Administering a city like the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, in a hurry to catch up with its peers elsewhere, can be a challenge. Conceived and designed essentially as the administrative capital of Nigeria, other factors not initially taken into consideration at the time of its creation by the Justice Akinnola Aguda Committee, are expanding its roles. Some of these factors which range from insecurity to the all-pervasive Nigerian factor are changing the face of the city in a negative sense. Because of the happenings in neighbouring states, the people feel that Abuja serves as a place of safety.
We are persuaded by the degeneration going on in the city to recall that the administration of Nasir el-Rufai as Minister of FCT met such rut and made a conscious effort to retrieve the masterplan from the brink of bastardisation. But what is going on in the city presently may well suggest that his was a wasted effort. Huge slums are developing in the city centre with the mad rush to build estates of very poor quality and with no consideration for infrastructure such as good roads, drainage, water and even electricity. Our worry is accentuated as we ponder over who gives approvals for such property development. Residents, in desperate need of roofs over their heads, are ripped off by shylock developers with the authorities looking on as if in putrid collusion with them.
Furthermore, a drive around the town will suggest to a careful observer the preponderance of lawlessness of the city dwellers who conduct themselves in a manner that points to the fact that there is a lack of appreciation of the intents and purposes of making the FCT a modern city in terms of aesthetics and architectural attractions.
This newspaper is worried, for instance, that private transport operators conduct themselves in a manner that suggest that they neither accept that the city has laws nor consider it necessary to abide by those laws in the overall interest of everyone. For this category of residents, every open space is a taxi park not minding the inconvenience to other road users. Occasionally, we notice that the authorities engage in half-hearted drive to clear the areas concerned if only to pretend to be working. But soon after, the operators return as if they are above the law with a brazenness that gives other members of the society the impression that, indeed, they are above the law.
Even worse, in the opinion of this newspaper, is the conduct of pedestrians who defy the authorities by insisting on not using bridges that cost the administration huge sums of money to build. As if in utter helplessness, the government, instead of enforcing the use of the bridges, go ahead to commit more money in building barricades that are meant to prevent the people from exposing themselves to avoidable risk of death by competing for space with speeding vehicles and making dashes across the express highways. This goes on even as the government workers building the barricades are still there and nothing happens.
It is pertinent to note that a city without laws is no better than the jungle where might is right. In an environment where deliberate infractions go without sanctions, life itself will sooner or later descend to a state of despair and hopelessness.
Before Abuja gets to that dismal level, we are compelled by the sense of revulsion we obviously feel about the decay in the system that we all call the Federal Capital City, to urge the administration to wake up and face the challenges of enforcing its own laws recklessly violated by the citizens who dwell in it.
In our opinion, the only hindrance to sanitising the FCT is the perceived corruptive influence that is so palpable. Officials, allegedly for pecuniary benefits, turn the other way as things go from bad to worse. Otherwise, the situation in the estates and the impunity of developers could not have been this intolerable.
It may be important to ask why it is so difficult for the city’s administration to clear the highways of illegal and, in most cases, dangerous parks. As for the pedestrians that insist on not making use of the pedestrian bridges, the administration ought to indulge them by setting up mobile courts that will try offenders and punish them as a deterrent.
We, again, recall that at a time in Lagos, confronted by this seemingly suicidal tendency of pedestrians, the government made a law that brought it under control. That law made relations of anyone killed in such circumstances pay heavily before collecting the corpse. Also, any motorist involved in such accidents was exculpated.
This can only be achieved if the officials of the FCT administration take their jobs seriously and eschew the inclination to be attracted by filthy lucre.