DEVELOPMENT ARRESTED: FCT UNDER BUHARI’S MINISTER, MUHAMMED BELLO

About 54 days after he was sworn in for a second term, President Muhammadu Buhari appointed 43 ministers into his cabinet.

The ministers comprise seven past governors and seven past senators, while 14 former ministers were retained from the president’s first tenure. They were assigned portfoliosabout a month after – having been screened and confirmed by the Senate.

Muhammad Bello, the FCT minister, is one of the 14 retained by the president with a Minister of State, Ramatu Tijjani, assigned to assist him.

His return generated controversy among residents of the FCT as many said his administration, in the first tenure, watched as infrastructure and other public utilities in the city decayed.

PREMIUM TIMES’ analysis of Mr Bello’s work in the past shows that he performed below average – even though he claimed to have fulfilled his promises.

This report seeks to present the scorecard of the ministers since their appointment – based on promises they made upon resumption and others made after.

Promises

Mr Bello was not asked a single question during his screening at the Senate.

He was told to take a bow and go because he is a member of the National Assembly “by association” while Ms Tijjani was given the same treatment based on gender.

However, right after their portfolios were assigned on August 21, 2020, the ministers resumed office at the FCTA Secretariat in Abuja to address the press and colleagues and as usual, make promises.

Mr Bello’s first promise was to consolidate on the existing solid foundation for the rapid development of the FCT during his first tenure. In order words, he planned to improve the state and infrastructure of the nation’s capital – a promise he made during his first tenure.

The minister also promised lasting security in the nation’s capital and to rid the city of illicit drug operations and users. He noted that a high percentage of criminality that occurs in the FCT is linked to drug abuse.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr Bello promised to provide palliative to FCT residents to cushion the effect of the cessation of movement on vulnerable members of the society. This promise was echoed by the minister of state in August.

Other promises made by the minister include quality education in the territory as well as support for the activities of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). He also promised to support entrepreneurs in the FCT.

On her part, the minister of state promised an amicable resolution of land disputes between army and indigenes of the FCT and to work with Mr Bello towards achieving these goals.

Achievements

As part of plans to improve the FCT’s infrastructure, the minister, in March, flagged off the one-way directional road traffic on the Southern Park Way in the Abuja city centre, a project which he said will connect the northern and southern sectors of the nation’s capital.

As part of his ‘Safe, Functional and Efficient Traffic Management Policy’, the minister enforced restriction of tricycle operations within the federal capital city.

Operators and riders of tricycles popularly known as ‘keke napep’, were banned from operating in major highways like the Ahmadu Bello Way, Nnamdi Azikiwe Expressway, Yakubu Gowon Crescent, Abdulsalami Abubakar Way, Obafemi Awolowo Way, Oladipo Diya Way and other major roads in the city.

Although the act was aimed at curbing the dangers (to both riders and passengers) when on the highway, the negative impact was felt by the riders and residents as transportation became difficult.

As promised, the minister of state in June, commenced distribution of over 600,000 palliative items to the 62 council wards in the FCT, as part of measures to cushion the socio-economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Failures

Despite commencement of some projects and the approval of nine projects by the Federal Executive Council, most FCT residents believe infrastructure in the city is deteriorating particularly due to poor maintenance.

Besides bad roads in different towns of the city, traffic lights at major points in the FCT are either not functioning or malfunctioning.

There is also the absence of street lights on some major highways leaving streets dark and dangerous to FCT residents who have often, complained about the darkness in the city while driving around town at night.

Road mishaps and crime rates have also escalated as a result of lack of these utilities and the absence of CCTVs has made it worse to detect these crimes.

Cases of armed robbery, carjacking, kidnapping, ‘one-chance’, killings among other attendant security lapses (most of which happen at night) have been in the rise thereby rendering the FCT increasingly unsafe.

Despite efforts to keep the city clean, there is poor waste management and the trend of open defecation especially in satellite towns and villages of the federal capital is worrisome.

Also, there are a lot of blocked sewages across the FCT, which have caused severe flooding over the years.

Performance

The FCT, as a seat of political power, is supposed to be cosmopolitan in nature and the level of infrastructural as well as human capital development needs to be top notch, Samson Itodo, activist and Executive Director of Yiaga Africa, said.

This, he said, is because Nigeria can be assessed based on what the capital looks like just as capitals of other countries represent the image of such countries.

While he noted some improvement in infrastructure, he emphasised the need for security of lives and properties.

“In Nigeria, yes, there has been some level of infrastructural development but to assess the performance of the minister, one of the things to look at is the state of infrastructure. And that means roads, street lights, how clean the environment and security.

“The FCT has been notorious for harassment of women, among others. We see the AEPB (Abuja environmental protection body) that has been involved in harassing women and the rate of SGBV has become very high in the FCT nas been dragged to court several times for violating the rights of women. Hotels too, have been demolished because it is believed that those spaces are used as brothels or to habour commercial sex workers.

“When you look at indices for measuring the state of development of a city, this is what you look at because the state exists for the people. And if the people’s lives and livelihood are threatened, it means the state has failed.”

He also decried the rising cases of unlawful evictions in some parts of the city without compensation “as well as struggle for land ownership between the government and indignes of the FCT”.

“This brings to the fore, the need for the position of the minister to be an elective one…where people participate in electing who will lead them just like governors of other states.”

He frowned at the poor state of electricity and security in the city. He said so much can be done.

“FCT to a large extent, is one of the most insecure states of the country with increasing cases of kidnapping ad robbery.

“COVID-19 is one of the cases where the poeple have felt the presence of the FCT and that didn’t come about without the pressure from citizens and civic groups with regards to the distribution of palliatives.”

He, however, applauded the ministers for the level of “openness and inclusiveness that they adopted in the management and distribution of palliative”. He urged the minister “to work and make the residents feel his presence and leadership.”

When asked to rate the ministers’ performance, Mr Itodo said they have performed below average.

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