“We believe that a new capital created on such virgin lands as suggested, will be for all Nigerians a symbol of their oneness and unity. The Federal Territory will belong to all Nigerians.” With these promising words on the marble of history, late Gen. Murtala Mohammed announced the commencement of the building of a befitting Federal Capital City for Nigeria.
Monday this week, being the 5th of February, Abuja turned 42. We consequently remember and celebrate the emergence of a city that represents that physical expression of our national aspirations and resolve to build a nation bound in freedom, peace and unity and indeed, a model in Africa.
To understand the place of Abuja in our national history, perhaps it would be necessary to go back in time to the cradle of Nigeria’s nationhood. The search for a befitting capital had begun right from the days, before the Berlin Conference of 1884 – 85 when the Royal Niger Company established its corporate headquarters in Asaba, capital of the present-day Delta State. The Company, it was, that had the mandate to administer the area that became Nigeria on behalf of the British empire. Following the Berlin Conference, the areas corresponding to the present South-South and South East Nigeria were declared the Oil Rivers Protectorate with Calabar as its capital.
In 1900 the Oil Rivers Protectorate was joined to the west to form the Southern Protectorate while Sir Walter Egerton was appointed its Governor. Later the administrative capital was moved to Lagos in 1906 forming the Colony of Lagos and the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria. Until now, Lagos was controlled from the then Gold Coast now Ghana.
In the same period the areas atop Lokoja corresponding to the current North West, North Central and parts of North East were declared Northern Protectorate with Zungeru (1902) as its capital and Lord Frederick Lugard as its Governor. Lokoja since 1887, it must be noted, had served as Lugard’s military cantonment for the British Royal West African Frontier Force.
Zungeru was later to play a significant role in Nigeria’s history, as it was here that the amalgamation treaty was signed in 1914 before Lugard moved further inland to Kaduna in 1916 to found a new capital for the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria. He continued to hold court in Kaduna at the period he was Governor-General of Nigeria.
For the colonial powers, Lagos was the ideal capital. It afforded easy accessibility to the colonists for easy transport of raw materials from the colony to Britain. However, for the emergent nation its fundamentals as a national capital were flawed. The location was too far for many of the constituent regions. It lacked the neutrality needed for the Capital of a multi-ethnic and multi-regional nation. In terms of defense, it was easily vulnerable in case of foreign attacks by air, land and sea. It had a dual role as capital of both Lagos State and Nigeria, lacked space for expansion and was soon bedeviled by intractable traffic gridlocks and social challenges.
It was against this background that the then military government of Gen. Murtala Mohammed in August 9, 1975 set up the Akinola Aguda Panel to look into the challenge of continued role of Lagos as the capital of Nigeria and to suggest an appropriate location more suitable as a Capital. After a careful survey the committee submitted its report in December 10, 1975, recommending the area carved out from Kwara, Plateau and Niger States as appropriate for the purpose. The place recommended was more central, of almost equal distance from the various extremes of the country and was not dominated by any of the three major ethnic groups of the country.
In February 5, 1976 by Decree No. 6 of the same day, Abuja was declared the Capital of Nigeria. The Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) was created and a firm of architects, the International Planning Associates was soon commissioned to design a master-plan and the journey towards the realization of the dream began in earnest. The hallowed ground, wherein we stand today, became the culmination of these concerted efforts when in December 12, 1992, the capital finally moved from Lagos to Abuja.
When therefore the leader of the European Parliament, Santiago Fisas Ayxela, in his recent visit to Abuja described the city as beautiful and with free flow of traffic, it was not a glib talk by a vote seeking local politician but the declaration of a satisfied customer.
But the journey to a first-class city has not been easy. It has always come with its own fair share of challenges and no Minister knows this pretty much like the present helmsman, Minister No. 17, Muhammad Musa Bello. Arriving to assume the reins of office in November 11, 2015, Malam Bello was confronted with abandoned or ongoing projects, high level of discretionary powers among pubic officials and flagging service delivery. Coupled with these contending issues, the city was also battling serious traffic gridlocks and in want of sanitation. Confronted by these challenges, Malam Muhammad Musa Bello set out to restore the promise of Abuja, as the quintessential city it was dreamed about by the founding fathers.
From the start, Malam Bello committed himself to transforming governance, strengthening institutions, ensuring compliance with due process and extant laws. He set forth to run an inclusive government as evident in all his appointments. Right from the inner-chambers of governance, the Minister has striven to reflect the colourful ethnic configuration of the country. With recent appointment of Mandate Secretaries, political aides and reconstitution of boards of agencies and parastatals, the FCT Minister broadened the democratic space and has provided the needed corporate leadership for most of these agencies.
Beyond the inner chambers one could easily see that Abuja indeed is the mini-Nigeria. It is today a crucible in which business, professional and cross-cultural relationships have been and are being forged. Abuja indeed, true to the vision of the founding fathers, has become the anchor on which the chords of national unity is being strengthened and sustained.
