FCT residents set agenda for new minister - By Austine ELEMUE & Cecilia KADIRI

Residents of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, have set an agenda for the next minister of the territory expected to assume office when President Muhammadu Buhari assigns portfolios to already confirmed ministerial designates by the Senate later in the week.

Top on the bill of their wish-list is environment, security and housing.

Those who spoke to our correspondents lamented that the capital territory has slide into “environmental embarrassment” as the bureaucracy of the Federal Capital Territory Administration, FCTA, has failed to address the issue of waste disposal, cattle rearing in the city center and return of commercial cyclists commonly known as okada.

“It has become an environmental nightmare almost everywhere you turn as you find either heaps of garbage or overgrown brushes even in the city center. The new minister, whoever he will be, should ensure that sustainable environmental programme is put in place to give Abuja its deserved status as Nigeria’s capital city,” Mr. Okafor Nebolisa said.

Also, Alhaji Idowu Bakare decried the menace of cattle rearing, which he said has become a near-permanent feature of the territory.

“Can you imagine cattle in the city of Washington on a normal day? That is what Abuja has become. Even the threat by the Commissioner of Police has yielded nothing as if the police are afraid to address the issue of cattle grazing inside the city center.

“The other day I was driving through Old CBN in Garki II and for several minutes we were held up in traffic for cattle to cross over. Where is this done? The new minister must address this anomaly,” Bakare stated.

For Pai Agabi and James Mbukpa, the security challenge needs to be properly addressed if residents are to sleep peaceful. Agabi contented that the security of Abuja was an illusion as shady characters especially in the satellite towns were having a field day robbing and breaking into peoples’ homes.

 Agabi said, “Forget the issue of Abuja is secured, maybe highbrow areas of Maitama, Asokoro and Wuse. There is general insecurity. One Chance is still very rampant. In these estates see you see, robberies occur every now and then. One cannot even talk of what happens at the satellite towns. It has become a norm for people in most of these areas.”

Mbukpa toeing the same line argued that the new minister needs to work closely with security agencies and tinker with the existing security structure to give the FCT the desired security apparatus it deserves.

On housing, all of them were unanimous that drastic measures need to be taken to tackle the exorbitant cost of accommodation in the city.

“Abuja is rather too expensive like New York,” Anita Allwell bemoaned. She said it was regrettable that with so many estates and houses lying empty, previous administrations have failed to address the issue.

“The next minister should take the bull by the horn and find a way to drive down the high cost of rent. There are too many empty estates yet people are looking for accommodation. People have been forced to live very far because of high rent. I think the property tax will compel these Shylock landlords to give out their houses out at affordable rate,” Allwell argued.

Musa Bala however said it was not the business of the minister or government to regulate rent or housing except government owns the buildings.

Bala said what the minister needs to do is to liberalise access to land for mass housing projects.     

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