Aerial view of Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Federal Secretariat

Though the Federal Capital Territory is growing at a fast pace, its master plan has not been reviewed since 1979. Olawale Ajimotokan attended an FCT media retreat, where stakeholders agreed on the need for a revised master plan responsive to the complexities, interconnectedness and yearnings of its residents

 

Federal Capital Territory (FCT) was created in 1976 from parts of Nasarawa, Niger, and Kogi states. Reasons behind the movement of the federal capital from Lagos to Abuja include, among others; inadequate physical planning and development control in Lagos, inability of Lagos to accommodate multiple functions of national and state capitals, as well as the main industrial and commercial hub of the nation.

It has been growing in both human population and other activities way beyond what was envisaged by its founding fathers. A United Nations report says the population growth rate of Abuja increased at the rate of 139.7 per cent between 2000 and 2010.

It also added that as at 2015, the city was still experiencing an annual growth rate of at least 35 per cent, making it the fastest-growing city on the African continent and one of the fastest-growing in the world.

With its population ebbing close to six million, there is now a mounting pressure on existing infrastructure, while slums within the precinct of the urban centre are common features.

The socio-economic outcome of the degeneration is poor sanitary and environmental condition, traffic congestion, high crime rates and social vices, high occupancy ratio and a spike in diseases and epidemics.

It is the effect of these vices have created that has made the review of the master plan an important agenda to correct some of the distortions that have crept in.

Recently, stakeholders met in Kaduna, at a media workshop organised for the FCTA press corps, to explore the topic: ‘The Role of the Media in the Review of Abuja Master Plan’.

The retreat was declared open by FCT Minister, Mallam Muhammad Musa Bello, represented by Hajia Amina Abubakar. It also had the Special Adviser, Media and Communications to the Kaduna State governor, Mr. Muyiwa Adekeye, representing his boss, Nasir el-Rufai.

Resource Persons were Christian Okeke, a lecturer at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka; Dr Yahaya Yusuf, former Director, Department of Development Control, FCDA, now a Lecturer at the Baze University, Abuja and Muktar Galadima, Director, Department of Development Control, and current Chairman, Nigeria Institute of Town Planners, (NITP) Abuja.

The original Abuja Masterplan was a 286-page document drafted in 1977 for the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) by American firm of International Planning Associates (IPA).

The consortium prepared the draft in about 18 months. However, 38 years after the plan was produced, it is yet to undergo review. This is despite the many symptoms which go to show that all is not well with it.

The call for the review of Abuja master plan has heightened with the National Assembly lending its voice for a review to meet prevailing realities and correct planning distortions.

Earlier in the year, FCT Minister, Bello, hinted the members of Nigeria Mining and Geo Sciences Society led by Professor Gbenga Okunlola, of plans to assemble experts for the review.

Later government consulted the consortium of Messrs Albert Speers Partners in collaboration with four indigenous town-planning consultants – Multi-system Consultant, Austin Aike and Partners, Fola Konsult and Benna Associate to undertake the review of Abuja master plan.

Decades of growth and influx of people have stretched the facilities beyond what the planners conceived. As at 2006, the city was inhabited by 776,296 people.

 “Strikingly, the planners originally developed a plan that was simple. They adopted modular, Radburn model in their work. In fact, on page 13, the plan envisaged that each district (sector) should contain housing for all classes of people. Put differently, the low-income earners should have provision in high-brow districts too. But that is not so. Also, there is lack of those industries envisaged by the plan for residents of each of the districts. Districts like Asokoro are today a sort of exclusives for persons of high status and have, in fact, turned to safe haven for the rich.” Okeke noted.

He said the original plan had been subjected to many distortions alien to the master plan. The university don listed such distortions to include the Aso Rock, National Mall, the Women Development Centre and the National Square.

“Where is the National Square envisioned by the master plan? Where is the National Mall that should have linked to the National Assembly and other monumental symbols of government? Where is the Presidential Palace envisioned to be surrounded by Presidential Gardens? Aso Villa was originally planned to be located on the Mall near the National Square but it later was relocated to the main Park and is today surrounded by National Assembly and residential buildings. In the same vein, the Women Development Centre has no business with its current location in the area of the Mall according to the original plan. But it is there today. Clearly, all of these are contrary to the provisions on page 89 of the plan,” he queried.

Yusuf said, with an unplanned population growth, a gradual degradation in quality of urban living will arise because of stretched facilities and utilities, urban sprawl among others.

He contended that the (Abuja master plan is a comprehensive document intended to guide the development of the FCT, providing for the following; site for the new capital city, population and employment projection, urban design, organisational land requirements, the Central Area plan, sector organisation, public services, transportation system, residential developments, support infrastructure system, regional development plan and Implementation framework.

“Implementing any city master plan is a herculean task and the FCT is not an isolated case. Challenges of inadequate staffing, funding, resettlement issues, fake layouts and land titles, recalcitrant nature of developers, political will, public image and other dynamics of human nature and society prevails,” Yusuf said.

Yusuf described the Abuja master plan as a comprehensive document intended to guide the development of the FCT by providing a site for the new capital city, population and employment projection, urban design, organisational land requirements, the Central Area plan, sector organisation, public services, transportation system, residential developments, support infrastructure system, regional development plan and Implementation framework.

He, however, admitted that implementing a master plan is a herculean task for the FCT given the challenges of inadequate staffing, funding, resettlement issues, fake layouts and land titles, recalcitrant nature of developers, political will, public image and other dynamics of human nature and society.

With regard to underfunding, he said the FCTA grants had been reduced from N50 billion to N29 billion per month. He said funding should be given a priority as urbanisation in Nigeria is projected to become the third largest in the world by 2050 after China and India.

The issue of urban slums within Abuja city centre has remained a key point in the Abuja master plan with communities not envisaged and without basic social facilities springing up in many parts of the city.

Galadima said a fundamental policy bedrock of the plan is that all indigenous communities located within the Federal Capital City precinct, but not the FCT, should be located outside the confines of the city

He, however, lamented that the administration was not proactive in implementing that policy, which is one of the reasons why slums are prevalent within the city precinct.

Using Nyanya Labour Camp as a part of FCT urban renewal solution, Galadima said the residents shunned government entreaties to relocate to Gidan Gaya.

He said the resident association rejected the idea because they felt government planned to sell the land now that its value has increased by over 500 per cent.

He said the people also rejected the option of phased redevelopment after which the buildings will be transferred to them instead of relocation.

The camp was built in the early 1980s to provide temporary housing for delegates on national assignment and as guest houses for students and security agents.

Subsequently, the quarters were allocated to immigration officers, policemen and civil servants.

He lamented that the migration from other cities to Nyanya had become so high that the labour camp is virtually faced with security risk, health hazard, social menace and over stretched social amenities and facilities.

“However, when you look at the critical position, you see that those people in Nyanya are living in a health risk environment. The area is densely populated with as many as 10 persons crammed in a room. There are also issues about poor structural quality and durability of the houses, poor access to water and other facilities and lack of sanitation facilities,” Galadima said.

He said FCTA officials tried to apply the Kenyan experience in the upgrading of the Kibera slum in Nairobi, where government championed public participation at the end of which new houses were built and people taken from their squalid environment to better places.