A major dividend of his prudence is the harnessing of over 90Billion for the payment of contractors. Who have returned to sites, saved jobs and bolstered FCT economy.
In keeping with his mission to restore faith in the Abuja project, the present Administrations has pursued programmes and projects designed to bequeath to residents a network of functional first-class road networks and public utilities. Consequently, he elected to resist the temptation to embrace the attraction of high sounding new projects which are soon abandoned. To redeem the huge cost sunk into most of these vital but abandoned or ongoing infrastructure projects the Minister moved to complete them. Today, the added values from the completion of these projects have improved the outlook of the city, energised the Abuja economy and made the city liveable.
Some of the critical road projects were the two ten-lane express roads: namely Kubwa and the Yar’Adua Airport Express Roads. These were delivered with despatch along with the completion of their pedestrian bridges and interchanges. Similarly, he awarded and completed the Aso Villa Roundabout Bridge capping the Outer Northern Express Road (ONEX) also known as the Kubwa – Zuba Express Road. Similarly, the Bill Clinton Interchange connecting the Airport driveway was also delivered on record time.
Work on other major road projects like the Constitution and Independent Roads traversing the heart of Abuja’s Central Business District are coasting home to completion. Similarly, critical portions of the Goodluck Ebele Jonathan Express Road have been completed and have helped to ease traffic flow in the city’s main business hub. When delivered these three major arterials will enable entry and exit from the city on dual mode therefore bring a huge relief to residents.
Other master strokes which have struck right notes on the Abuja chord are the construction of various loops, tangent and flanks roads which hitherto locked up the city at major intersections. Their completions have freed the city from bottlenecks at these major road intersections. To further ease traffic, work is ongoing at the Karshi-Wasa Road designed to free up the Nyanya-Karu Axis by creating an alternative route to the City through the south eastern flank of the city. Also the Administration flagged off the project for the dualization of Apo-Wasa with a 12-month delivery period to effectively link up the Karshi-Wasa road to the city proper.
The Administration secured the approval of N2.6 billion from the Federal Executive Council for Karu satellite town infrastructure. In the same vein the Satellite Town Development Department is driving massive road rehabilitation and construction projects in the Area Councils and rural communities.
The Abuja Light Rail project is on course to full realization. The rail services, on full operation, would convey between 120,000 and 200000 passengers daily in the 20 coaches planned in the loop. The coaches would not be introduced at once but progressively ramped up to reach the maximum number. In the same vein the commencement would open up the rail corridor comprising 12 railways stations for massive investment and job creation.
With the Phase 1 of the railway project being a “done deal,” the Phase 2 according to the Administration will be ramped up this year. The rail lines, would pass from Gwagwa across Jabi, Gwarimpa, Utako, Wuse Hospital and Garki before ending at the Area 1 Park. Unlike the present rolling stocks which run on diesel, the Phase 2 rolling stock would run on Electric Motor Units (EMUs). This would make it the most modern in West Africa.
Street lighting has been a most challenging experience as a result of rationing of power by the electricity transmission and distribution company. To bridge the short fall, FCT has had to buy over 21 sets of generators to power the street lights in strategic areas during off grid periods.
Armed with the change mandate from the President Muhammadu Buhari, Malam Bello’s mission has transformed governance, education, health and social services. FCT schools have received tremendous facelift while health institutions are recording improved services. The Administration, like no other is leveraging technology to upgrade services, stem revenue leakage and ensure financial accountability in major revenue agencies.
Moneys owed donor agencies as counterpart funds over the years which denied the city the benefits of these development projects, have been paid. Payment of these funds has resulted in the completion of 1.2MW solar power project in collaboration with the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA). The advantage here is the reduction in the cost of energy for powering Abuja main water works.
The FCT Administration is looking to the Chinese NEXIM Bank for a $450Million loan for the extension of water supply to hitherto unreached loops in the Federal Capital Territory. The project which will involve over 8000 kilometres of pipe network, will add over 50 percent volume to the present water supply. The loan is part of the Federal Government borrowing plan for the year.
A PROMISE KEPT
Every city, like life, is very dynamic and so are their masterplans. Destiny has also thrust on Minister No. 17, the task of reviewing the Abuja master-plan, to take stock of the development so far in light of demographic change, technology and demands of globalization.
It is to the credit of past leaders and the current ones that the Abuja projects has continued to roll despite the dismal economic outlook in 2016. That it has been sustained thus far despite the economic situation in recent time is a huge credit to the prudent managements and leadership brinkmanship of the present FCT Minister, and the support of FCT residents. The result of all these concerted efforts has been restoration of faith in the Abuja project, keeping the promise of Abuja as the city of unity and indeed a home to every Nigerian.
All of us who have kept faith with the Abuja promise deserve a huge encomium. Toasts to Abuja at 42. Congratulations! You made it!!
