opinionBy Mohammed Inuwa
Although Bala Mohammed, the incumbent Minister of the FCT is not as cruel and as effusively hypocritical as some of his recent predecessors, he too is not free of management by shamanism in running the show. His worst appears to be lack of effective supervision of those working under him. Subsequently, many of the departments under the FCDA in particular have gone nuclear in arbitrariness and, in short, malicious efficiency.
This is the only way to understand the confusion that several departments of the FCDA working across purpose have introduced into the fairly straightforward issue of resettling indigenous elements of Abuja at Apo Resettlement Village. Within the first few weeks of the new year, residents in the estate woke up to see red signs on virtually every building in the estate, indicating that something was wrong with one structure or another. The surprise in it, was the fact that, among the structures earmarked for whatever, are the Chief's Palace, the Skills Acquisition Centre, the Women Development Centre and many of the prototype houses. This meant one arm of the FCDA was marking structures designed, awarded and supervised by another arm of the same FCDA for demolition. What a statement in disarray in the FCDA under the FCT! For, the Chief's Palace is a government building, designed, awarded and supervised by the Public Works Department of the FCDA. Now, it has been questioned by Development Control, another arm of the same FCDA. And that is the same story with the Women Development Centre, the Skills Acquisition Centre and the prototype houses. How could any bureaucracy demonstrate this level of lack of synergy in their operations?
Why is it possible for the minister to have any inkling that this is the confusion raging under him? Why wouldn't the Development Control Department of the FCDA liaise with the Department of Resettlement and involve the Site Office in what they are trying to do in the case of Apo Resettlement but instead conduct itself separately and mostly in a way that is bound to provoke crisis sooner than later.
Before 1992, the original Gbyagi people resided where the CBN Quarters, Tantalizers and a ministerial Private House stand today in Garki. In fact, Tantalizers today was standing on the site of the primary school then. In 1992, they were relocated to where Lagos Street is now. From 2005, they were relocated again to the present estate at Apo. Just as people were about to settle down, then the current markings came up. This means that without finishing the project of the relocation, they have brought in marking of houses for demolition, houses and structures designed and built by departments of the same FCDA. It seems very clear that some clever civil servants are manipulating the project towards a situation where government will have no choice than think about another relocation. But, this time, nobody will accept another relocation because this has not been completed. No new relocation will be accepted because whatever problems are there now, have not come from the indigenes and citizens but from inter and intra-departmental rivalry and useless test of strength between FCDA's Department of Resettlement, Engineering, the Public Works Department and Development Control Department who are all quarrelling because of their own greed. They are testing their unchecked and unsupervised powers on the poor, mistreated and mostly hapless indigenes and citizens.
The plots at Apo Resettlement Village are all compensation plots, irrespective of the type and there are three of them. What is the meaning of the word compensation in relation to what Development Control is doing now?
It is important to refer to history in all these. There was a time Development Control outlawed fencing in the estate. The day they went to demolish the fences, the boys beat them up. The Police officer who led his men there that day told his men to protect government property but stay away from any other business there. The FCDA staff on that thoughtless mission got the beating of their life. When the matter went to the Minister of FCT and who is still the incumbent, he said there was no stopping of one form of fencing or the other and that what FCDA could do was to provide a model which must be used by everyone fencing his or her building. That is why the fences across the estate are basically the same.
What this illustrates is the argument that the departments in FCDA are working across purpose, many of the sectional heads have no capacity for deep thinking and are very, very insensitive and they end up provoking situations which could easily lead to breakdown of law and order as shown above. Municipal management principles and rules made for man, not the other way round. How could any government department in Nigeria of today in the month of January proceed to go and mark buildings for demolition, the alternative to which costs nothing less than half a million naira at a time like this? Isn't there something malicious and silly about it? Couldn't this have been preceded by some dialogue and notification, even if the FCDA were on sure grounds?
Development Control seems to have gone out of control within the FCDA. That was the department that insisted on imposing charges for any other structure. It was countered by Resettlement Department at the meeting on the issue, times back, on the ground that it was not proper to charge for extra structures when it is a resettlement underlined by compensation. At the end of the day, it was decided that in an ideal urban setting, a token must be paid. It was an acceptable compromise but a compromise loaded against the occupants who are, strictly speaking, not urbanites but communal people. while it is true that Apo Resettlement Village of today is much, much more cosmopolitan than planned, the original concept of a resettlement should not be lost in deciding policies thereon because there are villagers there who would be at the receiving end of something too complex than they can cope with.
By all means, all buildings which are patently sub-standard or have no building plans must be corrected but who says that the only manner of correction is an FCDA sign indicating demolition? And must we do this with bus loads of heavily armed mobile policemen? Could FCDA give peace a chance, please?
Mohammed Inuwa Garki wrote in from Garki New Village, Apo