It is a known fact that about 80 per cent of Nigeria’s populace are living in slum settlements. This is based on the United Nations settlement programmes, popularly called UN-HABITAT. In the nation’s Federal Capital Territory (FCT), the growth of informal settlements did not start today and its growth over the years is as a result of inadequate and unaffordable housing for majority of the residents. The challenges of securing land tenure for a majority of its residents, the high cost of building materials, inaccessible mortgage materials for the poor, as well as the high cost of modern materials are some of the factors that created the high rate of slums in the FCT.
The Minister of FCT, Alhaji Musa Bello, has through collaboration with multilateral institutions like the above mentioned UN-habitat programme developed a platform for the support of the development of rural settlements in and around Abuja city and that programme has been working in transforming slums and unhealthy environments around Abuja.
The recent editorial piece in the Guardian newspaper edition of December 2, 2019, titled before Abuja becomes a mega slum is a clear example of how not to do a critique by a revered national newspaper. In the said editorial piece, the newspaper lumped all the existing and perceived problems in the FCT and placed the blame at the feet of the FCT minister and ultimately called on the president without just cause to remove the minister, Mohammed Musa Bello, from office. This approach is uncharitable.
Prior to the creation of Abuja, development of Abuja after its carving out has become an emerging slum problem. Most of these slums are not far away from the city centre with a substantial number of people residing in them. As a result of the housing deficit around the city centre Many people live in this slums but work in Abuja. This has been described as cosmetic life in Abuja.
Gishiri, Lokongoma, Nyanya and Mararaba, etc. have no good road network, this throwing people that reside in them into great agony and pains even before the appointment of the minister. Many people prefer these slums to the modern structures with its high rent in the city centre. Some of thess communities have been carved out for the disadvantaged groups. Example,in Karamajiji, a colony of people living with blindness, is meant to serve this purpose. The people living in such areas have no decent houses and have no social amenities that make life meaningful and impactful. Why then blame it on this minister?
Because of the difficult and horrible situation in these slums, water vendors are making brisks business while generator fumes pollution is rampant.
The newspaper in the piece shows its intent when they failed to give credit to the current minister of the FCT minister for the giant strides he has achieved in the FCT in the last four and half years and most importantly in the provision of the most needed infrastructural developments, especially in the satelite towns where the rural poor resides. The newspaper did not also acknowledge the effect that the ever increasing influx of people to the FCT from other parts of the country in search of greener pastures is having on the available infrastructure.
The Guardian newspaper must not allow itself to be used in doing a hatchet job because it chose to do its readers and other discerning Nigerians a disservice by engaging in blanket, bandwagon, random, confused chase and rat race that ended up exposing the hidden agenda behind the orchestrated attack on the hard working minister. We accept that there are areas that need to be improved upon in making the urban areas more habitable for the large population of people living in those areas, but put side by side with the areas of competing needs and the finance available, the minister is working and needs to be commended rather than be condemned.
Before the coming of the minister, there existed two cities in Abuja, one is the city of the powerful and the affluent, the other is the city of the downtrodden. Nowhere is this contrast sharper, for example, like the highbrow Asokoro district than the lowland valley of Kpaduma. Is it justifiable to say that the present minister is the cause of the existence of these slums? No. The Guardian newspaper must be advised that it behoves on them to give the people information that is truthful and verifiable.The press is an apostle of truth and the Guardian newspaper should not be an exception.
Musa writes from Abuja