Abuja slums

By Bukola Olasanmi

Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory is widely known as the fastest growing city in the country due to heavy migration of people from the thirty six states and the concentration of power there.

Abuja as the political capital of the country play host to politicians from all works of life especially when election draws near.

The population of the city overshot its banks quickly. Infrastructures and other basic amenities are never enough to cope with the high influx into the city.

The fact that the government lacks viable projections for growth has not helped matters.

Those who built Abuja did not factor in the existence of artisans who would repair the vehicles of people in the corridors of power; cook for them; tend their flowers; chauffeur their wives and children; and carry out sundry assignments.

This is not to mention civil servants made to relocate from Lagos when Abuja assumed the status of a capital city several years ago.

The effect of this lack of vision and projection is infrastructure deficit. No salary earner can afford to live in the city centre, as a result of the high cost of renting an apartment.

This resulted in the creation of sub-urban districts popularly called satellite towns where thousands of those who work in the capital city reside.

These include Kubwa, Gwagawalada, Lugbe, Bwari, Karu, Nyanyan, Mararaba, Jikwoyi, Mpape, Karshi, Dei-Dei,Kwali among others.

The emergence of shanties and slums in the FCT became possible because of the concentration of government institutions and infrastructure in Abuja city, at the expense of corresponding development at satellite towns.

Residents who cannot afford accommodation even in the satellite towns resorted to construction of shanties and makeshift settlements. And whenever government and its agencies wake up to realise that these are defacing the FCT, they demolish them. The occupants, meanwhile, simply relocate to another area.

Despite the high budgetary allocation to the city yearly, good living condition is still far from most of the satellite towns visited by this reporter.

Government officials have attributed the situation in satellite towns to over concentration on the city centre by successive governments.

One of such persons is the Minister of the FCT, Muhammadu Bello who at a forum recently in Abuja expressed disappointment on the state of the satellite towns.

He said: “Money has to go into the satellite towns because if we do not develop the satellite towns, the city itself will fail.

All the money sunk into the city will be wasted through the degradation that will take place. If people don’t have infrastructure, they are going to cluster around the areas where infrastructure is.

The infrastructure will not be able to bear the burden and this will lead to collapse. We are already seeing this with the emergence of shanties and slums, as well as street hawkers.”

The construction of a dam, treatment plants, tanks and other bulk water supply facilities to Karshi satellite town was awarded in June, 2013; it is yet to be completed. Also the Apo-Karshi road, awarded in 2007, has dragged on for nearly eight years. The idea was to open up alternative access road to the city centre from the Apo intersection.

For residents of Gwagwalada, roads are said to be a major challenge, as is also being experienced in other satellite towns.

Some residents of the area find it very difficult to drive their vehicles to their homes due to the bad state of roads

Although the Administration claims to be devoting enough funds to develop the satellite towns, more attention is still required.

Abuja City Gate
Abuja City Gate

The Minister during a recent inspection to some ongoing projects in the satellite towns in the city said residents may have to pay for infrastructure in no distant time.

Muhammad said government can no longer continue to fund infrastructure in the city.

He said while it was possible in the past to develop the FCT, the current reality is that to develop each plot now requires “tremendous” amount of resources.

“I think it is just a matter of time, we will have no option but to ensure that every plot has to pay for itself,” he said.

“If you look at it on a plot to plot basis the cost of infrastructure for a plot is so high and if you look at what people pay to government it is so negligible.”

The minister recalled that many years ago when Abuja was created and people were encouraged to come in, it made “a lot of sense” for government to provide infrastructure “because infrastructure had not matched the level of development”.

He, however, said as things stand now, government could no longer fund infrastructure.

“This is something that requires all of us to really sit down as stakeholders and not just the FCT administration,”

“The development of the city without given due cognisance to funding and providing for infrastructure does not help the city.

“That is why you see that the city has so many districts with 100 per cent houses without infrastructure.”

So for how long will the resisents have to wait to enjoy the luxury of a capital city as been done in other cities of the world, only time will tell.