Can Wike Deliver on Abuja

by Bob MajiriOghene Etemiku

On August 21st 2023, shortly after he was sworn in as Federal Capital City, FCT, Minister, Nyesom Wike, immediate past governor of Rivers State gave a press briefing. In that brief, he announced that as the new Sherriff in town and therefore like a Heracles, he is intent on cleaning the stable of King Augeas that Abuja has become. It is my hope that readers know the story behind the encounter between Heracles, the demigod, and King Augeas. According to Greek Mythology, (again I hope readers are able to connect this story with Nigeria), a certain King Augeas owned a stable which had not been cleaned for many years. Because the stench from his stable began to affect the people, King Augeas requested Heracles or Hercules to assist with the task of cleaning the stables on condition that if Heracles achieved the task in one day, he would own one-tenth of the cattle in the King’s stable. There was another agreement that if he failed in that task, his life and fortune would revert to the King. At the end though, Heracles successfully cleaned the stable using very unconventional methods of diverting the currents of two rivers through that stable.

It is important at this point to situate both Mr Wike and his principal, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Both men belong to two different political affiliations, and by giving the task of cleaning up Abuja to one in an opposite camp gives the impression that the one is a democrat who is prepared to do all it takes to get the job done.  While the one looks like today’s King Augeas in that he presides over a Nigeria greatly in need of respite from the rot and stench of yesteryears, the other certainly struck the pose of a demigod during his press briefing in Abuja on 21st August 2023.  It was not the things he said he was going to do but in the manner in which he said he was going to do so that caught the attention of Nigerians. In summary, the Minister said that part of his short term goals would be the provision of security, the restoration of the Abuja Masterplan and the functioning of essential services like street lights, green areas, demolition of illegal markets, motor-parks and the reintroduction of the Abuja Mass transport System.

‘We must bring the FCT back to what it is supposed to be. It is not going to be business as usual.  There have been many complaints that the FCT is not working and not the FCT of the founding fathers. Now is the time to make the FCT to compete with other cities of the world.

‘In short and medium terms, we will tackle issues of security. We will provide the necessary logistics to security agencies; we will not tolerate indiscriminate situation of markets, motor-parks and bus stops. In recent times, Abuja has now resembled a slum city with terrible sanitation, with refuse littering the city centre.

‘For those distorting the Abuja Master plan, we will demolish structure on Green Areas and recreational Centres. The period of land racketeering in Abuja is over, and those who have Certificates of Occupancy, C of O, but are yet to build of those lands are likely to lose those allocations’, Mr Wike said during the press briefing’, Mr Wike said.

At this point though, it would be very important to understand what Abuja is and what it stands for both in the context of this discussion and in the context of the February 2023 presidential elections. According to a memo to the FCT that we have gotten hold of, Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, is administered by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as the Chief Executive of the FCT. He exercises executive powers over the territory through a Minister. The City has its own High Courts and laws made by the National Assembly.  The FCT, established in 1976, comprising lands vested in the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is designed to function like one of the states of the federation under section 299 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.  Administration and management of the Federal Capital Territory presents a unique model that should commend itself to the states. Unlike the case of State Governments where the Governors are the absolute sovereigns, the Federal Capital Territory is run by two separate but mutually dependent authorities – the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) headed by a Minister, assisted by a Minister of State, and the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) manned by an Executive Secretary. Whereas the Minister of the FCTA reports to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, his appointer, the Executive Secretary reports to a Board Chaired by the Honourable Minister of the FCTA.

Now, the memo states that the FCTA was created in December, 2004 to replace the Ministry of the Federal Capital Territory and to restructure and streamline the ministry’s operations along the lines of Mandate Secretariats – Education, Transport, Agriculture and Rural Development, Health and Human Services, Social Development, Legal Services and Area Council. These Mandate Secretariats are administered like State Ministries. However, instead of Commissioners, they are headed by Secretaries who run them on behalf of the Honourable Minister of the FCTA. The appointment of the Secretaries considers the principles of Federal Character. Besides these Secretaries, the Director of the Land Department, the Administrator of Abuja Environmental Protection Board, and that of Abuja Geographical Information System also report directly to the Minister. The FCT Minister formulates and presents the Policies of the FCT to the National Executive Council and the National Assembly.

