It is a little after one year that the FCT Minister, Malam Muhammad Musa Bello, arrived to unchained the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) and placed it on the path to sustainable development with a firm promise not only to sustain the legacies of his predecessors, but to also increase the tempo of executing developmental projects in the Territory.
His appointment at that point in the nation’s history was a milestone worthy of celebration because of the level of dearth in the live of a government that oversees and manages one of the most important municipal cities in the country of over 170 million people. He was however very lucky to have come onboard with a brand new Permanent Secretary, Dr. Babatope Ajakiaye who is well a nurtured bureaucrat that has come with huge experiences to take Abuja to greater heights.
We need to X-Ray its activities so far in office with a view to highlighting some of the achievements that can visibly be recorded for prosperity.
The man came, solicited for the cooperation of members of staff of the Administration to ensure the unhindered execution of the Federal Government’s Change Agenda for the nation’s capital city, and equally put in place measures to block all leakages in order to free the badly needed funds for the development of the Territory.
With his eyes firmly set on leaving a positive imprint on the canvass of history of the FCT, especially in the area of infrastructural development, the first fundamental thing the Minister did was to embark on visits to several sites of on-going projects with a view to taking stock of inherited projects that have immediate and direct bearing on the lives of FCT residents and visitors alike. Some of the projects visited include the Abuja Light Rail and the knotty Karshi – Apo – Arah road.
In order to prove to all and sundry that he is not an armchair Minister, Malam Bello also embarked on tour of the city centre to ascertain the functionality of streetlights and traffic lights in the capital city, after which he charged the Abuja Metropolitan Management Council (AMMC) and FCT Transportation Secretariat respectively to them fixed as quickly as possible.
Keenly aware of the pivotal importance of the on-going Abuja Rail Mass Transit system, the Minister assured residents of the FCT that his Administration would work assiduously to make the Abuja rail system operational in the last quarter of 2017. From all intent and purposes, the destination is at hand.
Another area that attracted Malam Bello’s attention was environmental sanitation, which necessitated his unscheduled visit to the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) to signal the commencement of a frontal War on Environmental Filthiness (WEF). To underscore the degree of his seriousness, the Minister after reading the riot act to the staff of AEPB, vowed to recover the over N9 billion owed the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) over the years which he has largely achieved. To bring the issue of personal hygiene and environmental nuisances to the fore, he introduced the FCT Household and Community Sanitation Exercise and launched the Scheme in the Area Councils and Satellite Towns of the Federal Capital Territory. This was after giving the sum of N1.6 billion, as bailout to the six Area Councils to settle the salaries owed their staff. This is unprecedented, because at that time, majority of states across the federation were going cup-in-hand to the Federal Government for bailout. Moreover, it was not his duty as Area Councils’ staff salary lies squarely on the shoulders of the Councils.
In the area of provision of potable water, Malam Bello after series of meetings and visits to the FCT Water Board facilities, including the Lower Usuma Dam and various Tanks under construction, gave a firm assurance that his Administration would work diligently to improve supply of clean water to the entire residents of the FCT and true to this promise, he has been inching closer to realizing this noble objective.
In his determination to decongest Abuja city centre, the Minister has invested so much attention on the development of the six Area Councils, and the Satellite Towns, just as he has moved the Satellite Towns Development Department (STDD) office to Karshi to bring it closer to the rural people that the department is meant to serve.
Malam Bello also took a bold step by visiting the Apo-Karshi-Arah Road, where he made a commitment to complete the road through expeditious payment to the contractor for a pending job certificate of N324 million, unfortunately after the said payment, the company handling the road project had its account frozen because it has issues with anticorruption agencies.
In his commitment to build on the legacy left behind by his predecessors in the sanitization of the Abuja Land Administration system, Malam Bello also set a machinery in motion that will help sanitize the processes of allocating land in strict compliance with the rule of law, by inaugurating the Land Use and Allocation Committee under the Chairmanship of the Permanent Secretary, Dr. Babatope Ajakaiye, a well tested Administrator. The Minister during the inauguration directed the committee to give special attention to resolving land cases that have been weighing the Administration down. He, thus, declared that henceforth, the FCT Administration would only allocate plots of land in the Abuja Industrial Zones to genuine manufacturers that have capacity to develop them for purposes they are earmarked for and must be within a time frame.
It would also be recalled that few weeks after assuming office, Bello did what several Nigerians thought was far-fetched and practically impossible when he offset the over N2 billion owed cleaning and maintenance contractors by the previous Administrations to enable them resume work on the evacuation of solid waste in the city center and satellite towns. Equally, contractors owed various sums below N20 million have been settled amounting to over N6 billion; while over N19 billion has been paid to multinational contractors to enable them return to sites.
In the first quarter of 2016, the FCTA also released the sum of N5,744,835,928.38 to various development partners being counterpart funds for the projects that they are executing in the Federal Capital Territory. The Minister similarly paid over N1.787 billion to the Universal Basic Education Board, which included arrears that have not been paid since 2013. He has further released the sum of N2,939,681,413.96 and N808,075,585.62 as counterpart funds for the Abuja Rail project as well as its Consultancy Services respectively.
