Wike’s plan to restore FCT master plan


THE promise by the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Nyesom Wike, to restore the national capital’s master plan has excited both hope and apprehension. Wike, a former governor of Rivers State, on his first day in the office vowed to clean up the metropolis, instil orderliness and ensure infrastructural reforms. Without a doubt, the original city plan has been bent out of shape, and the minister should resolutely proceed to restore it within the boundaries of the law.

Nigerians fully support the restoration of the original plan of a city that was once the pride of the country and Africa in layout, architectural design, quality roads, and orderliness. But decades of corruption, incompetence, carelessness and impunity have distorted the supposed model city. Now, disorder, overcrowding, takeover of green areas, parks and sites designated for specific purposes by corrupt politicians, civil servants and developers have turned parts of the Abuja city and many suburbs to unplanned slums.

For purists therefore, Wike excites hope. For the syndicates that have for long profited from upturning the master plan and the cohort of beneficiaries of the distortion, however, there is apprehension. Rumours that thousands of illegal structures and several slum settlements had been marked for demolition were denied by the FCT administration. The minister will need an uncompromising iron resolve, zero-tolerance for corruption and the backing of President Bola Tinubu to succeed. He has to implement a radical programme to recover the Abuja dream.

Abuja’s rapid descent into disrepute is sad. The 2016 Quality of Life Index prepared  by Mercer, a global consultancy, ranked Abuja 19th and Lagos 20th among major cities in 33 countries surveyed with the worst quality of life in the world. Abuja lags behind on the criteria of education, hygiene, healthcare, culture, environment, recreation, public transportation, political and economic stability, and access to goods and services. It dropped below Lagos (212) in the 2019 rankings at 213, and well behind Durban, South Africa (88); Rabat, and Accra, Ghana (165).

Transportation, sanitation, and other social services and infrastructure have not kept pace with the city’s rapid population growth since the seat of the central government was moved there from Lagos in the 1990s. The UN estimates Abuja’s current population at 3.84 million, growing at an average annual of 5.5 per cent since 2019. Overcrowding is real, and slums, the suburbs and some parts of the city centre are overrun with refuse. Abuja is also plagued by open defecation despite efforts by the Federal Capital Territory Authority to build toilets.

Insecurity is also prevalent. Wike has promptly banned street trading, which he says facilitates crime. He should pay particular attention to security and revive and upgrade the stalled $447million CCTV project to ensure effective security surveillance in the city.

The Abuja master plan was developed in 1979 to create an organised, integrated urban city, as a marked departure from the congestion, slums and toxicity of Lagos, the then national capital. However, successive governments, corrupt politicians and government officials, and unscrupulous developers have fractured the plan for personal gain.

Institutionalised impunity of over four decades cannot be defeated by half-measures, compromises, and hesitation. Those with vested interests in the perversion of the Abuja dream are rich, and well-entrenched in the political, bureaucratic and business networks. They will not give up their privileges and ill-gotten property easily.

Therefore, Wike must be above board. He should first relinquish any personal benefit in his possession in the FCT acquired outside due process and the master plan. There can be no sacred cows, including family, friends, and political allies.

As FCT minister, Nasir el-Rufai succeeded to some extent in reclaiming the FCT model because he had the backing of then President, Olusegun Obasanjo, and levelled thousands of illegal structures. While avoiding el-Rufai’s disdain for due process, Wike should transparently revoke illegal occupations, neutralise land speculators and strictly monitor the territory’s compromised bureaucracy.

He should overthrow the distortion in personnel and recruitment at the FCT bureaucracy where over the years, sectional domination has upturned the federal character principle. He should stop the open grazing in the city centres without delay.

The task requires courage, determination, and integrity. Time will tell whether Wike can muster them.


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