The official website of the 15th minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Alhaji Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed, claims that he works "assiduously on efficient service delivery and the development of the Territory with listening ears to any cry of the people".
Efforts at making Abuja a model nation's capital, it says, is underscored by investment "through massive infrastructural development with public-private partnership (PPP) and satellite town development" as well as huge direct foreign investment culminating into more than N500 billion for the funding of the 37-storey World Trade Centre and the Caraway Dallas District. The Mohammed administration also declares that it has opened up four new districts: Jahi, Wuye, Maitama Extension and Katampe. He "dreams" to "sink deeply into the ground seeds of development that would germinate and ultimately lead to a city which runs efficiently on sustainable structures".
Maybe the minister, like his predecessors, has been dreaming, but his dreams are still far from being realised. Faced with increasing population and dilapidated infrastructure, Abuja is no more than a city of two worlds - the developed city centre and the undeveloped satellite towns. The former comprises less than 5 per cent of the 713 square kilometres of land that the Timothy Akinola Aguda panel visualised for the FCT in 1975. The latter is largely deprived of basic amenities: water, electricity, good roads. Even a large part of the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) remains undeveloped due to a combination of lack of infrastructure and the frustration of developers seeking approval of building plans by the Development Control unit.
Ownership of the Federal Capital Territory is vested on the federal government and it was envisioned "as a neutral, central place that could be home to all, as opposed to Lagos that had become congested by traffic and people". Limiting development activities to the city centre and leaving the suburbs or the five other area councils of Abaji, Bwari, Gwagwalada, Kuje and Kwali is unacceptable.
Unplanned satellite towns devoid of basic amenities would compromise the urbane city centre that successive regimes have glamourised and undermine the aspirations of the founding fathers of a model FCT. Abuja was not conceived as home only to the affluent and influential people. It has become the fastest-growing city in West Africa and a hub for socio-political and economic activities in the sub-region. These, of course, generate struggles over electricity, good road network, decent accommodation and running water. The security implications are equally legion.
Abuja can become the land of opportunities only if Minister Mohammed redoubles his efforts by expanding infrastructural facilities in the edge towns. Ultimately, his administration will be judged by the infrastructure enjoyed by residents of the city, not the number of "illegal" structures it has demolished. The Abuja poor, too, should live in comfort.