According to the FCT Memo, Abuja has 69 Districts. Of that number, only 10 have been developed. Phase 1 has eight districts – Asokoro District; Central Business District; Garki 1 District; Garki II District; Guzape District; Maitama District; Wuse District; Wuse II District. With the exception of Guzape, the other seven are developed. Of the 14 districts that make up Phase 2, only two – Jabi and Utako are halfway developed. Out of the 11 districts that make up Phase 3, only Gwarimpa is developed. None of the 17 districts in Phase 4 is developed. Lugbe and Kubwa are the two suburban districts that have some modicum of development. Development here is more in the sense that they have been built upon and not in the sense of meeting the standards of the original plans and having the required infrastructure and interaction for sustainable development.

Abuja currently experiences ‘practical’ challenges in the area of Housing, integrated Transportation systems and traffic management, Urban design, greening, Waste disposal and functional drainage systems to prevent flooding health care delivery at the primary, secondary and tertiary health care levels, potable water supply and environmental sanitation Security of lives and property, Energy and regular power generation, distribution and supply.

Part of what the said FCT memo indicated could be done to  solve the seeming intractable problems of the FCT includes a robust tax regime on Land Acquisition Fees, Development Levies, business Licenses, Commercial Building Permits,  Property and Land Value Taxes, Road Licence fees /Tolls, Hotel Levy, Cesspit Emptying Fees, Taxi, Pickup and Lorry Fees, Advertising Fee (Billboards/signs and signages), Market Dues/Stalls Rent, Building Plans Fees Intoxicating Liquor Licences, Scaffolding Fees, Refuse/Solid/Liquid waste Collection Charges, Motor Vehicle Parking Fees, Entertainment Levy, Hiring Out of Public Spaces and Facilities, By-law Permits Charges, Abattoir Slaughter Fees, Water Pipe Installation Fees, Water Rates, Storm Water Drainage Fee, Cattle Market Charges, Taxi Registration Fees Burial Fees Fire Service Fees, Stray Animals Fine, Playing Grounds Fees Park and Gardens Concession Fees.

The memo recommended the application of Public Private Partnership (PPP) in Financing and Developing the FCT. Part of the memo to the FCT read that the FCTA/FCDA may be advised to resort to PPP in the development of the infrastructure of the rest of the undeveloped districts of the FCT. The grant of lands to estate developers has not been well managed, and has created the lopsidedness, lack of cohesion and asymmetric development of the FCT from the Abuja (Central) city, to the estates, towns and the suburbs. Through PPP the FCTA (the policy formulator and driver) and the FCDA (policy executor) can partner with Private investors first to make the districts self-financing and to develop the necessary infrastructure for the efficiency and sustainability of the districts. Without PPP it will be a miracle for the districts to develop and sustain themselves. The FCTA has a PPP Agency which can be galvanized to source for private investors and ensure that PPPs meet the standards of the relevant Federal regulatory body for PPPs.

So you see, solving Abuja’s problems is not by bluster, threats and intimidation of those perceived to have carried out some infractions or contravened the Masterplan. It is not about chasing cows away from the city centre to the suburbs. It takes a resolute application of firmness and a political will supported by the instruments of the law across board to get Abuja to work. We believe that Mr Wike can get the job done, having once served here in Abuja as Education Minister and as a governor of one of the richest oil states in Nigeria. We believe as well that he started very badly with that press briefing where he basically threatened to ride roughshod on Nigerians living in Abuja. Mr Wike can from now speak less, do more, and put in place a strong media team at the print, and electronic levels that would have the mandate to publicize his efforts and activities at getting Abuja, not back to its ‘lost glory’, but to get it to meet at least some of the UN set of Sustainable Development Goals as a place where there is clean energy, water and sanitation, decent work and economic growth, industry, innovation and infrastructure, reduced inequalities, peace, justice and strong institutions.

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