AUGUST 9, 1975: Justice Akinola Aguda Committee was constituted by Gen. Murtala Mohammed
Ø To advise on the desirability or otherwise of Lagos as a Federal Capital Territory;
Ø In the event that the Committee finds that Lagos is incapable of retaining the role, to recommend which of the two governments (Federal or State) should move to a new location;
Ø In the event that the C ommittee finds that the Federal Government should move out of Lagos, to recommend suitable alternative location having regards to easy accessibility, to and from every part of the country.
Federal Military Government gave reasons for the unsuitability of Lagos as the Federal Capital Territory as follows:
Ø Dual role of Lagos as both State and Federal Capital,
Ø Lack of expandable land,
Ø Vulnerability to external aggression and congestion,
Ø Intractable traffic,
Ø Housing and environmental issues,
Ø Remoteness of Lagos from most parts of the country and
Ø Domination by a major ethnic group.
10TH OF DECEMBER 1975: Akinola Aguda submits report selecting the area measuring 8000km2 as the preferred location for the new Federal Capital Territory for following reasons; Centrality, favourable climate, land availability, low population density, adequate water supply, Natural drainage, multi access possibility, sufficient natural building materials and not dominated by any major ethnic group.
FEBRUARY 3, 1976: Murtala Mohammed presents report to the Supreme Military Council for ratification and proceeded thereafter to broadcast decision to Nigerians.
FEBRUARY 5, 1976: Decree No. 6 of promulgated declaring the selected area as Federal Capital Territory and creating the Federal Capital Development Authority – FCDA.
MEMORABLE QUOTE: “We believe that a new capital created on such virgin lands as suggested, will be for all Nigerians a symbol of their oneness and unity. The Federal Territory will belong to all Nigerians.” Gen. Murtala Mohammed.
OCTOBER 26, 1979: MFCT was created by Gazzette No. 55, Vol 66.
JANUARY 15, 1981: President Shehu Shagari, by a presidential order created FCTA to oversee provision of rural infrastructure and undertake rural administration.
JUNE 19, 1981: Creation of 7 Development Areas namely; Abaji, Bwari, Karshi, Kwali, Kuje, Rubochi & Yaba,
OCTOBER, 1984: Promulgation of Federal Capital Territory, Applicable Laws Decree No. 12. 1984 (adopting such laws as were applicable in the neighbouring States of Niger, Plateau and Kwara to the new Capital Territory).
*7 Development Areas became Local Government with addition of 2 more making them 9 Local Governments.
1987; LGS reconstituted 4
1989: Gazzette 77 released making the Local Governments Area Councils and Chairmen as Deputy Mayors
1990: Decree No 38, of 1990: Local Government (Basic Constitutional and Transitional Provision (Amendment No 2) Abuja was made a Mayoralty etc
DECEMBER 12, 1991: Movement to Abuja 16 years after declaration making a cumulative of 41 years to the day.
OCTOBER 1, 1996: 2 more Area Councils, Bwari and Kwali created making them 6.
1999: CONSTITUTION PROVIDES FOR THE STATUS OF ABUJA
Section 297 (i) There shall be a Federal Capital Territory Abuja, the boundaries of which are defined in Part II, of the First Schedule to this Constitution
Section 297 (2) The ownership of all lands comprised in FCT shall vest in the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Section 299: The provision of this Constitution shall apply to the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja as if it were one of the States of the Federation.
DECEMBER 31, 2004: MFCT Dissolution Order No I, of FEC scraps MFCT,
Ø Scrapped MFCT
Ø Created 7 Secretariats: Education/ Transport / Agriculture / Health and Human Services / SDS / Legal / ACSS
Ø Created STDA
Ø Provided for 2 Agencies: AEPB & AGIS
AUGUST, 2008: Demerger of AGIS into AGIS and Land Administration.
VISION: A first class and inclusive Federal Capital Territory with effective service delivery comparable to the best in the world
MISSION: To build and administer a Federal Capital Territory in compliance with the Master-plan through establishment of a service oriented administration.
MANDATE: Providing an effective and efficient administrative….
Ø Provision of critical infrastructure, provision of services to FCT residents
Ø Wealth creation and poverty reduction
Ø Provision of safe and secure environment
Ø 72 Districts were planned but only 11 Districts have been fully developed/provided with full infrastructure. 3 Districts fully allocated
Ø 7753.9 sq KM (8,000km2 )
Ø Federal Capital Territory Applicable laws, 1984 promulgated – adopting laws of neighbouring states and making them applicable to Abuja
Ø According to UN, Abuja is one of the fastest growing cities in the world.
Ø Grow by 139.7% between 2000 – 2010
Ø 3 million people on the metropolitan city alone
Ø FCT GDP $5Bn NBS
Ø Designed by Messrs International Planning Associates
Ø Envisaged an ultimate Pop 3.1 when fully developed within period of 25 years under the planned 4 phases.
Ø FCT planned on 25,000 Ha
Ø Now expanded to 69,660.42 Ha
Ø 72 Districts have been increased to 90 Districts inclusive of Industrial Districts and 20 Sector Centres
Compiled by Cosmas Uzodinma
Chief Press Secretary