Bello and the Challenge of FCT

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Musa Bello

Saturday letter1

If performance is the yardstick for the reappointment of a minister into the cabinet, then President Muhammadu Buhari got it right in the reappointment of Muhammad Bello as the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, (FCT).

The excitement of the news of the reappointment stems from his performance in his first term as minister of the territory. In his first term as minister, a new dawn was witnessed in the administration of the FCT as never before. He concentrated on four cardinal policies, sorting out issues of double land allocation, social investments, infrastructural development and education.

Through the visionary leadership of the minister, the city is changing and slowly evolving for the better. Agreed, Abuja city has its challenges ranging from some appalling slums, housing deficit to traffic congestions. We believe in his second term as minister he will face these challenges squarely. Not minding the fact that the story of Abuja is knitted to that of Nigeria itself- the economic downturn of the early 80’s itself gave rise to a massive migration to urban cities, including Abuja. This led to the overstretching of the city.

 Today, this overstretching has reached a point of elasticity- the city and its leadership needs to reinvent itself before it reached a point of decline. This is the challenge Bello has been confronting in his first term and it is hopeful he will continue along that line in his second term.

Within a short time of his appointment as a minister, garbage dumps turned into gardens. One example is the ubiquitous traffic gridlock in the Asokoro district: this area was transformed by demolishing illegal structures and the eviction of squatters from the area. This is an enviable stride that needs to be continued. The minister’s infrastructural plans are excellent because the existing infrastructure is inadequate and overstretched. The minister has been very innovative also in the sourcing of funds to meet the infrastructural needs of the city. For example, land’s sale by the administration is also being used in the development of the Abuja new infrastructure.

The minister also tried in putting in place measures to enhance Abuja city’s housing deficits. The numbers in the housing deficit was enough in scarring the minister to take urgent measures to address the deficits. There are no finishing lines in this journey, it is a continuous desire to make things better than we could ever imagine. Today the grinding and the bustling of Abuja goes on from dawn to dust, and the minister has been able to walk his talk in his first term, that Abuja must outgrow its slums and finally become the city that its people would be proud of.

 It is advisable that in this second coming, he must work towards making the city a widely cited example of effective African city governance from the long held notion of Abuja as a city of urban disorder. This is a legacy that he must work towards bequeathing for posterity. The minister must also work towards multiplying its tax revenue and using these resources in restoring basic infrastructure, public services and law enforcements. Some of his reforms initiatives such as the review of the waste collection and tax collection system which serve both political and mega city goals must be continued. Progress in these areas would be achieved through increased bureaucratic resources, managerial reforms, public outreach, and cooperation’s with organised social groups.

 Other reforms efforts such as those regulating buses and curtailing extortions by miscreants-which entails more political challenges must be looked into by the minister. This will help in advancing public services and megacity goals even though it will in the short term threaten crucial political constituency. The minister must have the courage to take the crucial decisions for the good of the city.

Jamila Musa, Abuja