The Federal Capital Territory, Abuja is the capital city of Nigeria located at the centre of the country. The decree that promulgated its existence was made by the Muritala/Obasanjo’s regime in 1975/76. It was during the Second Republic, when Alhaji Shehu Shagari, the first Executive President of Nigeria, picked an Architect, in the person of Dr Alex Ekwueme to be his deputy, that serious works started in the 1980s in the city. The vision was to build a planned city, based on a master plan, befitting the most powerful nation in Africa, replacing the country’s most populous city of Lagos as the capital on December 12, 1991.
The mistake of Lagos that allowed people to build indiscriminately in a planless form that has now earned it “unscientifically” the most dangerous city on earth was to be avoided at all costs. We used the term unscientifically because a Lagosian like myself will readily reject that most dangerous label. Lagos is one of the safest places on earth if you know how to navigate it. But we must accept that Lagos operates a system of “organized chaos” which only Lagosians understand. It was not surprising that non-Lagosians erroneously characterized Lagos in that light. No doubt, the unplanned nature of Lagos with numerous slums enabled such unacceptable conclusions with its attendant negative publicity to the country as a whole. Abuja is planned to operate a system of organized city not chaos.
According to the United Nations, Abuja grew by 139.7 per cent between 2000 and 2010, making it the fastest growing city in the world. As at 2016, the metropolitan area of Abuja is estimated at eight million persons, placing it behind only Lagos, as the most populous metro area in Nigeria. This statistics reveals why the Federal Government must not take its eyes off the balls on the progress of Abuja because of its high propensity to be derailed due to great influx of people daily. We must note that the master plan has been derailed before and took the stern determination of Malam El-Rufai, the then Minister of the FCT, to bulldoze it back to the original master plan.
Before 2015, the FCT inherited chunk of the problems that bedevilled the whole country then. The security situation was alarming and for the first time Moslems avoided mosques and Christians avoided night vigils. The Police headquarters in Abuja was bombed by terrorists to send a signal that nowhere and nobody was saved. The terrorists followed through their threats by bombing the United Nations Building, killing many, which led to the temporary departure of the United Nations from Nigeria. Nyanya Motor Park was blown up with more than 80 persons massacred while Banex Plaza was bombed with loss of lives and property. Terrorists built cells in Abuja right to the top of the government echelon. President Goodluck Jonathan at a point screamed that Boko Haram has infiltrated his cabinet. Notorious terrorists like Kabiru Sokoto who bombed St. Theresa’s Catholic Church, Madalla, Niger State on a Christmas day was a resident of Abaji in FCT. Even when he was arrested and was being taken to his residence in Abaji two days later for a search, he escaped. When the police traced him to his hideout in Abaji, his followers shielded him and resisted his arrest by the police and he fled to Taraba. The seige mentality foisted on the residents of the FCT due to lack of security led to the firing of the IGP, Hafiz Ringim.
Even the existing infrastructure was not protected from massive vandalization by thieves and miscreants. By 2015, FCT witnessed most of the manhole covers and many component of public utilities stolen, while streetlighting poles and components were vandalized. The streets were eyesores as faeces was seen spilling out on the streets. Slums started growing again even in Abuja cities. People built indiscriminately even on waterways with the attendant consequences of great erosions which sometimes led to destruction of houses of innocent people and loss of lives through drowning inside the flooded waterways. The FCT was derailing
It was, therefore, a big relief to the residents of FCT when President Muhammadu Buhari came with the change mantra and made security one of the major pillars of his agenda. He didn’t stop there, he had to look for a man that can take over the FCT and ensure the implementation of the three-point agenda of the government, which are to secure the country, improve the economy and fight corruption. On November 2015, President Buhari appointed Malam Muhammad Musa Bello as the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and this bestowed on him the mantle of driving the change agenda of the government in the FCT. Three years have passed since then, offering us an opportunity to access the performance of the minister since his assumption of office.
