Impact-assessment of Bala Muhammed’s FCT policies
The Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Senator Bala Muhammed, gained prominence during the Senate debate on the ill-health of President Umar Musa Yar’adua. Bala Muhammed had raised his voice on the side of those who saw the need to transfer full presidential powers to the then Vice President Goodluck Jonathan in the light of the sickness that had incapacitated President Umar Musa Yar’adua. Bala Muhammed, therefore, owes his appointment to that vociferous call and since then, and as pay back, he has been in the president’s cabinet in charge of the Ministry of Federal Capital Territory.
In recent times, Bala Muhammed has established himself as Jonathan’s man Friday. Touring the city recently, Bala Muhammed said contrary to what his directors had been telling him, he had observed that hawkers, beggars, mai suya and dirt had kind of made Abuja unattractive. If you are a Minister for four years or more and have just discovered that your directors have been telling you lie, with less than one year to go in your tenure, chances are that you have been running the administration on lies and therefore need to re-examine all the policies and actions you have carried out so far.
It may well be also that the new policy of ridding Abuja of beggars, hawkers and mai suya is poorly conceived, not to mention the illadvised formation of a committee under the chairmanship of Commissioner of Police Mbu Joseph Mbu, (fresh from his Rivers State victory against a ‘dictator’ governor) to clear Abuja of this category of Nigerians. Words have it that Bala and Mbu have the same godmother in the person of Patience Jonathan, such that when other governors rejected Mbu’s posting to their states, Bala said ‘bring him here’.
It is amazing that Bala Muhammed’s eyes only rested on hawkers, beggars, dirt and mai suya because side by side with those are other ugly sites of Abuja. For example, despite the billions of naira budgeted for the Umar Yar’adua Expressway that connects from the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport Road (Bill Clinton Drive) and traverses the city all the way to Aso Villa, this road is yet to be completed.
Bala Muhammed’s FCT administration is notorious for slow completion of or abandoned projects. For example, even though three pedestrian bridges have been under construction in Wuye, Mabushi and Memorial Drive (between Sheraton Hotel and Shehu Yar’adua Centre) for more than a year, none of them has been completed. In the absence of pedestrian bridges, many people have been killed while trying to cross these roads from one side to the other, especially at the VIO Mabushi junction. According to the information available, this project is financed by the World Bank under the Federal Roads Development Project (FRDP). The client remains Federal Ministry of Works Implementation Unit Road Sector Development Team (RSDT) in collaboration with the Federal Capital Territory Administration. The company handling all the pedestrian bridges is one contractor named Dutum. For several months now, they have caused traffic jam at the site of construction work, particularly Mabushi and behind Sheraton Hotel.
What about the Utako Motor Park beside Thisday head office? For the nearly twenty years of its existence, the Utako motor park has remained an eyesore. The road leading to the park is like the type obtained from the forgotten town of Kauran Namoda. Neither the park nor the road leading out of it is befitting for Abuja. Has Minister Bala Muhammed gone there to inspect?
Or the ugly fence of the so-called Eagle Square. It beats my imagination that the minister, despite having attended many PDP events there, is yet to take a look at the grotesque fence bequeathed to the Square by its contractors. Bala Muhammed should immediately appoint a People’s Democratic Party (PDP) contractor to erect a new century fence for Eagle Square.
But why is the FCT Minister’s searchlight only on the hawkers, beggars and mai suyas of Abuja? Is it because they are of lower socioeconomic status? Is Abuja only for the politicians and the rich? Obviously, Bala Muhammed, Mbu and others forget that those who founded Abuja conceived of it to be a tranquil capital city at peace with itself and a welcome place for all manners of Nigerians, and as a symbol of our unity. The FCT administration’s policies since Bala Muhammed took office have taken an anti-people dimension, and under which dubious agencies have been engaged to charge people parking fees on boulevards the minster did not construct. Nor has he improved them in any way, and people are now asking who own these agencies and to what use do they put the money they fleece car owners. This is sheer exploitation of a people. Imagine, these exploitative agencies don’t even have the paint to retrace the road markings demarcating parking spaces for the vehicles, even though everyday they smile to the bank with thousands of naira in fines and other charges at the expense of motorists.
Many Abuja residents say they prefer that the mai suya people are left alone. They say they enjoy the suya and many a times, when they don’t want to eat at home, they go to these suya spots to eat, drink and relax. The people also say they prefer to do business with mai suya many more times, than officials of the FCT, because the malam gives them what they want for the worth of their money. The minister and Co should find out why these Nigerians beg, hawk and sell suya, in the streets of Abuja, and tackle the challenge accordingly.
The Millennium Declaration of the year 2000 says; “Men and women have the right to live their lives and raise their children in dignity, free from hunger and from the fear of violence, oppression or injustice”. Bala Muhammed has achieved nothing that the toiling masses can be proud of. He should therefore leave these Nigerians alone.