Malam Muhammad Musa Bello the current minister of the Federal Capital Territory has gardening as his lobby. Unfortunately, since November 2015 when he became Minister, the lush gardens and green environment that dot the Abuja landscape have all disappeared as if they were not sure the new helmsman would take adequate care of them. It is not only the gardens that vanished; virtually everything Abuja is known for is no more. In their place are bad roads, decaying infrastructure, workers unpaid salaries, dirty environment, armed robbery, kidnapping, daylight car snatching, human trafficking, child labour, return of women of easy virtue and sundry other things not used to be seen in the FCT .
On major roads during morning traffic, you are assaulted by horrible looking beggars who only God knows where they came from. As you look the other way, your vehicle windscreen is almost smashed by hawkers of various items and wares frantically struggling and shoving to push their wares onto your face. In the evening when you are returning from work, the entire walk lanes and streets are taken over by roadside sellers, thereby contracting the space for vehicles to move. And nobody is talking. Nobody is doing anything. What a pity. It won’t be out of place to say that Abuja as at today, has lost its glory as the seat of government.
A visit to any of the Six Area Councils’ secretariats (equivalent to local governments in the states) and FCT agencies including public hospitals shows the complexes firmly under lock and key. The workers are on strike over unpaid three months salaries. Despite the effect of the closure of these vital offices to the smooth running of government, the minister sleeps with his two eyes closed pretending that nothing is wrong. A proactive minister would have nipped the crisis in the bud especially as the workers’ union gave enough notice before embarking on the indefinite strike. Only God knows how many lives have been lost in the hospitals since the strike began.
While the workers are bemoaning their fate, the residents are not having it funny. If it is not armed robbery or other criminal acts which are now rampant everywhere on daily basis, it is the dilapidation of infrastructure- roads, water, electricity and healthcare facilities.
Recently, many of the residents and motorists voiced out their disappointment with Bello and the lackadaisical way he is handling FCT affairs. In separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja, they urged the administration to take the necessary steps to immediately effect repairs on some portions of roads in Abuja, and its environs. They particularly described the condition of the roads in the six area councils as “embarrassing’’, as the roads do not befit a territory created to be a model for other states.
My recent tour of some parts of the FCT reveals that many roads within and outside the metropolis, have become impassable with some portions either washed away by erosion or damaged. These include: Alex Ekwueme Way, particularly at the traffic light at the Jabi Motor Park Junction, Nnamdi Azikiwe Express Way at the NEPA Junction (Asokoro), towards the SSS Quarters, Nnamdi Azikiwe link to Umar Musa Yar’Adua Express Way by the Velodrome of the National Stadium. Also affected are roads in Karu, Nyanya, Bwari council secretariat, Gwarimpa, 60% of Kubwa roads and streets, Dutse, Gwagwalada township roads, as well as Kuje- Gwagwalada road, amongst others.
The deplorable condition of roads in satellite towns in the FCT has been widely reported such that the similarly dilapidated state of roads in some highbrow areas has deflected attention.
Residents of Berger, 2nd Avenue in Gwarimpa village market, Sun city, Galadimawa, Durumi, Lifecamp, EFAB estate, Mabushi, and Kado village have been lamenting over the deplorable state of roads in their areas.
Take Jabi Park for instance. This park is one of the major sources of revenue to the FCT and Abuja Municipal Area Council, AMAC. So why will FCTA not keep that place in order?
Due to the bad state of roads, motorists spend hours from part of the city to another. Some prefer to go through longer distances to avoid bad portions and the associated vehicular traffic.
Aside the issue of lack of access roads, refuse is disposed indiscriminately while health centres and schools lack the necessary facilities. As a result, pollution of the environment from waste, burst water pipes and sewage, are increasing daily with slums expanding rapidly almost everywhere in the FCT
In Nyanya, Karu, Kubwa, Gwagwalada, Durumi,Garki, Kuje, Kurudu, Garki and Mpape to mention but a few, heaps of garbage are constantly seen. Indications are that the same squalor conditions are common in other satellite towns and some parts of the city centre.
Facts are that the challenge of waste disposal, clearing of drainages, cleaning of roads and streets has proved to be very daunting, to the authorities especially in the satellite towns. These services, which have been outsourced to cleaning companies, have not been satisfactorily carried out.
I recall that as part of efforts to ensure the cleanliness of Abuja, and the entire Federal Capital Territory (FCT), the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) was set up in 1990 to undertake waste management and other environmental protection activities in the territory.
Previous policies and programmes initiated to keep Abuja clean and shore up its image as a modern and cosmopolitan city include; removal of hawkers from the city, the prohibition of prostitution and street begging, as well as the compulsory monthly sanitation exercise.
The monthly sanitation exercise was widely adjudged by many observers as a potent tool of keeping the FCT clean but the AEPB has repeatedly complained about the low turnout of residents .
To ensure compliance, the Board initiated a policy empowering officials to inspect houses during the exercise. But like the monthly exercise, that policy failed to achieve its purpose.
As part of efforts to remove illegal dumpsites in the city centre and the area councils, the former FCT administration came up with a programme tagged “Clean and Green Greater Abuja’’ which entailed a one-month intensive cleanup of the city.
The initiative was to mobilise all the residents of the FCT to embark on tree planting, while establishing woodlots and combating bush burning during the dry season.
Suffice it to say that improper waste management, as well as the unsanitary conditions of the surroundings has been undermining efforts to create a healthy, congenial and tourism-friendly city.
The goal of attracting investments and making Abuja a global tourism destination will remain a lip service if government intentions are not matched with a culture of cleanliness, conservation and greening.
Some years ago, in neighbourhoods like Wuse where the city’s main market is located, hawkers, beggars and hoodlums had field days conducting their businesses which defaced the environment. But they were removed and the area given a face lift. Such measures should be extended to other areas particularly, Nyanya, Karu, Garki and Kubwa.
Abuja residents are paying their taxes. So why will the government not fulfill its obligations to the residents? If the truth must be told, both the Minister and the outgoing council chairmen have failed to live up to their responsibilities to the people.
What is happening in this palce today negates the original idea that FCT will serve as a model for the development of other states in the country. The FCT Minister, if he must continue in office, must rise up to his responsibilities and very quickly too. Where he is not willing to do so, he should throw in the towel. Elsewhere, that is how it is done. When you are given a task you cannot execute, you quit. Pretention is dangerous. A recent ranking of President Muhammadu Buhari’s Ministers by an NGO named the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu as the ‘Best Performing Minister’. If Kachikwu is rated Buhari’s best performing minister, Mohammed Bello is the worst followed by Minister of Agriculture Audu Ogbe and his counterpart in Trade and Investment Okechukwu Enelamah, in that order. Theirs will be subject of future discussion.


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