Conversations With Abang Mercy – Spotlight On Abuja And The Land Swap Scheme by Sen Bala Mohammed’s administration.
Abuja is witnessing a series of innovations in the city management, there are several ongoing projects that will transform the city by not only making it livable, but one of the best 20 cities by the year 2020. In this edition of the Conversation with Abang Mercy Series, an aide to the FCT Minister on project Inspection and Monitoring Prince Ajah Nwabueze elucidates on the Centenary City project, the Abuja Light Rail project, the Land swap model and other landmark innovations across the city.
Abuja is one of the most important cities in Africa, in terms of infrastructural development is anything happening in Abuja? What are the achievements of the minister since he assumed office?
The Honorable Minster, Senator Bala Mohammed has promised the residents of the Federal Capital territory, that the comprehensive infrastructural development and the making of Abuja into one of the best 20 cities by the year 2020 are paramount to him. And of course the comprehensive infrastructural development is both developing the city and the satellite towns. These are the major issues paramount to him; he did not only promise but has embarked on the project by providing comprehensive development in six districts.
The districts include katampe, Jayi, Wuye, Maitama extension, Goodluck district and Kagini. These six district infrastructural development is unprecedented transformation which has never happened in the Federal Capital Territory where a minister is simultaneously developing six districts at the same time.
And of course outside the development of the six districts, he has made sure that all the ongoing projects he met on assumption, he is making sure that the projects are completed. Some of the projects include the airport road, the ten lane Kubwa express road, the B6B12, the toll gate amongst other projects he met are completed.
All over the world, the infrastructure development economies are being driven by the private sector. He brought about the PPP to ensure the private sector is part of the development. We did PPP in Mabuchi, PPP in Dalaskaraway, PPP in katampe, these are major areas he brought about the PPP. And of course we can’t mention the PPP without mentioning the Church gate, the world trade center, the world trade center is one of the major landmark achievements of the Minister where the world trade center is being powered by the church gate investment. If you go there now, there are already about twenty seven story building, it’s going to get a number of offices and guest houses. These are major infrastructural developments he has brought in place in the Federal Capital Territory among other things that he has done as far as infrastructural development is concern.
Can you be specific about the landmark achievements of course you have mentioned a few but narrow it to what readers can relate to as residents are skeptical about the level of development in Abuja?
The landmark achievements of the Minister cannot be talked about without the Land Swap system and the PPP driven economy and more importantly driving the infrastructural development through the private sector. The land swap model of the Minister has attracted investors both locally and internationally. It is a system of the World Bank that is being used to expand the city. Looking at the Federal Capital Territory, the influx of people has become so much that the existing infrastructure is being over stretched, as a result the Minister embarked on the projects to ensure that the city is opened up through the private sector driven infrastructural development.
Can you explain the land swap Model by Senator Bala Mohammed and how it seeks to address the growing challenges of Abuja?
The land swap model of the Minister, Senator Bala Mohammed, is a well developed initiative of his administration. The Minister is interested in making sure that the Federal Capital Territory becomes one of the best cities by the year 2020. The land swap model is a process whereby investors with the financial and technical capacity are coming onboard to invest in the Infrastructural development model, where you take a district like Maitama or Asokoro, and then you give to the investor then the investor provides both the primary, secondary and tertiary infrastructure within those districts. And then take land in return as a substitute to the money invested. What I mean is that as the provider, land will be exchanged with the investments put in place in a certain infrastructure. You will ask me, I hope the investment will be of the same quality and standard; yes the investors are going to develop these districts in line with the master plan and in line with the model of other districts developed. This will be done with all the embedded facility like sewage water underground, electrical dot, telecom dot, street lights, everything will be embedded underground not on a surface level.
Driving at night in Abuja is a nightmare as almost all the streets lights are not functional, there is also the case of hawkers littering the major roads with goods while in some other places, they have taking over the pedestrian bridges to sell their wares . Is the ministry still implementing the master plan?
The master plan of the Federal Capital Territory is very paramount to the Honorable Minister, Senator Bala Mohammed. That is the reason why he immediately stepped into action by demolishing shanties that aren’t in line with the master plan, he approved for the shanties to be demolished; upholding the master plan guides the minister in all he does as the master plan is a guiding document for the federal capital development of Abuja and making the place the dream of our founding fathers.
He has demolished and removed a lot of shanties, all those buildings you use to see along the airport road have been removed and wherever you see shanties built in Maitama, Asokoro, un-accommodated structures not in line with our master plan are being removed. Over twenty four thousand shanties have been removed by the minister.
What are your plans in Abuja as it concerns the transport system and the removal of Araba busses, you still see Nigerians in their numbers waiting endlessly at the bus stops for buses that are not available.
