Challenges mount as Wike battles Abuja’s decayed systems
Decay in sectors like health, education, transportation, road infrastructure, coupled with insecurity, are among rising challenges faced by Federal Capital Territory minister, Ezenwo Nyesom Wike, in his bid to restore sanity to the life of the nation’s capital.
In the last four weeks, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) has been thrown into palpable anxiety as Wike, engaged the territory’s decaying socio-economic, political and infrastructural systems in serious sanity warfare.
Since August 21, 2023 when he was sworn-in, the minister had released threats and ‘songs of war’ against monsters that had crippled developments in the FCT particularly in the health, education, security and even infrastructural sectors.
The threats were extended to the removal of any structure obstructing the original masterplan of the country’s capital city. Wike didn’t spare the bureaucracy in the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) as he warned against acts of sabotage. Not ready to take any chance, the minister hurriedly influenced the appointment of eight mandate Secretaries (equivalent of commissioners in the states) to oversee various departments and agencies.
But the first issues that immediately welcome Wike into office include issues of abandoned projects which have resulted in the decay of many multibillion naira road and housing projects and even the over $824million Abuja Rail Mass Transit project. Others are the poor state of water distribution in the city and the area councils.
His stern warning to contractors of the concerned projects as well as demonstration of commitment to upset outstanding payments was a major motivation that has restored activities to the sites.
The faulty contract award system including dubious variation of contracts is yet another! Condemning the development in one of his visits to projects across the territory, Wike said: “I have never seen a thing like this before in my life. What you see in the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) is shocking. Contract variation from N10bn to N120bn, from N50bn to N200bn. It is alarming and I am not going to accept it. Even the engineering service, we are going to overhaul the entire system” the minister added.
Wike further lamented that “it was unfortunate that while we went to the Ushafa-Bwari road, it was very embarrassing, and this is not what we are going to take. The job was awarded in 2017 at the cost of N20bn, in 2020 they revised the contract sum to N50bn”
Also, there are deadly security issues around the territory some of which resulted from existence of large number of undeveloped plots and uncompleted buildings that served as hideouts to criminals within the city. Wike’s first reaction to this was the revocation of all those undeveloped plots after two weeks of warning to the allottees.
The Minister became more worried about insecurity in Abuja when he was informed in a recent meeting with chairmen of the six Area Councils that quite recently, 19 persons were kidnapped in the Bwari Area Council just as 30 persons have been killed within a week in a landslide caused by the activities of illegal miners in the Kuje Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory FCT.
In his immediate response, Wike, just last week, announced the revocation of undeveloped plots of land in some highbrow districts of the nation’s capital, after two weeks of warning.
But beyond these are issues about the rottenness in FCT’s education; gross inadequacies in the territory’s health care system; increasing criminalities and insecurity fuelled by towering unemployment; among others.
Public primary school education in the FCT which are predominantly controlled by the area councils are in a complete mess.
Despite the regular release of the monthly allocations of the area councils, issues of poor facilities in schools, non-payment of allowances and salaries of teachers are among problems that had kept the FCT chapter of the Nigerian Union of Teachers on industrial strike intermittently for over three years.
Checks revealed that within the period of three years, the area councils have received over N100 billion as monthly allocations.
The teachers who resumed industrial action two weeks ago throughout the FCT said their problems include non-implementation of promotion arrears from 2014 to 2018, non-implementation of 2020 and 2021 yearly increment, and refusal to upgrade qualified teachers.
They also want implementation of the 36-months old Federal Government approved minimum wage arrears.
NUT secretary, Bwari chapter, Mr. Muhammad Danjuma Jimada, told The Guardian it was embarrassing that primary school teachers in Abuja go on strike so often.
“The only reason the authorities concerned are not bothered is because none of their children is in any of those public primary schools.
Confirming the decay in primary school education, the
Department of Policy Planning Research and Statistics in FCT Education Secretariat, in a research report which findings were contained in three publications presented to the public.
The report stated that only 26 per cent of primary schools had access to safe drinking water, 44 per cent in junior secondary schools and 67 per cent in senior secondary schools, while only 27 per cent of primary schools, 65 per cent of junior secondary schools and 90 per cent of senior secondary schools have access to electricity.
