FCT still asleep… four months into Triple M. Bello’s Day!

Anxious to know what’s happening...Crowd at a newspaper stand in the FCT PHOTO: ITUNU AJAYI

Anxious to know what’s happening…Crowd at a newspaper stand in the FCT PHOTO: ITUNU AJAYI

Long, Long Wait For New Minister To perform

It took President Muhammadu Buhari six months or thereabout to make appointments into his cabinet. Reason: he was searching for technocrats; men and women of integrity for ministerial positions. After all, a tree does not make a forest. Also, the President needs to lean on people of like minds in order to make key decisions.

Slow and steady, a cabinet emerged, a development that was applauded by many Nigerians. But for the fact that the President could not ignore party influence in his choice of cabinet staff, he might have brought in only technocrats, home and abroad, to work with him.

There was a joke in Aso Villa while the search lasted that Baba always made inquiries on the whereabouts of persons of integrity he knew in the good old days. As the prank went, the responses were: ‘Sir, the man died five years ago’. And Baba would say, ‘Kai, I am not aware. I wanted to appoint him as minister. I knew him to be a clean man.’ At another time, Baba would ask again that Mr. So And So be contacted because he would like to work with him. Again, the answer would come: ‘The man died some years back.’

When it became evident that Baba could not call down people from heaven or ask some Americans or Britons to come and be ministers in Nigeria, he made do with the available. But it was not without standing his ground on some persons, despite all distractions. The Lagos ‘Golden Boy’, former Governor Babatunde Fashola, is a point of reference.

One of the technocrats that was brought in is the FCT minister; a man, whom correspondents that cover the FCT, refer to as Triple M. Bello. He is aware of this appellation and is favourably disposed to it. For the sake of those who do not know, Triple M. Bello simply means: Mallam Muhammad Musa Bello.

With his record as chairman of the Presidential Committee on Hajj, a position he held between 2006 and 2007 when he was able to make hajj operations less stressful, watchers in the FCT had expected a lot would have been achieved since he assumed duty as FCT minister on November 17.

Alas! On the contrary, the FCT is unusually quiet. Save for courtesy calls paid to the minister on a daily basis and flag-offs of environmental sanitation in area councils, Abuja is quiet. Of recent, he had been championing his party’s campaigns for Area Council elections. There is nothing wrong with that. But is Triple M. Bello moving away from being a technocrat to playing party politics?

The council elections have been shifted to April 9. And as things stand, Triple M. Bello might continue his campaign jamboree until the elections are over. By that time, he would have held the position of the deputy governor of the FCT for five months.

The FCT is anchored on two principal agencies: the Abuja Geographic Information Systems (AGIS) and the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB), a fact he alluded to in his maiden media briefing on January 25. During the briefing, Triple M. Bello had said he would beam his searchlight on the AEPB, specifically due to the very dirty state of the FCT and its suburbs.

He said: “As part of my commitment to making Abuja environmentally friendly and secure, I have personally visited and met with the staff and management of Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) with a view to improving the cleanliness of the city, waste management and removal of illegal and environmentally hazardous structures in the next three months. AEPB shall be made to carry out its statutory duties in a more proactive manner including enforcement of extant sanitation regulations on street hawking and begging, among others.

“However, we have to know that sanitation is a key part of personal hygiene. We need to go back to our basic efforts of the past, using our traditional and community institutions. As an administration, we are partnering with the Federal Ministry of Environment to make Abuja a clean and green city, based on global standards.”

True to his words, he had flagged off environmental sanitation around Abuja suburbs including Abaji, Gwagwalada, Kabusa, Kuje etc.  But is flag-off of such exercise enough? Where does the dirt go after sanitation? People are still in the habit of setting them on fire, a practice not so friendly to the environment.
Waste is a serious public health issue. According to the United Nations, between now and 2025, the world’s population will increase by 20 per cent, reaching the 8 billion mark. Of course, this increase is expected to generate corresponding waste.

As it is, there is nothing on ground to show that the waste management system of the FCT is capable of handling the refuse generated as a result of alarming growth in the country’s capital. The agency saddled with the responsibility of waste management in the city only collects waste from less than 20 per cent of the residents and dumps them indiscriminately before fire is set on them. Meanwhile, the smoke from these dumps continues to wreak havoc on the health of residents of such areas.

Courtesy calls are good; at least they allow callers to align themselves with the government in power and with the kind of politics played in the country. And callers may, over time, begin to enjoy government patronage. But it would be doubtful if any development can be achieved should Triple M. Bello continue in this light. As a technocrat, it is time he rolled up his sleeves, possibly discard his babanriga garment and get down to business.

His promise to complete abandoned projects in the FCT drove him to the commissioning of the Inner Southern Expressway (ISEX), now known as Goodluck Jonathan Expressway on January 30. For the purpose of the commissioning, barricades hitherto placed on strategic locations on the road were removed. They have, however, since been returned because the road was not ready for use, in the first instance. The other day, a herd of cows was loitering on the already commissioned road.

Located in the Central Business District, traversing the city from Phases I to Phase IV and connecting the Outer Southern Expressway (OSEX) within the precincts of Kuje township, the road begins where the Abuja-Keffi Road terminates at Mogadishu Barracks in Asokoro District and is meant to ease traffic in the city centre. A laudable project, but was it commissioned for the purpose of letting residents know that FCT is doing something?

AGIS, the very important FCT agency, is as quiet as a graveyard. The ever-busy place is locked up and people who have business to transact there are frustrated.

Before President Buhari inaugurated his cabinet, the Executive Director of the agency, Jemilah Tangazah, told The Guardian in an interview that she shut down the information systems of the agency a day to Buhari’s inauguration. Her reason was she did not want fraudulent people to hack into the systems and allocate lands due to the fact that no minister had been appointed for the FCT. Good reason, given the numerous challenges of double allocation the agency has been accused of in the past. But four months into the FCT minister’s administration, Abuja is still locked down.

An attempt by The Guardian to know the latest on the situation from the Amazon who holds sway as Executive Director was abortive, as she was said to be on leave.

Abuja needs to run again. And given its status as the fastest growing capital in Africa, policies need to be put in place to checkmate those who are bent on disfiguring the Master Plan. Slums are springing up again, a situation that abated during former FCT minister, Nasir el-Rufai’s tenure. The fear of el-Rufai, then, was the beginning of wisdom. The soul of Abuja is begging for redemption, failure of which the essence of relocating the capital from Lagos to Abuja might be defeated.



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