BY BENEDICT NWACHUKWU, ABUJA
Mixed reactions have greeted the developmental reforms embarked by the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, since assumption of office on September 11, 2023.
The immediate past governor of Rivers State was appointed by President Bola Tinubu to take charge of the territory which is widely seen as the face of Nigeria in the committee of nation’s capital cities and therefore designed to be Nigeria’s city of pride and glory.
Besides the era of Malam Nasir El-Rufai under the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Abuja has been the opposite of its creation.
Wike has within three months in office uncovered top secrets and shady deals on land ownerships and ghost contracts that not only bedeviled the city but equally put its development on a snail’s pace.
His first port of call was the revoking of undeveloped plots of land that have outlived several administrations both military and civilian since acquisition.
He also exposed discrepancies in the area of tenement rates payment which never or partially existed, though a legal obligation to the government by the land owners.
Last week, the Minister in a meeting with property/estate developers agreed as follows:
“The Certificate of Occupancy is a security guarantee document for the owner’s property.
“The C of O is a business instrument document for loans, investment for his/her advantage.
“The cost of C of O per property/house irrespective of the type of building or land size or location is N5 million, and it’s a one-off payment.
“The time frame (duration) for the payment of the 5 million is within four months.
“No developer will be allowed to pay for C of O for property/house owners, home owners to do the payments, this is to avoid fraud, corruption, victimization, under-dealing, as observed in the past till date. This has to stop.
“The committee for C of O set up by the minister of FCT will carry out advertisements using mass media for the modalities of the process for visibility and reduce/avoid under-dealing.
“Ground rent (land use charge) to be paid will be according to land size (dimension), location, etc, and the payments will be done annually (recurring payments).
“Tenant in rented apartments cannot apply for C of O.
“One of the security features of the C of O is to link it to the owner’s NIN.
“Developers are solely responsible for the internal infrastructure developments such as roads, water, within the estates and not FCTA.”
Reacting to the actions and steps so far taken by Wike as the FCT Minister, former FCT Senatorial candidate of Social Democratic Party in the recent general election, Olarewaju Osho described him as a man with uncommon energy for making things happen in his sphere of influence.
“Love him or hate him, the naked truth about Nyesom Wike, the minister of FCT, is that he is a man with uncommon energy for making things happen in his sphere of influence. He is huge in courage and humongous in boldness to say things as he sees it. If the seriousness with which he has hit the ground running within an hour after his swearing in on September 11 till date is anything to go by, then FCT may be getting ready to enter into her season of progressive roller-coaster leadership.
The big question is: Will Wike’s leadership be sufficient for rejigging FCT and place her on the pedestal of glory?
“They share our lands among themselves while we have no land we can call our own. These same people have lands in their various states. Watch out, our people will be the target for demolition and at the end, they will make us homeless”
Particularly in the face of the two formidable forces that have been the bane of Abuja’s sluggish advancement over the years.
“The first is the strongholds that had pocketed Abuja as their prized possession without sparing any thought or regard for the history, vision and purpose of the city. The second is the lack of vision and appetite of most of the past FCT ministers to build Abuja into a city that can truly compare and compete with leading cities across the world.
“Just as Nigeria is hungry for transformative leadership to turn her fortune around and cause her to rise to her deserved position in the committee of the most endowed nations of earth; Abuja is seriously in need of a leader who is a dreamer, a visionner, an achiever, a reformer, a transformer, an innovator, a shift thinker and a performer. Will Wike be able to rise up to these challenges or will he end up as only a restorer of the master plan and a jolly good fellow?”
The clergyman also noted that Abuja is badly in need of conscious and transformative leadership because she is a purpose built city that hasn’t lived up to her potentials and possibilities.
“Abuja is unlike any other city in Nigeria. It is a city with a foundation. It was built with a peculiar vision in mind. It was not built to be a Hausa city, an Igbo city, a Yoruba city or a city for the original indigenous inhabitants. Unlike Lagos which wasn’t originally built on purpose as Nigeria’s capital, Abuja was built to be the Nigerian Capital – a city for all Nigerians. It was designed to be Nigeria’s city of pride and glory.
“Part of the unwritten intention was that its beauty, orderliness and awe will be something the governors of the 36 states can draw inspiration from to modernize, transform and develop their capital cities. The uniqueness of Abuja’s founding vision and principles therefore demand that the city should be established on certain irreducible minimum principles of progressive governance and development.
“The first irreducible minimum is that the city shouldn’t suffer the negative effects of the planlessness features prevalent in the other cities in Nigeria. A city built on purpose should not harbour any feature of planlessness if the leaders are conscious and efficient leaders.
