The Senate last week pondered a review of the Abuja Master plan. They were pricked mainly because of the creeping traffic congestion in the city and the major entrances to the metropolis. UCHENNA AWOM in this article examines factors congesting Abuja as focus points for the Senate ahead of the contemplated review.
Again, the question of the Abuja master plan has come to the fore and curiously at the forefront of the resurgent agitation for its review are members of the National Assembly, particularly the Senate.
Incidentally, the lawmakers who are now peeved by the distortion of the plan are constitutionally empowered to legislate for Abuja and its environs.
However, observers are quick to note that the senators were only pricked to question the existing master plan because of their unpleasant experiences in the nightmarish traffic gridlock in the capital city. The motion of last Thursday on the traffic congestion in the capital territory, may kick start the process of revisiting the master plan, which seems to have been thoroughly distorted.
The motion, which was exhaustively debated, gave the senators the opportunity to question the status quo and demanded unequivocally for the review of the master plan with a view to decongesting the city.
However, the Senators urged the authorities of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and the Ministry of Transport to quickly ease the growing traffic congestion at the three entry points to the FCT.
Perhaps it is this demand that has cast doubt on the seriousness of the lawmakers in going the whole hog to demand a total review of the master plan. But the growing perception is that if the reason by the senators in seeking action is based solely on the creeping traffic congestion in the metropolis, then their position is selfish and self serving. Nonetheless, the motion was a recognition of the defectiveness of the master plan, which observers believe was altered by the military government.
The resolutions on the traffic congestion was sequel to a motion sponsored by Senator Barnabas Gemade (PDP) and 10 others; titled ‘Perennial traffic congestion on entry routes into the FCT, Abuja’.
Leading the debate, Gemade lamented the vehicular gridlock on the three entry routes into the city, (Keffi-Abuja road, Kaduna/Zuba- Abuja road, and Lokoja/Airport- Abuja road) noting that it has continued to inflict untold hardship on motorists and commuters on daily basis. He lamented that several hours are spent by commuters to get to their offices and businesses resulting in delays in “official functions, man hour loss with resultant loss of millions of naira in the economy.”
According to him, the lateral states to the FCT have established markets, motor parks and physical developments near the highways in total disregard of the Federal Highway Regulation of 150 metres.
Gemade, however, commended the efforts of the FCT administration to “manage this serious problem” by expanding the capacity of the routes within the precincts of the city, but lamented that buying, selling and other business activities have spilled into the highways, a development which is both responsible for traffic bottleneck and fatal accidents along the routes.
Apparently to preempt likely insinuations that the motion, which stressed traffic congestion are self serving, Senators during their contributions advocated a long term solution to the transportation system in the city. Majority of the senators advocated the creation of additional routes and metro rail system, adding that decongestion of the city would serve as a permanent solution to the menace.
Well, to what extent has the distortion of the Abuja master plan, affected the original plan of the city? The city, it was learnt, was not envisaged to accommodate more than three million inhabitants even with the relocation of the capital city from Lagos. That marked the beginning of the distortion of the plan, to make way for the accommodation of the expected influx of the people, not only from Lagos, but from other states of the federation. Observers believed that the present situation could have been worse, had the military remained in power.
The first sign that Abuja would have exploded as an unrivalled slum, was the restoration of the Nnamdi Azikiwe Expressway to a ten-lane dual carriage way, and the construction of the fly over bridges to link the city centre from the suburbs, when the National Stadium was being constructed. Before then, the expressway which linked the major entrances to the city was simply a one-lane road that could hardly accommodate two vehicles. So the construction of the road was an elixir to the creeping traffic congestion, yet it was not enough to contain the situation.
Today, the rising population of the FCT, arising from the sustenance of democracy, and the aspiration of the people to live closer to the seat of power has exerted considerable pressure on the existing infrastructure, particularly on the traffic situation. It is believed that every four years, the city witnesses an unprecedented influx of new inhabitants. Most of them come in as political office holders who won their elections, political aides and their families. They stay back on the expiration of their tenure.
Also, political office holders in the states, see Abuja as power city that of necessity, must be abode to men and women of power, irrespective of the level and status of such office holders. In that case most of the office holders notwithstanding whether they are domiciled in Abuja, crave to own houses in the city at least as a status symbol.
Again, for Diaspora Nigerians returning, Abuja provides them the needed first city of choice that can easily compare to what they are used to. All these factors tend to have put the city under strenuous pressure.
But the most negative of them all is that development is not growing at the same rate as the population and of course it would mean that the original plan of the city would be altered to accommodate the current reality. The landmass of the FCT is large enough to accommodate large number of Nigerians willing to live in the city, but the choice of individuals to stay in the metropolis have put a lie on the plans to decongest the city centre and develop the satellite towns.
Therefore, as the senate moves to pressures for the review of the master plan, one thing comes to mind; would they also have the courage to influence the executors of the plan at the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) to look beyond the city centre and make the satellite towns as habitable as the Abuja metropolis? Facts are that the FCDA officials believe that their work is done when they encourage the development of estates without pipe-borne water, good drainage system, electricity and security. These are the infrastructure that attract inhabitants and which will also enhance the decongestion of the city centre and of its traffic grid locks.