The transport policy of the minister is in line with his vision of making Abuja one of the best cities by the year 2020. He came up with a robust transport policy that will meet the Abuja challenges of course bring onboard the high capacity buses, having a major bus terminal that will carry people to the respective mini-terminal. The mini-terminal is where the small taxes are going to take people to their respective location. You can see the banning of the “Araba” buses has given way for the high capacity buses taking people from the major terminal to the mini-terminal. This has given Abuja a serene environment, traffic congestion has been removed, accident free FCT has been recorded. And of course the residents are happy with the achievements. The minister has the people in mind, he went further to include the owners of the “araba” buses that were removed from operating in the city with the SURE-P taxis to shuttle from the mini terminals. The robust transport system of the honorable minister of the FCT is unprecedented and is working excellently.
How sufficient are the buses?
The buses are sufficient enough because he has opened up the transport industry, opened for the private sector to drive the transport system. There are about six leasing companies who have come onboard to get the high capacity buses to operate as the market is there for them, with the population. You can see that Abuja is bounded by six states, Kogi, Nassarawa, Niger, Kaduna etc. The model of the transport system in the Federal Capital Territory is working because people are participating in the industry. And outside the leasing company and high capacity buses, the minister launched a light rail; major transit station to convey residents, the rail is an addition to the transport system for the people of Abuja. That will enable residents apply the park and ride model as obtained world over.
When will the rail be ready?
The minister is working tirelessly to ensure the rail is functional before the year 2014-2015 the rail station will start working in the Federal Capital Territory.
Housing has been a challenge for residents what’s the administration doing to ensure that residents at least can afford accommodation with a reasonable cost.
The housing deficit is a major issue of the Federal Government of course the present administration led by President Goodluck Jonathan which the honorable minister is driving with the transformation agenda. Like I said, housing is a major issue, and the minister is tackling it. Agencies and cooperative organizations and Parastatal have been given land to build homes for their staff. The issue of housing deficit will soon be a thing of the past for most residents of Abuja. And with the coming of the land Swap, I will tell you that the issue of housing deficit will be a thing of the past as with the economist theory of demand and supply.
Must one be a senator before he/she can own a land in the Federal Capital Territory?
Being a Senator before you own a land is not true, every Nigerian is entitled to have a land in the Federal Capital Territory. The main thing first is for you to apply because if you do not apply, you won’t be able to get a land. The first thing is for you to apply, the Minister has given out land, even when you don’t know the Minister, and you can get a land. You mustn’t be a senator before you own a land.
As an adviser to the Minister, who monitors and inspects, what are the challenges in carrying out your day to day task?
The challenges of inspection and monitoring of the projects has been enormous because you need to make sure you monitor the standard the quality in line with the bill of quantity of the faith infrastructure project. Another challenge is the challenge of budgeting and funding but I want to assure you the minister is working assiduously to ensure the challenges are not affecting the ongoing projects in line with bill of quantity that was specified for those projects and also ensure that the contractors build in line with the quality and standard of the bill of quantity.
Tell us about the Centenary project by the Federal Government, I understand the FCT actually gave out the land for the City.
The centenary city is the city inside the city and is a project of the federal government being driven by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation in collaborating with the Federal Capital Territory. The FCT led by the minister has set aside one thousand, six hundred hectars of land where the centenary city is going to be built and powered by the private sector, just like our land swap model.
Compare and contrast, the previous administrations many will believe had more outstanding track records when compared to the current FCT led by Bala Mohammed.
Comparing and contrasting with other administrations who have administered the Federal Capital Territory. I will say, It is the residents and Nigerians of the FCT that will do that. The previous administration had their challenges. For this minister he has had the challenge of security leading to the influx of people over stretching the infrastructure like never before and that has spur the minister to even do more. The insecurity in the different states, from Kidnappings to Boko Haram has led to the influx of people and the city is a safe haven for all and not only for Nigerians but also for investor’s investment. Abuja is safe for Nigerians.
About five Million people reside in Abuja, tell us about the state of the health sector even as the privileged Nigerians would rather travel abroad for medical treatments.
The health sector is paramount to the honorable Minister, Senator Bala Mohammed because he promised the residents that Abuja is going to be a home. He has embarked on renovation of the existing hospital and equally embarked on three major referral, what we call the cottage hospital, which has all the facilities of a teaching hospital. Not only that, it is only in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja that we have the MRI, the machine that scans the entire body system and a whole lot of equipment to better the health quality as obtained world over. You see the primus hospital in Karu is operated by private sector in collaboration with the FCT. The health care services there have assisted even persons all the way from other African countries. The minister has a “mai-lafia” program that takes health care to the door step of Abuja residents even in the rural areas. There is zero to nine months antenatal care for our women in Abuja. And equally free medical care for children from zero to six years all done by the minister’s administration.
He has been doing a lot for the education sector as well. He has embarked on renovation of all the schools as well.
Thank you so much for your time