On November 11, 2015, Muhammad Musa Bello stepped in as the 16th Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja. His entrance elicited some mixed reactions. Since his sting in the public service was seldom known, no one could predict what to expect, including staff and management of the FCT Administration.
Like President Muhammadu Buhari who waited for six months to pick his ministers, many observers also believed Bello kicked off on a slow footing. His administration created doubts of he his ability to steer the affairs of a complex city like Abuja.
When the framers of Abuja wanted a city that would rival its counterparts in many parts of the world. With the over-stretching burden on the infrastructure in Lagos State, the Federal Government at the time opted for what is today called Abuja.
Within the first few years of relocation of seat of power to Abuja, billions of naira were deployed to fast track the city’s development. The administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo witnessed a major facelift.
The then minister, Nasir El-Rufai, now the Governor of Kaduna State, opened up many districts and provided infrastructure. He also embarked on massive demolitions of illegal structures within the territory and restored the city’s potent glory.
Having presided over the affairs of the territory for three and a half years, how would one rate the performance of Bello?
Slow constitution of executive council
Bello kept FCT residents guessing for one year. As required by law, Bello did not constitute FCT executive council for a whole year. He did not make any appointment for a year. He only succumbed to pressure when the nagging became unbearable. During his first year in office, Bello relied heavily on the civil servants to run the affairs of the territory. Positions reserved for political appointees were populated by civil servants in acting capacities.
When he finally constituted his cabinet, Buhari had already spent two years and six months in office. Secretaries of the various Secretariats came in at a time people were already preparing for the next elections.
For many keen observers, this was one of the low points of the administration of Bello, who despite the free hands he was offered to govern the city, foot dragged for over a year to set the ball rolling.
Incursion of herders and urchins
At the time Bello took, the city was already battling with the menace of herdsmen, who damned all the consequences and moved around the city without any restrictions. There were few cases of clash between herdsmen and residents before Bello took over.
Since there was no substantive minister, residents had hoped that his entrance would change the narrative. However, that did not happen throughout Bello’s tenure. Instead, herdsmen grew bolder and grazed in areas that humans couldn’t dare to visit.
From the Federal Secretariat to the Three Arms Zone, herdsmen moved round the city with boldness, while officials of Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) who are notorious in arresting street urchins and traders, looked the other way.
Beggars, petty traders and other street urchins made serious incursions into the city, plying their trades in forbidden places. Despite repeated arrests of some of the culprits, the number of violators grew by the day. These are equally considered as one of the areas where the minister misfired.
Car theft, ‘one chance’ syndicate and kidnapping
If you are a car owner in Abuja, chances are high that you can be dispossessed anytime by daredevil snatchers. It was not always like this. Today, it is suicidal for car owners to leave their vehicles in certain forbidden places. You may return and not meet your car. Alternatively, the robbers may politely wait for you to return and turn on the ignition before they lay an ambush.
Areas that are not lit up at night or where there are speed bumps are considered haram now in the city for car owners. Sadly, it is almost becoming impossible to recover these stolen cars. It was not always like this.
“One chance” menace has become a notorious trend in Abuja that passengers seldom use unpainted cabs and buses. Ironically, owners of some painted cabs have jointed the ignoble trade. Some passengers who are lucky have only been dispossessed of their personal belongings. Others who were unfortunate were killed in the process.
The same “one chance” syndicate has metamorphosed into kidnapping lords. When they take their victims, they don’t travel far. Over 300 uncompleted buildings scattered around the city, are now safe havens for them to keep their victims until huge ransoms are paid.
Throughout the 42 months Bello held sway, he did not challenge these monsters. For many residents, the minister failed in this area and the city is not better off.
On the flip side, the minister did some remarkable things. Even the blind can see clearly that some things in the city have changed.
Completion of inherited abandoned projects
Bello took over at a time when the FCTA was heavily indebted to contractors. There was also the problem of dwindling resources and allocation from the Federal Government. Some of the revenue generating agencies were not optimally performing.
Upon his arrival, Bello didn’t embark on any new projects. Instead, he pursued the completion of abandoned ones. Today, many new roads have been opened and that eased the traffic within and around the city.
Bello also supervised the completion of the first phase of Abuja Light Rail. Today, passengers use the services and people consider it as a plus for the Minister.