Hon Minister, this open letter has become necessary to highlight some of the issues requiring an urgent attention for the interest of residents living in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). As a media practitioner of over two decades, some of us are acquainted with your footprints at the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) where you displayed unalloyed commitment in turning around the fortunes of that organisation.
Unlike past ministers of the FCT who rolled in the hay in a bid to advance the development of the nation’s capital, you have been engaged in treading a transparent course that is alien to the system. Your refusal to succumb to corruption has led to many ascribing to your person some negative titles in a bid to paint you as someone that is not a conformist. In the last five years of your leadership as Minister of the FCT, you have left footprints of diligent and humane disposition in dealing with issues affecting Abuja residents.
Hon. Minister, your deep commitment to justice and equity for all Nigerians has been astounding. Much as the system upon which you now superintend has tried to weaken and vitiate your vision in enthroning equality, you have remained impervious for the common good. In a society like ours where lawlessness has climbed to a mountain peak, patriotic public officers like you are not having it easy to contend with forces opposed to a fair deal for all groups. That explains why in the past, when confronted with efforts of some corrupt civil servants to game the system, you have always simply cupboarded memos aimed fleecing the system as Keep In View (KIV) files.
Five years after your appointment as the FCT Minister, the opulence of public office has not attracted you to the lure of corruption. The man known as Mallam Muhammad Musa Bello who once headed NAHCON has refused to transfigure into the roles played by some of his predecessors who served as FCT Ministers. As it stands now, your leadership of the nation’s capital premised on transparency has brought out the seamier side of what happens when honesty confronts greed.
Recently I had a genuine cause to write on the fraudulent tendencies by some unpatriotic elements in our nation’s health system to criminalise the dead. I specifically brought to the attention of the public how corrupt staffers of the Asokoro Hospital and some other medical facilities owned by the FCT were involved in taking advantage of desperate relations of the dead for extortion.
I was reliably told by some of your aides that you were touched by that piece and immediately ordered an investigation into the matter. I would later be called by an official of the Health Secretariat to provide additional information on the matter. I promised to get the victims to testify if necessary. Over three months later, nothing has been heard. Those who want the system irredeemably rotten will always be there to frustrate you. The need to demand for the file of that enquiry is now crucial as the sordid deals in FCT hospitals are yet to be over, thereby working against your vision in realigning forces for the interest of the overall majority.
Hopefully, in less than two years, you will become a former FCT Minister. The question I want to ask is: What shall be your legacy after your tenure as FCT Minister? Is it to simply stop crooks on their tracks without leaving a legacy that will point to succeeding FCT Ministers of your sterling strides? I know you have looked into the books of your successors and must be appalled of the rot some of them committed. The building of a pedestrian bridge in Abuja at a whopping sum of N1 billion each and the many snubbing attempts you have unleashed on billionaires through rejection of their gifts is mind boggling for those not knowledgeable in what you face as the FCT Minister.
As someone desirous of doing the right thing and constantly being opposed to monsters of corruption that have taken hostage those in the corridor of power, the remaining two years should offer an opportunity to embark on projects that can ultimately be dubbed as parts of your legacies.
Hon Minister, you are a man of lean needs. Unlike others who believed in acquiring billions of naira to oppress fellow citizens, you have refused to see public office as an avenue for stealing. It is far better to deploy resources to work under an effective monitoring mechanism than forfeiting such money to the public treasury same as unspent funds.
As someone who has lived and reported on the FCT in the last two decades, your administration may have been transparent in managing finances that are accruable to the territory, but it has come short of delivering critical projects in advancing the development of our nation’s capital. Much as current efforts are geared towards engaging the private sector for development, more efforts should be deployed to complement government’s lean resources.
That explains why your office needs to recalibrate the system in tune with your vision of leaving behind a legacy that strives for the enthronement of equity for all groups. Honest youths hawking to earn a living in Abuja are constant victims of harassment and extortion unleashed by officials of the Abuja Environment Protection Board (AEPB), in collaboration with security officials. I once witnessed an episode at the Sahad stores in the Central Business District (CBD) where these youths engaged in hawking fruits were swamped upon and taken captive to only-God-knows-where.
One of the captured youths once told me: “It’s usual for AEPB workers and policemen to raid hawkers and other elements in the pretext of clearing us and other undesirable elements. We are often asked to pay the sum of N5, 000 to regain our freedom. Even those girls hawking their bodies are forced to either sleep with their captors or pay in order not to risk court action “.
In a country where able youths are in the prime period of their lives and engaged in keeping body and soul together, political leadership must be engaged in creatively synergising with critical stakeholders in tackling the scourge of unemployment. In the last two weeks, businesses operating along the Umaru Yar’Adua Expressway have suffered destruction through the clearance of these illegal structures that once served as stalls.
Sir, as you are aware, Abuja is more inhabited by the poor than by those with deep pockets. No one is saying that it is wrong to clear illegal structures that have turned our environment into a contemptible eyesore. What is needed is deliberate efforts at organising these vulnerable persons into formidable groups in providing hope for despairing citizens.
In the midst of the current pandemic ravaging our nation, the additional threat of insecurity in various parts of Nigeria has turned the nation’s capital into a safe Haven. While under a democratic government, resorting to outright demolition may not hold the key on the way forward, your administration should pursue signature projects in housing, employment generating endeavours, among others, in a bid to provide succour to those living at the bottom for empowerment.
Hon Minister, while I am told and have observed that you are not someone in love with the floodlight of publicity, your determination to be just and equitable has been profound and should be accompanied with an unprecedented zeal towards firming efforts at building legacies. More commendable is your heart desire to assist the poor and live a simple life as dictated by Islam.
Sir, I do hope you take time off your busy schedules to go through this open letter that is purely altruistic in providing some forms of reasoning for a better FCT than you met it.