ANOTHER LAGOS IN THE MAKING?
The same congestion that spurred the initiation of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja may yet have overridden the nation again as the 5th August, 1975 Justice Akinola Aguda panel chosen FCT seems to daily take on a Lagos look
It will be recalled that the congestion witnessed in Lagos as the nations capital then in those days gave rise to the then Head of State, Late Gen. Murtala Mohammed’s decision to relocate the nation’s capital to a much more conducive location. A panel was then set up to look into the possibilities and consequently Abuja was chosen amongst a number of choices owing to its central positioning. The Babangida regime actualized the dream however, as Gen. Murtala was denied conclusion when he was untimely murdered. The seat of power was eventually moved to Abuja from Lagos by Gen. Ibrahim Babangida in 1991 and that saw a gradual development of a model city, a master plan was drawn up by the likes of Prof. Akin Mabogunje, Sir Peter Okolo and a host of other city builders. The development of the city began in earnest but was slow and the master plan was not adhered to as it became buried in the labyrinths of selfish administrations and military over-impositions that nearly raped the nation to its end while the search for the proverbial Golden Fleece had led to a population explosion within the city even overlapping into neighbouring states like Niger and Nasarawa States.
The 1999 emergence of Democracy in the person of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo however resurrected the master plan through the recently embattled determined minion giant Minister of the FCT under Obj’s administration; Mallam Nasir El’Rufai, this administration attempted to decongest the FCT as much as possible and revert to the long ostracized master plan by initiating several policies such as the ever so controversial Demolition exercise which to many had no human face though it was meant to better the lot of the nation as the ghettos grew increasingly while the city got cleaned up. These ghettos would remind one of a typical Lagos setting owing to the fact that most of the residences are nothing but mere shacks. Indigenes or lucky landowners took advantage of the homelessness of many to exploitingly enrich themselves. Demolition-free accommodation within Abuja costs a minimum of two-hundred and fifty thousand naira per year including agent fees for a single room while in these suburbs called satellite towns a single room costs from between twenty thousand Naira a year no agent fees. Since most of these demolition-distressed people belong to the lower and middle-class civil servant and artisan category, what they earn is barely enough to cater for their day to day domestic responsibilities so they are forced to opt for this alternative. Non negligible though is the fact that these people constitute the machineries that runs and maintains the FCT.
El’Rufai also closed the door on motorcycle taxi (Okada) business further plunging the lower class deeper into the dungeon of misery. It was recorded that in response to the outcry, the out-gone Minister was quoted as saying, Abuja was not meant for the poor. The question that comes readily to mind is, who is meant to be poor?
Abuja today witnesses a terrible transportation strain as the routes plied by the provided “El’Rufai buses” that came in at the exit of the Okadas remain within the commercial road network and as such has failed to address the domestic routes the erstwhile okadas effectively eased Neither has the introduction of the black and green cabs, London Taxis et.al, done much to ease the mounting stress of movement in the FCT. These cabs cost a fortune for the common man, ranging between five hundred to five thousand naira per drop depending on where you are headed. The local private taxi/personal vehicles (kabukabus) also have their field days making the most of the situation with two hundred Naira as the barest introduction of minimum fare per drop. It is now a usual scene, a daily routine to witness long queues at the major bus stops in town; people waiting for never on time “el’rufai” buses.
The road network to the major satellite towns where the majority of Abuja civil servants reside is also constantly riddled with terrible hold ups in the early hours of the day as well as during closing hours. The roads to Kubwa and Maraba, Nyanya (In Nassarawa State) falls within this category.
Frantic efforts, according to the Engineering department of the FCT, are being made to create a bridge at the A.Y.A. roundabout leading to the said Mararaba-Nyanya axis. It was however gathered that the work had been slowed down due to the existence of power and telecom facilities that was said to be so heavy it could paralyze the city if tampered with. Meanwhile, while the FCT had commenced the dualization of the other two entrances; the Northern and the Eastern routes into Abuja, namely Lugbe/Airport Express and Suleja/Kubwa express roads, the situation is yet to show any sign of ease as population seems to be growing by the second.
Recent research revealed that the population of adults around the ages of 50 and above have increased as working class children now prefer to relocate their aged ones to the capital city in protection from the insecurities the Nation has been experiencing in the South-South, South-West, East and Northern states. i.e. Riots and civil unrests in Jos, Borno and Bauchi States as well as kidnappings in the South-South regions just to highlight a few. This has also informed the relocation of many youths and young adults in recent times to Abuja despite that the capital city too has experienced two bomb blasts in the last six months!
Another Lagos site that meets the eyes about Abuja, is the springing markets that shows up everywhere. Attributed to the fallout of El-Rufai’s clean-up of illegal structures which included market reorganizations as well, most of the mobile traders would claim that they were shop owners in the Markets before demolition but are now left “shopless” and without any means of livelihood. To which end you will see traders in their hundreds beside major roads in the city, displaying their wares on the ground! The frantic efforts of the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) through its task force has continuously seemed inadequate. It is not uncommon to witness the sudden scurrying of traders grabbing their wares and seeking the nearest available shelter at the sight of a bus carrying men and youths/thugs in plainclothes as has been the practice of the task-force. Reports have it however that these Task force team also take advantage of the traders to make money. They are said to demand a minimum of N15, 000 from any trader who gets caught.
Abujans are watching with crossed fingers now hoping that the new FCT minister will make amends where his predecessors left off. Several though, opine that the concept of decongestion which brought about the FCT, in the first place may have been buried with the seeming emergence of another Lagos in the FCT.