Unknown to many Nigerians and even Abuja residents, who are close by, the Abuja Centenary City, which was conceptualised in 2014 as a legacy project to mark 100th year of Nigeria’s amalgamation of 1914, is still a dream in the pipeline. BODE GBADEBO, who visited the project site, writes on the wonders of a city with a difference.
In the beginning, the Abuja Centenary City is a city planned as part of the Nigeria’s centenary celebration in 2014 by the then President Goodluck Jonathan administration. The centenary city project, according to the then Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Anyim Pius Anyim, would be modeled after cities such as Dubai and Monaco, among other breath-taking cities, to serve as a political and economic tool for securing foreign investments for Nigeria. The Centenary City can be best described as a “city within a city” in Abuja and this is not far-fetched.
“The idea is to get a better city than the present Abuja where people will not need to provide basic amenities by themselves,” Jonathan had said. The city is also conceived as a centre for the preservation of Nigeria’s political history and documentation of her contributions to the political, cultural and economic development and the advancement of peace and security in the world, as well as the hub of economic activities. The new city when completed will be sustainable because it balances economic, social, cultural and environmental factors to produce harmonic development. Despite being a Public Private Partnership (PPP), the Centenary City as a Free Trade Zone, would be exempted from both federal and state taxes, and even Federal Capital Territory (FCT) property tax.
But surprisingly, after the centenary celebrations in 2014 and the exit of Jonathan government in 2015, nothing was heard about the project again as it was stalled over issues which cropped up thereafter. Of recent, work has resumed on the 12.6km wide project site as Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA), Centenary City Plc and concerned private developers are leaving no stone unturned for the realisation of the Abuja Centenary Economic City Free Zone. Last Wednesday, managing director of NEPZA, Hon. Emmanuel Jime, unveiled a new and big model of the city as a demostration of the commitment of stakeholders to the project. At the occassion, the managing director of the Centenary City Plc, Dr. Ikechukwu Odenigwe, said the project when completed will attract Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) worth over $18bn and create direct 250,000 jobs. He revealed that the local and foreign investors led by Nigerian businessman, Alhassan Baba Dantata and Front Range, have so invested $40 million on the master plan and other preliminary works.
For his part, the managing director of Front Range, Jamal Shrgill, took guests through the visual master plan of the project and taking time to explain each feature or component of the city.
They include a 12-storey high Buhari Tower, in honour of President Muhammadu Buhari, the first Safari Park in the urban city, luxury villas, apartments, office buildings, waterfront retail areas, integrated gold community, major retail centres, hotel suites, health and learning centres, among others. Out of the retail centres will be Nigeria Mall, which will give residents access to an extensive range of international brands, complete with abundant entertainment options and dining outlets. Nigerian tourists in search leisure or medical attention in Dubai, Johanesburg, Abu Dhabi, Egypt and India as the case may be will find same in their own country when the city comes on board, a development that will help to halt capital flight from Nigeria and in turn earn more foreign exchange. Speaking prior to the unveiling of the new project model, NEPZA MD, Jime said the Eko Atlantic City project in Lagos and Abuja Centenary City started at about same time but the former is at advanced stage with Centenary City lagging behind.
He noted that the Free Zone scheme is taken seriously by other parts of the world and Nigeria is not exception as it will create jobs for the teeming youths. “Projects such as these have the capacity to deliver jobs and I don’t see why any government will not take it serious,” Jime said. He pointed out that the city will be a flagship, adding that it will provide infrastructure that cannot be found anywhere in the country. The NEPZA boss allayed the fears of exclusivity being nursed by ordinary Nigerians about the high-profile city, declaring that “this city is going to be for everyone.” He therefore charged the management of the Centeneray City Plc to employ properly trained personnel for the Safari Park in order to deliver on the goals of the component. Jime recalled that there were challenges facing the development of the project, adding that investors are now ready and confortable to invest in the mega project.
This is even as the NEPZA helsman revealed that a private investor, Dantata, would start the foundation laying of the 12 storey-high Buhari Tower in the city in the next four weeks.
Apart from the Tower, Dantata is also investing in the contruction of numerous high-end apartments and and a Golf Course in the city.
Meanwhile two traditional rulers from areas where the lands for project were acquired graced the occassion.
The Chief of Jiwa community, HRH Idris Musa MFR, said the delay in executing the project was behind the agitations by original land owners.
He therefore called on concerned stakeholders to expedite action on the speedy completion of the project.
For his part, the Gomo of Kuje, HRH Haruna Tanko, added that the compensation for the lands acquired for the Centenary City have been fully paid and issues surrounding it have be settled by the relevant FCT authorities.
LEADERSHIP Friday learnt that N1,234,734,000.00 was paid as compensation for land and another N306 million paid for ecominic trees felled while clearig the land for the commencement of the project.
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