In the health sector, investigations have also revealed that FCT Healthcare Centres are in deplorable condition as issues of lack drugs, manpower persist.
Sadly, most of the health centres are poorly equipped and lack adequate manpower to cater to the healthcare needs of residents, especially those in rural areas.
FCT primary healthcare centres were set up mainly to augment the services of hospitals and clinics. But so far, many of them have fallen short of that mandate.
In the FCT, though there are 239 primary health centres, only 30 are equipped.
Situations in most health centres around the federal capital territory are pathetic because in most cases, a doctor attends to more than 30 patients.
In terms of unemployment, it has been observed that the rate is so high that most youths in the FCT engage in one form of criminality or the other.
Studies have equally shown that over 40 percent of youths in the FCT are either unemployed or are underemployed.
Worried by the frightening number of unemployed youths, a Civil Society Organisations, (Plan International) recently tasked Wike to provide meaningful employment opportunities for the growing youth population.
This is just as the international organization tasked youths to be creative and engage themselves with green skills that can fetch them incomes, rather than waiting for white collar jobs.
The Director of Programme, Quality, and Influencing Plan International Nigeria, Helen Idiong, while speaking during an event to celebrate International Youth Day yesterday in Abuja said while the plans by the minister to restore the FCT masterplan is important what is more pressing is the need to look at the teaming jobless youths on the street.
She said, “We appeal to the FCT minister that even as he is putting his ideas into place to restore masterplan of Abuja back to what it used to be he should also put the youths at the forefront . Because the army of youth in the FCT not doing anything can trigger the configuration of this country.”
Idiong stated that the theme for this year international youth day “Green Skills” is very apt, saying everyone will not be able to fit into space for white collar job so we are looking at green skills because it helps the environment and also the youths.
Decay In Transportation Sector
Another challenge to Abuja’s population is that of transportation. The Abuja Urban Mass Transport Company Limited (AUMTCO), established by the then Ministry of Federal Capital Territory, now the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) in 1984 as Abuja Bus Service (ABS), and later registered as Abuja Urban Mass Transport Company Limited, under the Companies and Allied Matters Act 1990, was meant to serve as a vehicle to address the transportation needs of a city that was blossoming at high speed.
The outfit, among other things, was designed to provide “the best value for money and safest, most reliable scheduled and bus hire service in Nigeria. It was also to plan, develop and implement an organised environmentally friendly and sustainable Urban public transport system in the FCT for effective, comfortable, safe, regular, efficient and affordable transport service delivery.
In addition to implementing the Abuja master plan with regards to urban transportation, it was also to develop a sustainable means of funding urban public transportation services in the FCT, evolve appropriate policy framework to subsidise urban public transportation and provide adequate transport infrastructure in the territory, with particular reference to urban public transportation.
It also aspired to become the pace-setter for the provision of world-class, organised and efficient urban public transportation services in the country. The company was also charged with the responsibility of implementing the government’s vision of affordable urban public transportation and managing transport service delivery across the Federal Capital Territory.
At a time, it was the largest bus transportation company in Nigeria, with a staff strength of 518 staff members, AUMTCO took off with funds totaling over N1.3b, which were to be used for the procurement of over 500 high- capacity buses for designated routes in the FCT, including Abuja-Mararaba, Abuja-Bwari, Abuja-Kuje, Abuja-Gwagwalada, and Abuja-Suleja respectively.
Before long, the arrival of the high-capacity buses led to the ban of the popular mini buses that plied the capital city in 2013, all in a bid to make for smooth operations of AUMTCO.
But to the shock of many, it only took a few years of operations before the lofty initiative began showing signs of distress, and a good number of the mass transit buses began to disappear from the roads, one after the other.
Very poor maintenance culture, poor management, and frequent policy changes, The Guardian investigation revealed, have contributed immensely to the poor outputs of the mass transit outfit.
In a bid to address the teething problems of transportation that has crippled movements in the capital city, Wike said: “Public transportation is a major challenge that we must address comprehensively. No modern city can function effectively and efficiently without a reliable and comprehensive public transportation system.
“We are committed to establishing an integrated and efficient transport network that meets the needs of our residents,” he added.
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