Is FCT Becoming An Urban Slum?

Is FCT Becoming An Urban Slum?
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Joel Ajayi

If anyone is coming to Nigeria’s Capital City from the Airport Expressway, he or she will be in a state of excitement, delight and joy because of the smooth roads and possibly the street lights from the airport to their various destinations in the city centre. But the moment the person alights from his/her car, that delight will just disappear courtesy of the decaying and inadequate facilities in the capital city of the most populous nation, Abuja.

FCT, no doubt is supposed to be the best city on the continent but because of greed on the part of leaders both past and present as well as unemployment, poverty that has in many years been forcing an influx into the capital city for greener pastures, have compounded the woes of the city.

As the city’s population swells by up to eight per cent every year, the slums and their associated problems equally grow. AljazirahNigeria gathered that the government estimates that, Abuja will be expanded to 25 million residents by 2024. In the FCT, already old infrastructure have been overstretched, misused, and mismanaged, while new infrastructure is nowhere to be found. These and many other factors have contributed to the state of decay of Abuja.

It is visible even to the blind that Nigeria’s model capital city is on the brink of infrastructural decay. Available social amenities within the satellite towns and suburbs have been shrinking due to the influx of new settlers, while the well planned city has continued to get bad. A short trip by our reporter to some highbrow areas in the city attested to the sorry state of the city, as the stench from waste-bins will welcome any visitor with an unpleasant touch, added to more offensive ooze of the already blocked sewers. Scavengers have stolen the steel covers of the manholes and sewers, giving the sewers a free movement from the pit to the surface and to the road.

No solution has been found to the challenge of scavengers, despite spending a huge amount of money on Television, Radio and Newspaper jingles on the menace of scavengers, who often pick metals from dustbin; dunghill and surroundings and are perpetrating a lot of criminal activities within the FCT.

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Their activities have sent many to their untimely death while many are still nursing the scars. Hundreds of resident have been victims and have kept falling into the manholes and sustaining various degrees of injuries in the Federal Capital Territory. In fact, many Public Analysts saidy that given the rate of infrastructural decay, the FCT is currently having as many ghettoes and slums as Lagos.

A visit by AljazirahNigeria to satellite towns and slums, such as Monkey Village in Durumi Area One, Kubwa, Gishri, Mpape, Kuchingoro, Wumba, Kabusa and others reveals that the FCT is literally groaning under the weight of infrastructure deficit, poor management and criminal dereliction of duty, particularly by the Area Councils, which appear to be more interested in generating revenue. While the city centre is too expensive for many residents though many houses in the city centre are empty, the option for many residents is to look for an available house in suburbs and villages.

Like many satellite towns experiencing unprecedented population growth, Kubwa is also facing a serious challenge in the area of environmental sanitation. For instance, due to the absence of an effective public waste disposal system, residents of the town have resorted to hiring the services of itinerant refuse collectors, who go from house to house evacuating refuse in wheelbarrows. Kubwa is one of the communities within the metropolitan area of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.  It is a densely populated satellite town, which keeps expanding as more people come in from different parts of the country. The downside of this untidy arrangement is that these unregulated refuse managers simply dispose of the refuse in a huge drain located at Phase 4, in the heart of the town. This has been going on for some years with the Federal Capital Territory Administration and the Bwari Area Council looking the other way.

In Mpape Community that is less than 4 kilometres to Maitaima in the city, the only road that leads to Mpape is an attestation that the village needs serious attention. Swarming with people, a noisy atmosphere mixed with stench and smoke, Mpape is a slum perched atop one of the undulating hills in the FCT. Densely populated, the hilltop urban slum is a few minutes’ drive on a snaky, sloppy road from Maitama, Abuja’s most luxurious district.

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Driving away from Mpape to Nnamdi Azikiwe Express Way to Mabushi is another sordid slum, known as Mabushi Village. Ironically, Mabushi Village is directly behind the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing and the Federal Ministry of Environment.

Like Kpaduma and Mpape, Mabushi is a settlement not expected to be in the city. By the Abuja Master Plan, the villages were expected to be relocated outside the territory to give room for effective planning of the new capital city. An ecological survey and pre-compensation census indicated that about N1.8 billion was needed for resettlement. But the idea died when the government said it could not raise the money.

The federal government later adopted the policy of not resettling the natives until their abode are affected by development projects as the capital was finally moved to Abuja in 1991 and subsequent development projects failed to resettle the natives when they were affected. This was how the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing was built without the relocation of Mabushi Village where poor Nigerians who come to the city in search of a better future now find abode. Abuja was designed to have a population of 1.6 million people and expandable at its sides to 3.2 million people.

This plan, however, did not anticipate an influx of people into the capital as the population is currently around 8 million, according to the Minister of FCT, Muhammad Bello. Abuja is regarded as the most planned city in Nigeria but the authorities in FCT have cited an unexpected influx of people and the eventual overstretching of infrastructure as the major reason for the increase in slums in the capital.

Apart from Central Business Area and Wuse, it was discovered that every other district in the capital city has disreputable slums that present an ugly picture of Abuja, said to be the fastest-growing capital city in Africa. But the rise in the number of slums around the city is a growing concern. In Jabi, Utako, Garki, Katampe, and Asokoro which are all within the 250 square kilometres of the capital city, slums are situated around elegant houses and infrastructure. AljazirahNigeria observed that the satellite towns such as Kubwa, Nyanya, Karu and Lugbe have all been taken over by slums.

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An environmentalist and the president of Climate Transformation and Energy Remediation Society, Smart Chukwuma Amaefula, said in an interview with our reporter in Abuja that informal settlements are springing up in Abuja because of poverty and inequality. Amaefula said slums pose serious risks as residents live in an overcrowded and unsafe environment without basic amenities, such as water and sanitation. “Most of the slum residents don’t have toilets. Most of them use polythene bags to go to the toilet which they call shot-put. We know that polyethene is a non-biodegradable substance that litter the slums. They are not going to decay, rather they will stay on the ground and begin to emit heat into the atmosphere,” Amaefula said.

According to the United Nations Human Settlements Programme, UN-Habitant, about 80 million Nigerians are living in slums. The organisation attributed the growth of informal settlements to inadequate and non-affordable housing for all classes of the citizenry. UN-Habitant in its World Cities Report 2016 noted that when unplanned and unmanaged, urbanization can lead to increased inequality, the growth of slums and disastrous impacts on climate. UN-Habitant projected that by 2030, the urban population of developing countries will double, while the area covered by cities could triple.

Meanwhile, the effort of the Former Minister of FCT Nasir el’Rufai who demolished several slums in Jabi, Utako, Karmo, Idu, and Durumi in an effort to give Abuja a befitting outlook is now becoming a thing of the past those slums are returning fast. A resident of Karmo, Caleb Ojonugba, told our reporter that they now build their houses with mud so that they would not lose so much if the government decides to demolish the place. “If I have the means to live in a better place, I will do so “I don’t feel comfortable bringing up my children in this place,” Ojonugba said.


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