Nigeria Matters

Abuja's Future Megacity Status

The Abuja master plan has been the “trap-guy” upon whom all the blames for the destruction of illegal structures in the city and its adjoining satellite towns have been heaped on. More than ever, El-Rufai has been given the toga of a villain than the “reformer” he would wont to be remembered for because he it was who gave orders to the bulldozers to go wage war against illegal structures in Abuja and its environs.

No one who visits Abuja would deny the positive impacts of Rufai’s chequered efforts to sanitize and supervised a phased and orderly development of Abuja according to the spirit and tenets of the master plan which previous FCT Ministers flouted unabashedly. Now we are reaping the fruits of the wild oats they sowed with indiscretion. Though El-Rufai is taking the blame for the illegal structures that have been down and many more that have been marked for slaughter and maiming by the bulldozers of FCDA, however, the responsibility for all this mess cannot be heaped on the lone shoulders of the amiable Rufai. While I am not a stooge or protégé of Rufai, I commend his courage to try to fix things as we cannot continue to live as a nation where rules, precepts and order are thrown overboard for the free rein of lawlessness.

It’s disheartening that while efforts to sanitize Abuja are going on, there are no assurances that the satellite towns will develop at the same pace. The FCT authorities and the Federal Government should realize that the development of the epicenter at the expense of the satellite towns would ultimately make a mockery of the concerted efforts of today in the nearest future. The reality on ground shows that if pro-active measures are not taken, and urgently too, Abuja would become a chaotic city which Lagos has turned into. What with the fast-paced rural-urban migration which Abuja has been witnessing based on its status as the place in Nigeria where “things happen”. Abuja’s ambience and attraction is irresistible to any first comer. But this pales when one settles down to face the reality of high cost of living in the city.

While the city centre has a preponderance of well planned streets and well-sculpted buildings, there are lots of adjoining shanties that dampen the beauty that Abuja exudes.Such clusters which insults one’s sense of aesthetics dot the landscape from Lugbe , to Utako, Nyanya, Mbape, and many other shanty villages that circumscribe the city.This is obvious from the skyline, as one cruises through Airport Road into the welcoming arms of this interesting city. Abuja city centre is turning into a sibling of Victoria Island and Ikoyi where all the business and commercial activities hold in Lagos. As the “island” draws a pull of human traffic from the mainland in Lagos on a daily basis, so is Abuja city centre doing on a daily basis. For instance, the Nyanya-Keffi Expressway is becoming clogged and snaky like the typical Lagos road as workers stream to work every morning from the shanty towns of Nyanya-Mararaba. Same reality is replicated at the close of work on a daily basis, and this is worsening as the demolitions continue at Karimu and Apo area of Abuja.

It has become common site to see truckloads of belongings heading to Nyanya-Mararaba from the city centre after the bulldozers have ended their unbidden visitation. Consequently, Mararaba has overnight turned into a “glorified village” with the trappings of a ghetto reminiscent of Ajegunle and former Marako in Lagos. The population density is increasing disproportionately with little of infrastructural development to match the human needs that abound. While the “satellite towns” like Mararaba, Ado, Masaka etc are geographically located in Nasarawa state, the inhabitants however work in Abuja. They are like refugees who scampered to safety away from Abuja where living cost especially accommodation cannot be met by the average worker. However, this “haven of refuge” for about 50% of “Abuja workers” is turning fast into a “house of horror” because the conditions of living are very deplorable to say the least. The houses follow no plan and are cluttered together with little spaces in between; there are no laid-out streets, and environmental conditions are deplorable enough to pose public health threats to the populace.

One would have expected the Nasarawa state government to be proactive enough to have foreclosed this ugly development. Rather than act, all that Nasarawa state did was to only erect a pillar and post at the border of Abuja and Nasarawa State to deter El-Rufai’s hungry bulldozers from crossing into their territory. Worse still, the population density is increasing by the day with no concomitatant infrastructural development. One would have expected that the Nasarawa government would liaise with the FCT administration to form a joint-development committee that would manage the developmental realities that the inhabitants are facing to avoid the catch-22 that has marked Lagos out as a “city-slum”.

If concerted efforts are not taken by the government to painstakingly plan and systematically build decent and affordable houses for the working class, the developing satellite towns would eventually become Abuja’s main albatross in the nearest future. With the rate of population growth that Abuja is witnessing, chances are that the visible separation between the city centre and the satellite towns would be subsequently reduced like is evident in Lagos state which has gradually fused with Ogun where a lot “Lagosians” now live. For any nation to experience a holistic infrastrural development, the suburbs and the cities must “live and let live” else the centre cannot hold as Chinua Achebe has told us in “Things Fall Apart”. As a matter of urgency and social responsibility, the government must show commitment to its social contract of delivering the dividends of democracy which it harps about with horns and pipes. On provision of affordable hosuing for Abuja dwellers is one of those unrealized dividends which we anxiously look forward to before the curtain falls on this democratic dispensation.

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