Dr. Ramatu Tijjani Aliyu is the Minister of State for the Federal Capital Territory and member, Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP). She spoke to Property & Environment Editor, CHINEDUM UWAEGBULAM on reasons for upsurge in slum settlements and dearth of infrastructure as well as physical plans in satellite towns and plans for the review of Abuja master plan.
There have been conflicts of roles between planners, engineers and other allied professionals. How is this playing out in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT)? In what way has it affected implementation of physical plans for satellite towns and urban management?
The existing administrative structures of Federal Capital Territory (FCT), where departments/agencies involved in planning, enforcement and urban management are placed under different authorities have created some difficulties and challenges.
For example, urban and regional planning, resettlement and compensation, survey and mapping, mass housing, public building are under Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA), monitoring and enforcement, Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB), lands, Abuja Geographic Information System (AGIS) under FCTA; while development control, parks and recreation, come under Abuja Metropolitan Management Council (AMMC).
Therefore, coordination of activities and information sharing is difficult. In view of the present administrative structures, these agencies and departments lack the necessary synergy for sharing information on critical issues such as redesigns, reallocations, revocations, allocations, and withdrawal of development permits, thereby leading to multiple allocation of land, conflict in titles, litigation, among others.
This hampers effective land administration and management. In the same vein, there is no synergy between FCTA and federal ministries/agencies operating within the FCT. For example, Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, Federal Housing Authority (FHA), Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Mines and Steel Development.
Consequently, allocations and development control activities by these ministries/agencies also lead to conflict in some cases.
Forty-four years after the creation of FCT, there have been upsurge in slum settlements and dearth of infrastructure.
Do you think the dreams of the founding fathers have been achieved? What are the challenges militating against achieving a sustainable and livable city?
Abuja master plan projected that the city will mature and become stable by the year 2000 when it was expected to have 278,400 households with an average household size of five to six persons per household and accommodate 1.6 million population. The city which is now considered as one of the fastest growing cities in Africa had only 80 per cent, 30per cent, 20per cent and less than one per cent of districts infrastructure completed in phases I, II, III and IV/V respectively, as earlier presented.
It is clear that the master plan did not envision the drastic growth rates that the city has experienced over the past ten years. On the contrary, population influx into the city has far outweighed the rate of physical city development.
This has invariably resulted into unwanted and unplanned development of shanties or towns around the city and tremendous pressure on existing infrastructure in the city.
To this end, there are cases of houses being built in place hitherto earmarked as green areas, while some other structures have been built on top of water and sewer lines.
Town planners have been campaigning for the full implementation of Abuja master plan and its review. What process is needed to kick-start the review inline with realities of contemporary times?
The master plan for Abuja after more than 40 years of its existence has never been comprehensively reviewed. Abuja has been witnessing significant population increase, which in some parts of the FCT is established to be up to 20 per cent per year. This is largely fuelled by migration-massive influx into the city.
This population growth is fuelling an increase in demand for services, which is not increasing in tandem with population growth. The master plan of any city remains the veritable tool that guarantees effective city planning, development and management.
In this regards, a comprehensive review of Abuja master plan in tune with the current realities and re-assessing the plan philosophy, objectives and targets becomes expedient. It is hoped that, a proposed conference, which will also involve participation of resource persons from all professions in the built environment will provide a platform for proffering practical, realistic, achievable and sustainable solutions to the identified problems with the Abuja master plan and work out modalities for its comprehensive review.
In FCT, the biggest challenge for the dwellers has been lack of affordable housing. What steps have the FCT Administration taken to ensure workers and low-income earners are provided with homes?
It is true that lack of affordable housing schemes have been one of the biggest challenges faced by the previous FCT Administrations. Nevertheless, we have to commend their efforts for putting up policies for successive governments to build upon. Against this background, I am happy to inform you that the present FCT government is poised to change the narratives. To this end, the FCTA through its Satellite Towns Development Department (STDD) has concluded plans to roll out 30,000 housing units for staff of FCTA/FCDA in Karshi area of the territory.
Recently, I embarked on project tour of the site along side our development partners, with my technical team and management staff of STDD. It is my honest view that at the completion of the project, staff of the FCT Administration would be more committed to duty, and they would also have sense of ownership of the houses.
