Nigeria: Mixed Reactions As El-Rufai Begins Urban Renewal Project

16 December 2019

Kaduna — Mixed reactions have greeted a massive infrastructure development project in Kaduna State launched by the Governor Nasir el-Rufai administration.

In June, about a month after taking second oath of office, Governor el-Rufai signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) for the road component of what the administration tagged the "Kaduna Urban Renewal Project."

The governor explained later that the project is to accelerate urbanisation of Kaduna City.

Kaduna City, he said, straddles four local government areas of Kaduna North, Kaduna South, Chikun and Igabi and is projected to accommodate almost half of the state's population.

"We don't want to lose time, and by the grace of God in 18 months we will have a new Kaduna; new roads and less congestion and less traffic problems and more people will have plots to build their homes in the new area of Kaduna that is as good as any part of the world, and this is just the first step," he said.

Since then, the sleepy state capital has jumped to life with many activities going on as bulldozers, graders and caterpillars have moved to various sites almost all at once.

Many residents likened what is happening in Kaduna to a re-enactment of then El-Rufai as minister of the Federal Capital Territory when he demolished many illegal structures in the nation's capital and opened up new areas while constructing many roads and buildings that changed the outlook of Abuja.

As the construction workers commenced work on many sites, the state government made it clear that it would sustain the initiative by making the project part of its 2020 budget.

The governor had earlier said during the signing of the MOU with the Chinese that the urban renewal project would be the most comprehensive in the history of the state.

He explained that Kaduna city has grown tremendously in the 100 years since its founding but that public infrastructure in the city had not kept pace with the vast increase in its population while infrastructure had not followed its expansion into new districts either.

Details of the project indicate that it has 14 components among which are roads, mass transit, housing, improved land use, street lights, parks and recreational centres, markets, neighbourhood centres and waste management.

The governor explained that "This will have a multiplier effect on housing, business and social development. It is also expected to promote integration across communities and enhance unity."

He said the renewal project will begin with the construction of seven new roads spanning 23.4kms within Kaduna metropolis adding that "all the roads selected are based on the Max Lock Master-plan for Kaduna city," and that 14 existing roads would also be dualised or upgraded.

Giving further details about the project, the governor also explained that "New roads will connect Kabala Costain to Aliyu Makama Road in Barnawa and Malali to College Road. A new 9.65kms road will connect Rabah Road to Nnamdi Azikiwe Road (the Western By-pass), with a link to the Rigasa train station.

"Another 5.73km road will connect the Umaru Musa Yar'Adua road in Millennium City to the Eastern By-pass. While the urban renewal project will dualise Waff Road, from NEPA Roundabout to Essence Junction.

"It will also dualise Yakubu Gowon Way and build an underpass at Leventis Roundabout. Several other roads will be upgraded, including Alkali Road, Tafawa Balewa, Swimming Pool Road, Poly Road to Dutsenma Road via Kasuwan Barci Roundabout, Kinshasha Road, Katuru Road, and Shehu Laminu to Ramat Road in Ungwan Rimi. The 4km Nasarawa to Flour Mill road will also be completed."

He said government has been assured that the Malali-College Road will be delivered within 12 months while many of the other roads would be delivered over a 24-month time frame.

To pave way for the project, many buildings, especially side shops on major streets like Waff Road, Alkali Road, Katuru Road, Yakowa Road and others were pulled down.

Many roads have also been shut temporally for work, causing inconveniences to road users who are compelled to use other routes to get to their various destinations.

However, the reactions to the developments have so far been mixed. Residents of communities around Yakowa Road in Kamazo Area of Chikun Local Government Area whose houses would be affected by the exercise are not happy.

The residents say about 300 houses would be affected if the government continues with the demolition in communities like Karji, Babban Saura, Old Kamazo, Janruwa and Unguwar Mai Gero areas.

Yusuf Zomo, one of the community leaders in Old Kamazo who spoke at a news briefing, said the residents were not issued notices by the authorities before some of the houses were demolished.

"We were all shocked when we saw them around 1:30am on Thursday, asking us to vacate our houses. We have never witnessed something like this in our lives. About 300 houses would be demolished and nobody came to tell us why we should leave our houses because there have been no notice to that effect," he said.

But the Kaduna State chapter of Inter-Party Advisory Council of Nigeria, (IPAC), commended Governor El-Rufa'i saying he is giving the state a facelift through the urban renewal projects.

IPAC chairman in the state, Alhaji Ibrahim A. Suleiman, said the promise made by the governor that all urban renewal projects in the state would be completed in 18 months is a welcome development.

He added that the move by the Malam el-Rufai government was determined to create a new Kaduna as the present city has become congested with more than three million people.

He assured the governor of the support of Inter-Party Advisory Council of Nigeria (IPAC) in his move to transform the state for the better.

The Kaduna State Urban Planning Development Agency (KASUPDA) on its part explained it was demolishing structures across the state, for the expansion of roads under the project.

The director, Urban Planning and Research of the agency, Mr Omega Jacob, said the demolition was also aimed at providing modern infrastructure in the state capital to boost economic development.

"There is no form of compensation to the shop operators as they were issued temporary allocations which were not renewed this year," he said, adding that "several shops have been earmarked and owners given quit notice as stipulated by the law. It is 21 days' notice before demolition under the first phase, subsequently other shops will be affected."

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