interviewBy Safiya I. Dantiye and Nuruddeen M. Abdallah
Hajiya Jamilah Tangaza is the Senior Special Assistant on Information Management Systems to the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Senator Bala Abdulkadir Muhammad. In this interview held at the Media Trust Corporate headquarters Abuja, Tangaza said the FCT administration has evolved new measures of accelerating development in the federal capital city and area councils through the minister's lands swap initiative, satellite towns development, demolition of shanty towns and others. Excerpts:-
Abuja originally meant for 1.5 million people
Let me start by saying that Abuja is a developing city. It was conceived some 36 years ago to be a purpose-built city. Purpose built city means that everything will be laid out carefully to take the physical need, social need, economic need of the residents of the new emerging world class city. That was the idea. When Abuja was built then, it was built with the belief that the population of the residents will be about 1.5 million. Since that time things have changed. Whereas, Abuja was built to be a world class city, perhaps, what was not taken into consideration was the fact that there may be possibility of population explosion. People may be trooping into the capital for one reason or the other. That is the reality we have today.
Since Nigeria's return to democracy some 13 years ago, we have influx of people because like we always argued since my days as journalist, all the politicians, legislators that come from all parts of Nigeria, they would come with retinue of their people, their helps, and assistants. And after four years when their tenure would have expired, those people hardly go back to their original states. They remain in the federal capital. And a new set of people would come. That has been persisting, if you like, and we have four sets so far since Nigeria's return to democracy.
Apart from that, because of the economic challenges we are facing across Nigeria, because of the social problems we are facing across Nigeria, a lot of people are now moving to Abuja. This is because they can see that there is lot more opportunities in the capital. People come here to seek jobs, people come here to seek ways of earning livelihood, and people come here in search of greener pastures. Also, in the last 18 months people come here to escape insecurity, particularly from parts of Nigeria that are currently facing security challenges. These are some of the socio-economic realities that are prompting people to converge at the centre.
And don't forget, going back to what I have said earlier, the fact that the city was built with the notion that there will be 1.5 million people meant that the infrastructure, the services were done maximally to provide for those number of people. What we are confronted with today, is the fact that people have to use the same infrastructure and services that were meant to service 1.5 million people.
Influx of people to Abuja
We have in-house indices done by the Economic Planning and Research of the FCT which says that 100, 000 people come into the FCT on daily basis. Of the 100,000 that come in, 10, 000 people remain in the FCT whether they have roofs over their heads or not. So if you are to make a rough estimate, you will see that the number of people that come into the FCT per month and multiply by 12 tends not to be in ratio with one, the infrastructure, two services and three the budgetary allocation that is required to even expand the services and infrastructure in the city. That is the challenge the current administration is facing in the FCT.
Bala Muhammad's lands swap initiative
And how do we deal with this challenge? The honorable Minister of the FCT Senator Bala Muhammad has realized that one, the changing demographics, two the pressure on the existing infrastructure and services, three the paucity of funds present us with a huge challenges. How do we go about it? Well, a new challenge that cropped up recently is that of security which we must include. The first way of going about it is to have a very clear road map as to how to confront these. And the minister has come up with a road map for sustainable infrastructure and service development for the federal capital. What is different from all the previous road maps is the fact that the current minister is engaging the private sector in providing infrastructure and services because the government alone cannot do it. And that is why the minister is firm to push through his lands swap initiative which has been signed up at the Federal Executive Council, and the federal Economic Management Team has given my minister the nod to go ahead. This is an initiative in which new districts will be opened so that infrastructure and services would be provided to the teeming population of the city. It has just started. It is something that you will begin to see come to fruition in one year or 18 months. It is certain that something significant, proactive and substantive is happening for the first time in the history of the capital city.
Demolition of shanty towns and settlements
The issue of shanty towns, unfortunately like I said, the reality is that people keep coming in. When people come and they don't have a place to stay they start up with sleeping under the bridges. After that gradually they get some money and erect these houses in shanty areas. Go and have a look at the shanty towns and the Abuja master plan, they are not there. But these shanty towns were created by people who have come in search of greener pastures. But unfortunately, the truth of the matter is, because the president has one, signed up the New Satellite Towns Development Agency and provided a budget which is being overseeing by the FCT Minister of State Chief Oloye Olajumoke Akinjide.
The development of the satellite towns falls under the schedule of the minister of state. She has been given the tasks of developing all the area councils in the FCT. Thorough the minister's lands swap initiative in conjunction with the private sector; you will begin to see accelerated development in the area councils. You will soon begin to see houses, services- which mean that Abuja will be beautiful and we will rid ourselves of shanty houses. And the recent problem we have which is insecurity will be a thing of the past. Unfortunately that is the reality though I hate to paint a gloomy picture. But the good news is that there are beautiful, tangible and proactive measures that are being taken in the satellite towns' development agency and Bala Muhammad lands swap initiative. That is the reality.