We are committed to affordable housing as mandated by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to ensure that there is a provision for affordable housing for indigenous people and residents of the FCT across the six area councils.
The natives have always been at loggerheads with authorities and the lingering land dispute dates back to the designation of Abuja as the federal capital city. What have been the issues? Why are this indigenous people not permanently resettled?
Since the creation of the FCT, Abuja, in 1976 from three states namely Niger, Kwara and Nasarawa, resettlement has been a major factor in addressing the movement of the original inhabitants to their various states of origin and those that remain, as residents of FCT will have no right of indigeneship. At that early period, some communities such as Kukuwaba, Maitama Toso, Maitama Sabo, Katampe were resettled to Kubwa Resettlement Scheme, while Wuse community was moved to Sabo Wuse along Abuja-Kaduna Road and old Karu to new Karu in Nasarawa state.
The Usuma Resettlement Scheme in Bwari was as a result of the construction of the Usuma Dam. About four communities were resettled namely Ushafa, Peyi, Jigo and Pambara. In 2005, four communities were earmarked for resettlement at Apo Resettlement Scheme. They are: Garki Gbagyi, Garki Hausawa, Apo and Akpanjenya.
Houses have been built and given to members of these communities who are entitled, while plots have also been given to the other adults above 18 years of age. However, only Apo and Akpmajenya have moved to the new site, while the other two are in the process for movement. Two out of these communities have been successfully resettled, remaining Garki Gbagyi and Garki Hausawa communities.
Some resettlement sites are under construction such as Wasa and Shere-Galuyi to accommodate communities in phase II and III of the Federal Capital City (FCC). For example, Jabi, Utako, Kpadna, Mabushi among others. These two sites have not materialised due to low pace of work and lack of infrastructural facilities on site.
The challenges are One: Lack of commitment of the original inhabitants to move from the original settlement to resettlement site, preferring integration of their communities; Two: Complaints arising from approved rates of compensation as well as delay in the payment of compensation;
Three: Undue expansion of the existing original inhabitants settlement due to population growth and selling of illegal land to other Nigerians by the indigenes; Four: Outright rejection of compensation payment/claims by original inhabitants, rather they dictate/fix exorbitant values acceptable to them; Five: Lack of political will from successive governments to enforce resettlement schemes; and Six: Paucity of funds arising from inadequate budgetary provisions and delay in the release of funds for resettlement and compensation scheme.
The United Nations (UN) wants the federal government to impose taxes on unoccupied or vacant homes across the country to curb corruption and money laundering. Do you think this is feasible in FCT? What’s the merit of such regulation?
Property tax is not just feasible but a welcome development in the FCTA. In the FCT, for instance, we are targeting N30 billion yearly from property tax if fully implemented. Besides, property tax will boost our revenue base, it will also discourage “portfolio developers”, and by extension curb corruption in the system.
The merits of such regulation are; firstly, the property tax is a more stable and reliable revenue source than any other tax. That’s because property values are usually less susceptible to short-term economic fluctuations than other major revenue sources, including sales and income taxes. Secondly, since property taxes can be secured by the property, they are difficult to evade. This ensures that a broad segment of the population shares in the costs of government, and thirdly, property tax systems are more open and visible than those for other taxes.
Many professionals have blamed the high prices of houses in Abuja on over concentration of infrastructure in certain sections of the city, especially in Maitama and Asokoro. Garki, Lugbe and Kubwa. Do you agree with that notion?
Thank God you used the word ‘notion’. And I must tell you that it is a very wrong notion. Bear in mind that the total landmass of the FCT is 8,000 square kilometers. And out of this, FCC, consist of 250sqkm. The original plan is to start development within the FCC before moving to other parts including the satellite towns.
Therefore, what you called “over concentration of infrastructure in certain sections of the city” is a deliberate policy of government to carry out development in phases instead of haphazard way of doing things. That is why the present government is focusing more on the completion of ongoing infrastructural projects in those areas within the FCC.
However, it is heartwarming to note that, this government has also carried out critical infrastructural development in satellite towns like Karshi, Kubwa, and Lugbe.