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â€˜Abuja is Still a Growing Cityâ€™
Minister of Federal Capital Territory, Mohammed Musa Bello, recently shared insight with media when he responded to questions on the activities of the ministry in the past two years. Olawale Ajimotokan reports on the abridged version of the interview
The herdsmen menace in the city
This is obviously something of great concern to all of us and that is why the administration set up a committee. That committee was set up because it is something that has been recurring for quite sometime and the committee has submitted a preliminary report. The reality of the report is that fundamental communication issue between the herdsmen that are within the FCT, especially the city itself and may be the city officers and even the general public. The reality is that in some of the areas that we have including the highbrow areas, these are areas that actually for long time before the city was created were also inhabited by the herdsmen. And now unfortunately development came up, they were always being pushed. Various committees by my predecessor had acknowledged that fact and tried to relocate them. Locations were identified but unfortunately appropriate compensations were not paid. So we are dialoguing with the herdsmen through their leadership and through the FCT traditional authority to make sure that they do not operate within the city centre and the major roads within the city centre, even though many of them actually feel that they are operating within areas that had been their ancestral home even though they are basically nomads but some of them were quite settled. To solve the issue of herdsmen in the city and also the herdsmen crisis within the fringes of the city is something that requires a lot dialoguing, patience from both sides and communication, but I assure you the work of the committee that has been set up the way I see us going with that work, I think in the very near future this matter will be resolved once and for all. What it takes is quite complex and it is not as simple as saying â€˜get off the streetâ€™ but we all know and appreciate the fact that in a modern city, there is no way animals can share road with vehicles. It is a recipe for accident and loss of life and this has been acknowledged. I am sure the administration is working towards making sure that this is properly done.
On slow pace of projects
Government wants to reach everywhere but the reality is we took a decision that once your resources are limited you have to prioritise. But meantime, itâ€™s better for us to continue this mega projects of road network within the city because they have the potential of giving the greatest benefits to the greatest number of people. I give you an example, just on this way now there is a road we call Parkway. It starts from the Christian Ecumenical Centre and across the road near Kano House, there is a bridge over Goodluck Jonathan Expressway. That one goes near the NTA, bursts out here (FCDA) and straight to Area 1. By the time that road is completed once you are coming from the Mabushi axis, and going to Abuja Central District, you donâ€™t need to go towards Ahmadu Bello Way. All you need do is come straight and then emerge at the other side to save a lot of time. Imagine if that road is completed and how it can divert traffic and make movement efficient. And that is why with these limited resources we realised that it is better to complete these roads. Also look at the AYA Bridge through Asokoro and linking up with Shehu Shagari Junction and eventually Ahmadu Bello. By the time it is done, it is going to ease traffic, that is why while it is essential for us to look at the satellite towns which we are doing. Our intension is by the time we are done with these ones, then resources as they come will be deployed to other sectors. And like I told you, Abuja is still a growing city. It is not possible for one administrator, in fact it is not possible in one tenure, for a person to be able to do this. I will be very frank with you by the time I am done, I will just carry my small brief case and move on. We are almost close to delivering the Abuja Light Rail project that was conceived as an addendum under the Lagos-Kano rail line project by the Obasanjo Administration. By the time we complete this rail, the people of Abuja will benefit and Nigerians will have a city that we can say is truly a city developed by all of us.
On the Apo- Karshi Road
It is one road that I personally thought that by now it should have been done. It is a project very dear to everyone in the city. I discussed with the Permanent Secretary and they are working seriously on it. But on a more positive note that road as conceived, though it is called Apo- Karshi Road, actually terminates at Wassa Junction. There is a 5km stretch that was not planned for and I am happy to say that about a month ago, we got a FEC approval to be able to complete that stretch. I recall when I went there, I said that was a road that was conceived to terminate in the bushâ€”it was not really going to give us the connectivity that we were hoping for. But I am happy to say that Gilmor is the contractor that will do that segment from Wassa Junction to Ring Road 3. By the time that is done we will all be very happy.
Light in the city
Light in the city is another challenge and Abuja is always dark at night because of this. It has to be dark because we donâ€™t get enough power from the National Grid to be able to power Abuja. All the street lights in Abuja have been configured to get power from the National Grid. We are working towards making some of the major streets and the business areas to be powered with generators especially in the night. It is very expensive and polluting to the environment but we have no option because we have to make Abuja bright at night even for security purposes.
Provision of security
Abuja is one of the most secure areas of Nigeria and we have made a lot of effort to secure it. But having said that we have a pocket of criminality here including challenges of kidnapping. But you are living witnesses to what the administration together with security agencies have been able to do with regard to some of the high profile kidnappings in the state. You have to recall the most recent incident at Kuje, where about 10 persons were kidnapped and we succeeded in using the security agencies to rescue them.
Regarding way slums grow in the city and the seeming lack of action by the administration.
I want to put two points for you to understand: the reality is that Abuja is growing at a very fast pace. It is growing beyond the expectation of the planners and with all growing cities in the world slums come about. Yes, we can go in with the bulldozers and demolish the whole place as it has been done in the past but in reality has bulldozing resolved the problem? And that is why I said I would not go and be destroying places any how because as cynical people feel action is by destruction. No.Â We have been trying to strengthen the system so that these things would not happen. For instance, any property built in a wrong place, no matter howÂ long you stay there, will ultimately give way because the rule is clear. But if slums thrive in the first place is because of institutional weaknesses of people not doing their work. You should strengthen the institutions by not allowing these things start and we realise that most of these institutions are grossly overstretched, underfunded and understaffed. And now the world over you donâ€™t go and clear slumps, you upgrade them, give them facilities provide them with necessary roads and at the end of the day if it is indigenous communities, you give them the option of either selling the property because the value would have gone higher or allow them stay there by the time they pass away their children will be able to improve it.