Designing the rebirth, renewal of FCT
“Men are great only if they are determined to be so”. – Charles de Gaulle
Apparently, the FCT has not been so lucky lately having ministers determined to be great, at least to reproduce (if they cannot surpass) the achievements of Mallam Nasir el-Rufai in city administration. Questions you hear these days are troubling: Who is the FCT Minister? Why is Abuja becoming dirty and disorganised? The level of impunity that has overtaken this beloved city since 2007 is unprecedented and saddening. For architects and allied professionals like me, reckless distortion of the FCT Masterplan, organisation and administration is disheartening.
It is a fact that el-Rufai developed and perfected a system that was about making Abuja a truly modern Capital City like Johannesburg and Abu-Dhabi.
However, the present FCT Minister, Mallam Muhammed Bello deserves the benefit of the doubt though lots of Nigerians are disappointed that no visible plan of action has been seen yet. It is expected that the President would form a powerful partnership with the Minister just as President Obasanjo did with Mallam Nasir el-Rufai. I have utmost confidence in PMB’s ability to bring change to the FCT and Nigeria. The FCTA ought to be chaired by the President as Governor, as provided by law, while the Minister should serve as the Minister of State just as he is doing with the Petroleum Ministry.
Our beloved FCT has degenerated to the extent that the President will need to declare an emergency for its re-birth and renewal, a break from the corruption in the FCDA where officials make it difficult for registered professionals to thrive as evident in the development of non-fancied, non-iconic buildings in the city, to the allocation of visible green areas to worship places. For instance, it is in the public domain that the former administration allocated a plot of land to a popular church in Apo which was later discovered not to be originally designed for a religious institution and has become a contentious issue now.
Another impunity is in the allocation of the green area to selected individuals for the development of an Events Centre and a worship centre for Wuye District Muslim Community. Another gloomy example is the allocation of a corridor between Federal Ministry of Finance and the Yobe State House along Ralph Shodeinde Street in the Central Business District to a car dealer, thus constituting a security risk to the Finance Ministry at this time when we should be more security-conscious.
One will feel terribly disappointed that it had to take Senator Dino Melayo and his colleagues to alert the FCT Minister on the abuse of the green areas in Maitama along the Nnamdi Azikiwe Expressway/IBB Boulevard, opposite the Aguiyi Ironsi Barracks. Of recent, a director in the FCT was openly embarrassed on a national television as a beneficiary of the lawlessness that has characterised this projected modern city, for erecting his personal house in that same green area.
The FCT Minister should dismantle all the inappropriate structures erected by the immediate past FCT administration, so that he can achieve the expected results. It is worrisome that the Central Business District of Sandton in Johannesburg was created in the mid-1970s, almost at the same time as FCT Abuja. Can you compare the status of that beautiful district of Sandton with our beloved Central Area, Maitama or the almighty Asokoro District?
One of my professional suggestions is that the original masterplan and the approved revisions – as approved by the President/Ministers – should be mass-reproduced and made available to the general public. This will curb arbitrariness in the FCT. This will help the public, especially professionals to be on guard against potential abuses and become reflex whistle blowers against the mafia in the system. There is need to also dismantle and re-organise the development control, AGIS and other agencies of the FCT. There should be a seamless system of approval for land and design approvals in the FCT in collaboration with architects, Town Planners (NIA, NSE, NITP, etc) involving BPP in generating consulting firms to form a body for design approval and development control.
Concerted efforts should be made to complete major districts around the precinct of developed areas and zones like Durumi, Wuye, Mpape, Life Camp, Kado and Lugbe district that have become a shame to a nation. We need to open up the satellite towns by putting in place first-class facilities and using international standard class contractors. There is need to create an Abuja disciplinary or orientation body like Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI) in Lagos but must be private partnership PPP-driven to prevent it from going moribund within a short period. The body will regularly educate Abuja residents on cleanliness, courtesy on road usage, work against uncivilised behaviour like posting of posters on bridges, trading on the road/under bridges, etc.
We need to design and construct modern car parks, markets with adequate parking lots and international airport. There is also need to enforce the design of modern malls by individual developers in the FCT instead of box-like structures currently labeled as malls or plazas springing up all over the city. The so-called malls within the city must be properly insured. The FCT Minister should take a look at the recently proposed almost $1billion airport to be constructed in Senegal and use it as an inspiration to actualise Mallam el-Rufai’s dream of a state of the art airport.
Finally, the FCT Minister should convene a conference of stakeholders, professionals in the built environment, officials of the Ministry of Environment, etc, to brainstorm on the best way of actualising the dream of a befitting capital city for Nigeria.
•Alonge, a Chartered Architect and the PRO of the Association of Consulting Architects of Nigeria (ACAN), wrote from Abuja. The article is his personal opinion and not the position of ACAN.
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