appointment of Akinjide by President Jonathan to oversee the area councils and satellite towns’ development may have been in the right direction.
For instance, under her supervision, the Bakori led STDA became operational and had commenced construction of roads in the area councils and satellite towns, provision of engineering infrastructure and affordable housing, and also now at the fore-front of the Clean and Green Greater Abuja project initiated by the FCT Minister of State.
The Minister, who is also called Mama area council by the residents and chairmen of area councils, has assured the residents of the commitment of the FCTA under the leadership of the Minister of FCT, Senator Bala Mohammed, to provide adequate infrastructure in the area councils and satellite towns.
“The FCTA is partnering with stakeholders, including the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC), to attract private investors for the development of the area councils and satellite towns,” she noted.
Accordingly, STDA has completed the detailed layout for the affordable housing scheme which is being built in two districts of Wasa in Abuja Municipal Area Council and Mamusa West in Kuje Area Council. The affordable housing scheme, which involves the construction of 5,000 housing units, is expected to provide jobs for over 50,000 residents of the territory when completed.
In the same vein, the STDA boss, Alhaji Bakori has explained that the housing scheme would reduce the current strain on the existing housing and speed up economic growth of the area councils.
He noted that the scheme was being executed through a Public-private partnership initiative with the FCTA providing land as well as other primary and secondary infrastructure while the private partner will provide the tertiary infrastructure.
“Road rehabilitation and construction have commenced in Karshi, Kuje, Bwari and Gwagwalada, among others”, he said.
Besides the provision of engineering infrastructure in the Area Councils, Akinjide is giving priority to immunisation of children, environmental sanitation and agricultural development in the councils and satellite town.
Worried about the poor sanitation in the area councils and satellite towns, the Minister in May 2012 initiated a community sanitation programme in the six area councils.
Explaining the rationale behind the sanitation programme, the Special Assistant to the Minister on environment, Mr. Ayo Sotinrin, said that the vision of the Minister was to ensure a clean and secured environment for the area councils.
In addition to the programme, the minister in August 2012 also established a Ministerial Committee on Clean and Green Greater Abuja Initiative with the mandate of building effective and sustainable enforcement strategies in the cleaning and greening of area councils and satellite towns.
The Ministerial Committee, which is chaired by the STDA Director, is to recommend appropriate and sustainable waste management strategies for the area councils and satellite towns.
And with the Clean and Green Greater Abuja Initiative, the problems of improper waste disposal with its attendant health consequences seemed to be on the decline.
Some places in the area councils now have their dump sites and it is no longer fashionable for a council to package wastes and then dump it in another council.
This was only possible because the committee aided by the STDA deployed pay-loaders, bulldozers and tippers to the six area councils to evacuate huge refuse generated by residents of the councils and satellite towns.
Expectedly, with the manner in which the committee has commenced its operations, there is no doubt that with continued supervision and funding, the problem of improper waste disposal in the area councils and rural communities will be adequately addressed in a short time.
In terms of agricultural development, the FCTA has provided N250 million community empowerment agriculture loan for 385 farming communities across the six area councils of the FCT under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) project.
Meanwhile Akinjide, while on inspection of some farms in Kuchibuyi and Guita Communities of Bwari Area Council recently, assured the farmers that the FCTA would sustain the community empowerment programme.
She said: “We are supporting the poor and rural communities through capacity building in modern farming techniques and agric-businesses to address the issues of poverty, unemployment and gender equality among the rural populace, thereby improving their income and quality of life.
“This initiative started with 60 communities across the six area councils in 2010 and by 2011, the initiative was scaled up to 180 communities with FCT UNDAF II supporting 60 communities. Presently, the scheme is in 236 communities across the six Area Councils and the remaining communities will be covered before the end of 2013,” said the minister, who supervises the FCT MDGs Project Support.
Also, the Chairman of the MDGs Farmers Co-operatives, Mr. Marks Thomas, who commended the minister, said that the scheme had increased their income level from between N10,000 and N20,000 to over N100,000.
“This initiative has strengthened farmers in the area councils and it has encouraged many others to take up agro-business because of improved income level. We are pleading that the scheme should continue and that the timeline for repayment of the facility should be extended,” Thomas said.
“It is a good initiative because the farmers are being empowered and they can now afford to train their children in schools. There is a computer appreciation programme being organised for the children in the rural communities too with the aim of keeping them in the area to reduce rural/urban migration”, he stated.
Also, the FCTA during the year 2012 launched the One Village, One Product (OVOP) initiative of the Abuja Enterprise Agency AEA with Rima Village in Abaji Area Council as the first beneficiary of the scheme with the commissioning of a mini shea-butter processing cluster by the FCT Minister of State.
Similarly, Akinjide in her quest to impact on the overall well-being of the FCT residents urged the people to take advantage of the project to transform the landscape of the village, expressing optimism that it would attract tremendous economic activities and investments to the village.
She noted that the project was geared towards empowerment of the rural women by way of reducing the processing period of the shea-butter by 70 per cent.
“The initiative is aimed at building a society devoid of gender discrimination and unequal access to political, social and economic wealth creation opportunities. Gender mainstreaming, empowerment, equality and equity are among the priority areas in the transformation agenda.
“Women from three communities have been empowered through this project. They were organized into cooperatives to enable then access financing to help with the expansion of their businesses. In Kwali, a State-wide micro-finance bank is being established. A high percentage of its financing will be targeted at women,” the minister disclosed.
There is no doubt that FCTA and STDA are making genuine efforts to turn things around through development of the satellite towns in the FCT. However more needs to be done especially by providing basic infrastructures and social amenities to bridge the widening gap of social divide.