In the area of security, the president simply carried the fight to the terrorists in the Northeast and destabilised them, denying them the geographical space and psychological calmness that enabled them to launch attacks outside their comfort zones. Prior to the coming of President Buhari, the terrorists had taken over 14 local governments in the Northeast and foisted their flag there. They declared a caliphate and the security forces were drawing back citing inadequate equipment and welfare to prosecute the war. Indeed, they mutinied against their superiors and the government then.
Having carried the war to them and chased them away from their conquered comfort zones, they ran helter skelter and did not have the opportunity to launch attacks against the FCT anymore. The Minister of FCT followed up with boosting the morale of the officers and men of the security forces to maintain law and order within the FCT. It is on record that no significant terrorist attack had succeeded in the FCT since this administration came on board in 2015. Even some security challenges posed by some religious groups like IMN were skillfully handled to ensure peace and security in the FCT.
The administration of Malam Muhammad Musa Bello from inception embarked on replacement of stolen public property that defaced the beautiful face of Abuja. The stolen equipment like manhole covers were replaced with new models which are durable and uneconomical to steal. The same goes for street lighting poles and components which have been modified and made difficult for thieves to vandalize.
I was driving through Kubwa expressway at night last week and was baffled to notice that all the streetlights were on and working whether light was on throughout the city or not. On further enquiries, I reliably gathered that as a result of the ugly experience from vandalism of electricity components and the rationing of power by the electricity transmission and distribution companies, the administration of Bello procured 22 generating sets as a stop gap measure during off grid periods. This has helped to maintain streetlights in critical areas in the city and, of course, wade off the night marauders who operate at full capacity in darkness.
The administration adopted a simple plan of action which involved completion of all ongoing or abandoned projects, especially those with greatest impact on the greatest number of citizens. This strategy has since become the greatest secret of success of the administration of President Buhari and the Bello administration in FCT. It saw to the completion of the three gateway roads leading into and outside the city. These are the Gwagwalada – Airport, Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Expressway, Bill Clinton Drive/ Interchange/Bridge, Aso Villa Roundabout Bridge, Zuba – Kubwa and Keffi – Nyanya – AYA express roads. Others include the major city road arterials like the constitution and independence roads a.k.a roads B6 and B12, running from the National Stadium to the Three Arms Zone and back. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan Expressway has been completed and has helped to ease traffic flow in the city’s main business hub and so on.
In addition over 30 pedestrian bridges along with their concrete walkways, as well as several loops and flank roads which hitherto blocked major road intersections have been completed and opened thus ventilating the intersections and getting the city moving again. Having significantly delivered on infrastructure in the FCC, the Administration has extended its focus to the satellite towns and rural areas
which will be a topic for another day because in this area, there are rooms for improvement.
We must learn some important lessons from this administration’s simple plan of action of completing all ongoing or abandoned projects, especially those with greatest impact on the greatest number of citizens before embarking on new ones. Before the inception of this administration, Nigeria was littered with numerous uncompleted and abandoned projects too many to be counted. It was as if any succeeding regime abandons projects commenced by the previous regime maybe on the false impression that completing such projects will project the image of the previous administration better than theirs. This is false. Even the Bible states that “better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof”.
Government is a continuum. A project not completed is useless to the people no matter how advanced towards completion the project is. Just imagine Ajeokuta Steel which is 98 per cent complete, but has been lying idle for more than 30 years with no benefit to the people. The costly equipment imported for use are now degenerating through depreciation and may soon go obsolete as new machines and methods of doing things come out daily with tremendous cost to the nation. About 750 containers of imported power project materials were lying idle in the wharf accumulating demurrage during the last regime while Nigerians are wallowing in darkness until this regime cleared the power materials from the port and utilized them for the benefit of all Nigerians. Some unscrupulous elements in this country must be benefiting from these uncompleted and abandoned projects to the detriment of Nigerians. Nigerians must, therefore, insist from now on that any incoming government must endeavour to complete the important uncompleted projects of previous administrations before embarking on new ones.