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Bello’s two years administration in FCT

Two years ago, precisely November 11, 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari appointed Malam Muhammad Musa Bello, as Minister of the Federal Capital Territory Administration. In this report, our FCT correspondent, Austine ELEMUE, x-ray some landmark achievements of his administration and challenges. Excerpts:      

Precisely, on November 11, 2015, Malam Muhammad Musa Bello came into office with the mandate to serve as the vanguard for President Muhammadu Buhari’s Change Administration in the Federal Capital Territory.  

On assumption of office, he unfolded the policy thrust of his administration to include; completion of on-going or abandoned critical infrastructural projects that would have positive impact on the life and economy of the city, zero tolerance to corruption, security of life and property, respect for extant rules and general improvement in services.  

He observed that Abuja was fast acquiring the image of a huge camp of abandoned projects and the gridlocks at strategic nodes as a result of incomplete works, or absence of finishing touches to major roads and utility projects.

Prior to assumption of office, many connecting arterials were incomplete, including ramps, pedestrian bridges, tangent roads, loops, interchanges and critical arterials. These often made navigating the city a nightmare.  

As it stands, most of these roads, bridges and interchanges have been completed. Pedestrian bridges have been serviced with walkways making them usable by members of the public.   As expected, huge emphasis is being placed on environmental sanitation. This began with a change in the management of the Abuja Environmental Protection Board, AEPB, and improved funding of the Board’s activities. The minister led the way by launching the FCT Household and Community Sanitation Exercise Scheme in the area councils and satellite towns. This was with a view to effectively mobilizing the communities to keep their surroundings clean.  

The administration also undertook drastic measures aimed at the recovery huge debt owed the board and to ensure they carried out their statutory duties in a more proactive manner. Presently, out of the nearly N9 billion owed the agency, the administration has been able to recover more than N2 billion from a recovery rate that was less than N100 million prior to Bello’s term.  

And having achieved enormous success in these areas, the administration is shifting focus to the satellite towns and area councils. Many rural infrastructure development as well as urban renewal projects are on the drawing board.  

Checks revealed that notwithstanding the challenges of insufficient funds, the FCT Administration has so far paid the sum of N57.6 billion to contractors handling various projects in the areas of infrastructure, water provision, and railway construction as well as health, education and environmental sanitation services.  

Also, 627 indigenous contractors owed N100 million and below, with matured bills and for which provisions were made in the statutory budget were paid the sum of N6.9b in the last quarter of 2016. Another N3.3 billion has been paid to 403 other contractors with similar bills in the first quarter of 2017. On the same line, the sum of N7.009 billion was released to contractors handling the Abuja Light Rail project and presently the first phase of the project would be completed and ready for use by January 2018.  

Equally, from the last quarter of 2016 to the first quarter of 2017, the number of liabilities have come down, to less than 50 percent. And pensioners’ outstanding arrears have been paid up-to-date with the release of N2.3 billion for this purpose; this includes all forms of entitlements to retirees.  

The administration has also paid out the sum of N2.4 billion which form part of its obligation to on-going counterpart projects, while the school feeding programme has been re-invigorated with the sum of N980 million. Interestingly, funding for these payments was mobilized through transparent, diligent and judicious management of funds without leakages in the system.  

Furthermore, the Inner Southern Express Way Bridge has been opened for public use. The completed portion begins from AYA interchange and cuts off extended distances between AYA and Apo Roundabout, the Murtala Muhammed way and Aso drive making it easy for motorists to drive straight on to most part of Abuja’s main business district.

He also awarded the contract and completed the Villa Roundabout Bridge project, which was a major component of the Outer Northern Expressway (ONEX), namely the Murtala Mohammed Expressway.  

Similarly, one of the priorities of the administration has been to complete the B6 and B12 roads otherwise known as Constitution and Independence Avenues respectively. The roads which traverses the World Trade Centre and the Diplomatic Zones are major infrastructures that hold the key to the economic and social vibrancy of the City. And it is hoped that completion of the roads will enable land owners develop their plots and bring out the skyline of the city centre.  

Though, there has been some partial opening of some segments of the Constitution Avenue, already it has brought some relief to the traffic coming from Airport Road into the heart of the city. And motorists coming from the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport can now travel in dual mode straight through the Churchgate building without the detour, which hitherto made driving clumsy.      

Today, Abuja is getting ready for its train ride this December, as work on the project has reached 98 percent completion. This is hoped would bring relief to the challenge of public transportation in the city. Airport travellers would now have a choice, either to board cabs on arrival or departure; or ride on trains from the airport train station to the Central Business District Central.

More so, the Federal Executive Council has also given approval of the contract for award of Phase 2 of Abuja Rail Mass Transit (Lot 1B), provision of engineering infrastructure to Jahi District, award for the construction of the Right-Hand Service Carriageway of Outer Northern Expressway, among others.    

Against the backdrop of the recent approval by the Federal Executive Council, FEC, of the sum of N2.6 billion, the FCTA is poised to begin massive construction of road infrastructure within its Satellite Towns of Karu Phase 2, Abuja. The project, which is expected to be completed within 15 months, will among other benefits, open up the area for the development of affordable housing for low income earners, boost economic activities, create jobs, and ensure slum upgrade.  

Obviously, not oblivious of the economic importance of good road network, the government has shown commitment to speedily complete the ongoing16.5Km Kuje-Gwagwalada road, traversing major agricultural firms and farmlands. Underscoring its strategic significance as an alternative route, the FCTA hoped it would help to break gridlocks in and out of Abuja as well as possibility to provide reliefs during emergencies.  

Available information revealed of the N700 million total contract sum, nearly N400 million has been paid to contractors thus far, including recent payments which enabled the contractor for the Gwagwalada segment to mobilize to site.  

On the other hand, the administration is revving up a subsisting urban renewal partnership project for selected rural settlements. This is with a view to opening up the grassroots of the Territory to make them places where people could live, work and play. The indigenous settlements include Jikwoyi, Dutse Alhaji, Gwagwalada and some Kuje communities.  

Under the arrangement, FCT is shopping for a $300 million syndicated loan by both institutions at an interest rate of between 1 to 1.5 percent. The facility would be channelled to address the dearth of modern infrastructure among the rural communities. Over one million people are projected to benefit from the life improvement projects. Facilities to be provided include water pipelines, electricity, roads, sewage and other basic utilities.  

Also, the administration is on course to ensure adequate water supply for FCT residents. Consequently, FCT Administration is looking to the Chinese NEXIM Bank for a $450 million loan for the extension of water supply to hitherto unreached loops in the Federal Capital Territory. Areas to benefit from the project include Lugbe and contiguous communities.  

Meanwhile, the minister, it would be recalled, recently sworn in his mandate secretaries, equivalent to state commissioners. According to him, the appointment of the new mandate secretaries and political aides is a signal for the commencement of the next phase of the administration’s developmental initiative.

Clearly, other areas of priority in this phase of his administration would include education, health and making Abuja a smart city. Hence, his unambiguous charge to all his appointees to get fully acquainted with, the direction and priorities of the Administration as well as the public service rules and, government procurement guidelines in line with its zero tolerance to corruption.  

However, in spite of these landmark achievements, it imperative to stress that much has not been achieved in electricity distribution, as incidence of dark streets in the city has increased. The claimed procurement of over 25 standby generating sets has salvaged the situation.  

It is also worthy of note that the land administration is in a state of comatose as the incumbent administration has recorded zero land allocation for over two years.

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