“The second is that the city should have its own unique style, character and identity. It shouldn’t embrace haphazardness and chaos. Take a good look at any truly beautiful city across the world and you will notice without stress their unique style, character and identity.
“The third is that excellence, professionalism and the highest standards of development should be Abuja’s prevailing ethos, character and culture. Without a culture of meritocracy and professionalism, the best we can build out of Abuja is a newly built city with chaotic elements and third world realities.
“The fourth irreducible minimum is that innovation and intentionality should be the guiding philosophy of her city managers. The soul of first -class and emerging cities across the world today is innovation. Shift thinking philosophy and idealistic/ revolutionary architecture are some of the signatures of today’s leading cities.
“The fifth is that diversity and inclusiveness should be woven into every aspect of the development architecture and management. Diversity and inclusion philosophy is the key to making Abuja live up to its name as the “Center of Unity”.
Osho said the absence of these five irreducible minimums in the management culture of the Federal Capital Territory is the reason Abuja has remained an ordinary modern city with sluggish developmental pace in the last four decades.
He added, “If Wike will make the much needed difference in Abuja and succeed in writing his name in gold, these five irreducible minimums must become his compass of leadership in FCT.”
While Reverend Osho believed that the minister has started off well and should work hard to make the much needed difference in Abuja, the indigenes who are known as original inhabitants have expressed fears that the minister’s steps may turn them to homeless citizens and called on President Tinubu to guide him in his restoration and developmental project.
Johnson Jiwadun, said as much as the minister wants to develop the city, he should ensure that it is the responsibility of the government to develop the citizens alongside the city, especially the inhabitants of the land before the coming of the seat of power.
“We as original inhabitants are not averse to development. It’s a thing of joy to witness and be part of development but my question is how are the developers going about with the development? Abuja is the only city in the whole world government talks about the development of the city while chasing away the indigenes of that city far away into the forest forcing them to continue living like primitives. Imaging the massive high rise buildings all over Abuja but you can hardly find anyone owned by our people. Before you utter a word, the same people that have taken our ancestral lands will claim that we did not go to school and that we prefer to live in the forest. This is dehumanizing.
“All these claims of resettling our people are mere fabrications by the haters of our people. When the government chases away our people and builds a room and parlour for a family of six, seven or eight as the case maybe the same government will claim it has resettled the people. Those government officials in turn shared our ancestral lands.
“This is wickedness of the highest order. It’s man’s inhumanity to a fellow man. Yes, I have not travelled abroad but from what I have read and the things we watch on televisions all the governments of the world develop their villages into cities.
They don’t chase away the original inhabitants of the villages they developed into cities but Abuja’s case is different. We are Nigerians, so why are they treating us this way? All these things they are doing to us are a time bomb waiting to explode and it will surely explode when the government doesn’t expect it.”
Jiwadun claimed that the FCT administration has never involved their people in its governance plans. He said it was of recent that their people are being drawn closer.
“We have been ruled in the FCT by people from other states. No original inhabitant has risen up to a director in the MFCT, go and verify this. Yes, we have had a Senator from us, permanent secretary, directors in other ministries not MFCT. Even when President Tinubu nominated one of us we thought he was going to appoint him our minister, I mean the minister of FCT but that was not to be. These ministers, both past and present come to Abuja for land grabbing that is why, everyone one of them will have the programme for demolition as top priority.
In corroboration, a staff of the FCTA who pleaded anonymity said the land racketeering every minister of the MFCT talks about is a daily affair in the ministry but blamed the politicians.
Our sources claimed that the politicians take ownership of land in Abuja as a mark of distinction between them and ordinary Nigerians.
“They do whatever that is within their powers to acquire land in Abuja. They have corrupted the civil servants beyond recovery. In most cases, they are friends, relations and political associates of the minister and the permanent secretary. I hope they will not derail our present minister. Watch it, the next thing that will happen is the places these Gbagyi people and other poor Nigerian civil servants are living are the target for demolition and once they demolish, they will share the lands among themselves.”
Edward Okorohaka in his own view said it’s high time distortions in Abuja master plan got corrected. “Whatever it is, my own opinion is that Wike should be focused on whatever he wants to do to correct the distortions past administrations did to the Abuja master plan. Another thing he should do is to focus more on the highbrow areas like Maitama, Asokoro, Garki where these politicians bought all the land and built houses nobody is living in. He should change his plan to demolish the villages near the city centre because it will add to the suffering of the poor masses who are mostly civil servants that cannot afford the rents for the accommodation in the city.”