As residents wait to see if Nyesom Wike’s time as minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) will turn around the territory’s fortunes, they are urging the newly-minted minister, to walk his talk of restoring the debilitating city back to the original vision of its founders.
They are also urging him to be empathetically cautious in his actions so as not to stymie investments and economic growth in Abuja.
Apart from government corruption, real estate and agriculture are the main drivers of the federal capital territory’s economy.
Wike says he will not be shy in revoking land titles in the city.
“He needs to be conscious of the poor. They are not the ones that rubbished the Abuja master plan. It is the rich,” Obehi Mamudu, an engineer in the city, implored.
Wike’s predecessor, Mohammed Bello dismally failed to deliver even in the littlest things. He is universally dismissed by residents as totally clueless and inept.
Read also: Can Wike reset Abuja?
In sweeping and verbose promises, he made to residents of the capital city when he resumed work last week, Wike, vowed to “ensure that Abuja gets the best. You will see projects upon projects, and projects that will be completed and not abandoned.
“I am not a party to abandoned projects. I start a project when there is money, as such we will look into our finances before we begin any project.
“I believe in the renewed hope of President Bola Tinubu, and Nigerians will see the difference in no distant time.”
He added that there had to be immediate deliverables to assure the people that the government was determined to turn the fortunes of the territory around.
“We will consult with stakeholders, the natives, and herdsmen to address some of these problems, including open grazing.
“We cannot allow cows inside the city. It can be outside the city. That is the way it should be done, because the grasses are outside the city. The grasses are not here. These are grasses we planted to beautify the city. The ones in the area councils are the ones that they can eat.
“We will provide alternatives to reduce the suffering of the people, particularly those without private vehicles.
“We will bring back mass transit to improve access to public transportation, and therefore, the person in charge of transportation must keep his record clean,” he said.
He said that emphasis would be placed on infrastructural development, taking one project at a time to restore the city to its glory.
Development, he swore, would also be extended to the six Area Councils as part of strategies to decongest the city.
“We are here to deliver the short-term deliverables for people to see that Abuja is coming back to what it was supposed to be. People are complaining of street lights not working, I am complaining too. We must fix it within the shortest possible time,” he said.
Along with his brash promises came his flamboyant threats also. Threats that have got residents of the federal capital either thrilled or frightened.
The voluble former governor of Rivers State promised that he would demolish all illegal buildings and structures in the FCT as part of efforts to restore the Abuja Master Plan.
The Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) has revealed that 30 areas in Abuja might be affected by demolishing illegal structures. According to the FCTA, 6,000 buildings had been mapped out in their last survey for demolition, and more might still be affected.
“It is not going to be business as usual. Those distorting Abuja Master Plan: if you build where you are not supposed to, the building will go down.
“If you build on a green area, sorry, it will go down. Those who were allocated land and refused to develop them, we will revoke such lands and re-allocate them to those who are ready to develop them.
“Those who don’t pay ground rent, we will not notify them to do so, but I will not be tired of signing revocation notices.
“Uncompleted buildings that have become a safe haven for criminals will be reclaimed by the government and put them to good use.”
Wike added that the government would no longer tolerate the indiscriminate operation of markets and motor parks by the roadside.
He said that people selling goods and wares under the umbrella by roadside, illegal motor parks and bus stops would no longer be tolerated, adding that they constitute part of the security challenge in the FCT.
“If you have a brother, sister, or uncle involved in any of these, please tell him that the time is up. The goal is to sanitise Abuja and make it safe for everyone,” he said.
With his threats and promises, Wike would be operating under a tyranny of expectations. While residents of the city expect the new minister to turn the capital city around as he has promised, they are also expecting him to be pragmatic in executing his promises and threats.
Nigeria’s economy is in bad shape. Late last year, the NBS reported that as much as 63 percent or 133 million Nigerians are multidimensionally poor.
“Unemployment, underemployment and their effects on poverty have remained a bane for Nigeria. If no urgent measures are deployed soon, Nigeria with its teeming population is certain to fall in desperate times. Already, the World Bank projects that about 5 million Nigerians will fall below the poverty line,” a 2022 United Nations Development Programme, UNDP, noted.
“The country’s economy is in bad shape. If demolition must be carried out, he should try as much as possible to ensure that proper measures are put in place to help those that will definitely lose their homes,” Kehinde Imasuen, a fashion designe,r told an online paper
Daniel Bwala, a legal practitioner and political aide to the presidential candidate of the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, in the February 25th presidential elections, Atiku Abubakar, wants Wike to understand the FCT is not Rivers State.
In a recent post shared on his X page, (formerly known as Twitter), Bwala warned the new FCT minister not to create chaos. He highlighted the basic needs of the FCT residents that the former governor should prioritise.
“…The basic needs of the residents of the FCT are; affordable healthcare facilities; access to good education facilities, clean sports and recreational centres, affordable transport services system, efficient and workable street light in the city Centre and the suburbs; and finally, security.
“You came with a bullish and vendetta spirit venting fire and brimstone about demolition and revocation of titles. Abuja is not Port Harcourt. If you create chaos in the city, you will jeopardise your principal’s interests and he will be forced to sacrifice your job. You will learn humility on the job.”
Tim Igwe wants Wike to focus on more important issues and not on demolition of houses and confiscation of lands. “If Wike as FCT minister solves the problem of cows, agberos and street lights without engaging in senseless demolition in Abuja, he will become the darling of Abuja.”
Zainab Abdullahi, a resident, agrees that there are more crucial issues for Wike to deal with than just flattening of erring buildings.
She said: “We are talking about how people will eat and survive, the minister is talking about demolition. So, how does demolition of peoples’ houses put food on the table? How does it reduce the price of food in Abuja? Everything is so expensive now. Houses are very expensive. Does he want people to go and sleep under the bridge?”