Meanwhile, all these obligations ought to have been carried out by the previous FCT Administrations but were not done in the name of lack of funds.
Malam Bello, who has been able to achieve all these feats through effective management of fiscal and material resources, has also resuscitated the hitherto moribund Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) and replaced its leadership with capable hands that are already delivering on its mandate. It is worthy of note that Malam Bello also followed this up by establishing the FCT Task Team on Environmental Protection to work alongside 200 officers/men of the Nigeria Police Force and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps for enforcement purposes.
Lately, the efforts to stamp out street begging in the Federal Capital City paid off with the smashing of a syndicate of suspected suppliers of beggars to strategic locations in Abuja by the Task Team. Beggars arrested were taken to the Vocational and Rehabilitation Centre, Kuchiko in Bwari Area Council for onward relocation to their respective home states.
Malam Bello’s Administration has maintained an open door policy with local and international partners that are willing to collaborate with FCT in improving the standard of living in the Territory. The collaboration with international agencies such as Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and Korean International Cooperation (KOICA), have opened several windows of opportunities for manpower training, including the recent training of 72 teachers, apart from the donation from the South Korea government of a Model Primary and Junior Secondary School, which is presently under construction at Piwoyi, along the Airport Road, to the glory of God and benefit of humanity.
In the spirit of transparency, smooth and harmonious business operations, his Administration decided to improve Land Administration processes in Abuja. In this respect, the focus of FCT Administration, among others, is to move Nigeria’s level on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business index to a better level than what it is today. The Minister noted that it was his intention to move by at least 20 points from where FCT is now because it has realized that Land related transactions constitute a very important measure of how systems are judged, whether they are efficient and user-friendly or not. Accordingly, the FCT Administration under him overhauled the key technical Departments involved, including Departments of Land Administration, Urban & Regional Planning, Abuja Geographic Information System (AGIS) as well as Development Control. The resultant effect today is that even the duration of giving development control approvals have drastically been reduced.
In order to institutionalize efficient machinery for quick dispensation of justice on all Land appeals and petitions in Abuja, the Administration has set up a 10-member Committee to promptly address appeals and petitions from the public. This is a testament to the intention and commitment of the administration to nurture and entrench the right strategies to address all Land-related petitions in the Federal Capital Territory with a view to reversing all injustices and impunity of the past to pave way for fair play and justice in the dispensation of such cases within record time.
Contrary to insinuations from several quarters that the Administration has not done enough in containing the menace of cattle grazing, the Malam Bello led Administration has in the last one year arrested a number of herdsmen, 25 cows and 51 sheep and prosecuted nine of the herders. To put the entire problem to rest, he has constituted a 22-member high-powered technical committee to manage and curtail the menace of cattle grazing and rustling in the Federal Capital Territory.
During this short sojourn, several FCT schools have won several laurels both national and internationally. This is in addition to cleaning exercise of the education sub-sector. In the process about 565 substandard schools were closed down.
The Minister has in the last few months commenced a hyperactive process of completing road projects that have been stalled for years now. Specifically, the 10-lanes Kubwa (Murtala Muhammad) Expressway has been completed in addition with the Railway overhead bridges while the Airport (Umaru Musa Yar’Adua) is expected to be complete in the first or second quarter of 2017 including the Trumpet interchange at the Airport junction by Bill Clinton Drive. Meanwhile, the completion of Circle Road around the 3-Arms zone is today history while B6 & B12 is currently witnessing rapid development because the Stadium end of these roads have been completed and open to traffic including the underpasses from the National Stadium connecting the proposed Stadium Railway Station for huge population during sporting events.
However, tangents connecting City Centre, Gwagwalada and environs have been completed and are currently being used, while potholes in the city centre are also receiving well-deserved attention. Also, completed are the rehabilitation of M20 road leading to the popular Utako Motor Park, road shoulders along the Shehu Shagari Expressway in Maitama District and Ring Road I.
At the tail end of 2016, there was security breach in Kuje Area Council of the FCT where 10 residents were kidnapped and their villages were attacked and ransacked. However, due to the high premium his Administration attaches to the security of lives and property, Malam Bello mobilized the security agents in the FCT and proactively rescued all the kidnapped persons including a nine-year-old girl alive, which is unprecedented. The perpetrators have equally been apprehended and are being made to face the full wrath of the law.
The FCT Administration under him has also refurbished 30 unserviceable vehicles belonging to the FCT Command of the Nigeria Police Force for less than N10 million which is quite exceptional.
These 30 vehicles include one water canon used for crowd control, two Armoured Personnel Carriers, one lorry, 21 Toyota Hilux Jeeps and five Toyota Corolla cars.
In the area of staff welfare, the Minister has been able to procure 25 large capacity buses, which are now being branded and inaugurated to be use as staff buses.