FCT Downscales Work on Vice-President Quarters, to Upgrade Urban Slums

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BY Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja

The Minister Federal Capital Territory Musa Mohammed Bello has admitted that the scale of work in the construction of the permanent official lodge for the Vice President had been stepped down because of paucity of funds.

Bello made this remark at the weekend at a media gathering to render account of the performance of his administration in the past two years and to also react to allegation that funds meant for the house project had been diverted.

Nearly two years ago, it was reported that the vice president quarters had been abandoned after the National Assembly rejected request for an additional N9 billion by the former FCT Minister Senator Bala Mohammed, to complete the project aside the initial sum of N7billion approved,

Criticisms had mired the project undertaken by the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) as the public felt it was an added burden for a nation in economic recession.

The additional cost was to cover the variation in cost of furniture, fencing, two additional protocol guest houses, a banquet hall and security gadgets.

But the current minister said while the ongoing project was inherited by him like several other projects, its scale of activities was drastically reduced because the vice president, now the Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, insisted he was satisfied with the alternative accommodation provided for him. Bello also said fund constraint affected the pace of work.

‘’With regard the vice president’s residence that is under construction, I am not aware if any fund has been embezzled. And I will be surprised if anybody under our present circumstance decides to divert any fund. The scale of work has drastically been reduced because of limitation of fund. We look at the every project according to priority,’’ he said.

The minister similarly averred that instead of demolishing the slumps now becoming common features in many parts of Abuja urban centre, the FCTA has decided to upgrade and equip them with roads and other infrastructure, which would give the indigenous communities the option of either selling the property that would have appreciated in value or Will it to their children.

He insisted that demolition of shanty structures in the past had not solved any problem. He added that it is no more a global practice to dismantle slums which are common features with all growing cities in the world.

The minister attributed the thriving of urban slums within the FCT city centre to institutional weaknesses within the system itself caused by understaffing, underfunding and over stretching of workers.

He said the system should be strengthened as officials in the first instance ought not to have allowed any authorised property to be built before it reached advanced stage.

‘’The reality is that Abuja is growing at a very fast pace beyond the expectation of the planners. We can go in with the bulldozers and demolish the entire place, but that has not solved the problem and that is why I said I would not be destroying places as cynical people are bent on doing. If we strengthen the system these things would not happen, as any property built in a wrong place, no matter how  long you stay there, will ultimately give way,’’ he said.