The Abuja Metropolitan Management Agency (AMMC) recently served demolition notices on some residents said to have violated the Abuja Mater Plan by building their home under high tension electricity cables. CALEB ONWE, who visited some of these communities, reports
It is a universally accepted principle that for any significant progress to be made in life, people must take risks. However, what must be uppermost in the mind of a person is the implications of the risk. It should be a calculated risk.
Ironically, sometimes, Nigerians overstretch their capacity to take risks. They go beyond logical bounds, which often leads to action that would make one begin to wonder whether they are divinely endowed with death-proofs.
In fact, the risk-taking quotient of some Nigerians sometimes reach a certain crescendo that compels them to seek for comfort and survival in unusual places including danger zones, without considering the health and environmental implications of their actions.
It is often said that life has no duplicate, yet some Nigerians will under the guise of looking for shelter construct a house under high tension electrical installations.
Inside Abuja recently paid a visit to some communities in Lugbe, one of the satellite towns on the fringes of the Umar Yar’ Adua Expressway, a 10 lane road that leads to Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja.
The visit was prompted by the demolition notice which the Abuja Metropolitan Management Agency (AMMC) served on some communities that have for a very long time thrown caution to the wind, to seek comfort and survival in danger zone. The affected communities include the Lugbe building material market, Tudun Wada village and some mass housing estates.
While AMMC claim that these communities have contravened some development regulations of the Federal Capital Territory, the affected communities have a counter-claim that government officials failed to do the proper thing from the beginning.
Inside Abuja, while on fact finding mission to the affected communities to verify the conflicting claims, discovered that while there are new housing development extending beyond the 30 meters distance which experts said was a standard safety measure to such high profile danger zone, there are houses that were built on the axis of the high tension installations, before the electricity installations were contemplated by government.
Some of these ‘dangerous’ risk-takers, like the traders at Lugbe Building Materials Market, and some residents of Tudun Wada, said they were still hanging on the zone not because they lacked the understanding of how risky it is to stay close to electricity installations, but want the government to compensate them and give them an alternative location.
Minister of the FCT, Mallam Mohammad Bello, had before now declared that he would remain committed to the dream of the founding fathers of Abuja.
Though, the minister has refrained from following the legacy of his predecessors who often disobeyed court orders in carrying out demolition of illegal structures, the minister was said to have expressed bitterness that people would comfortably build and live in houses constructed under a high tension electrical installation.
As the 17th minister to manage the affairs of the Capital City, Bello had always shown the zeal to hold sacrosanct the integrity of the Abuja Master plan, but want to follow due process in clearing illegal structures, and that may be why the ‘dangerous’ risk takers living under the high tension power line have lasted there this long.
Coordinator of AMMC, Umar Shuiabu, who had earlier mobilized the Department of Development Control of the Council
to demolish several illegal shanties at the some locations around the town, reinforced by the success recorded by the exercise, had vowed to continue until the buildings under the power lines are cleared.
According to Shuiabu: “In continuation of the sensitization of the Federal Capital City, AMMC visited Lugbe and found out that no fewer than 750 illegal shanties were built directly under the high tension in Tudun Wada peace village. All such structures under the electricity facility will soon be removed, including those that breach the legally permitted 30 meters proximity to high tension. Similarly, in Lugbe, the FHA farm market and other structures are to be removed to pave way for Transmission Company of Nigeria( TCN) to start work on a transmission station”.
Inside Abuja learnt that the renewed onslaught against illegal structures in the nation’s capital was prompted by the target allegedly given to all political appointees in Federal Capital Territory by the Minister.
To further justify the demolition exercise, the AMMC Coordinator said: “Abuja is a planned city. So, if we do not control the development in the city, we won’t have met it the way it is today. Abuja is planned to be a garden city, meaning that there are some areas that we reserve for green development, so we won’t allow desecration of whatever manner.
“If we have been leaving illegal developments within the city, this city would have been inhabitable for people. Abuja is the pride of the nation. So, we want to maintain a beautiful city for ourselves. We have a situation where people are given plots for residential purpose, but they convert them into night clubs, so much so that the neighbours are always complaining. We cannot allow them to continue cheating their neighbours, disturbing them in the night and not allowing them to sleep.
“We served them notices but they refused to comply. So, we have no choice but to pull down those structures. We will not stop at removal of all illegal structures across the Territory, but we will submit for relevant measure that is necessary for that type of action. So, it is not only the pulling down, we are now submitting a report, even if it means for the plot to be revoked, because we did not allocate those plots for the use in which they are doing.
“And that is why it is necessary that whenever you plan, you have an area for residential activity. You have an area for commercial activity and have an area for industrial activity. Wherever it is residential, you don’t use it for commercial; wherever it residential, you don’t use it for a hotel or any activity that will injure your neighbours”
Occupants demand compensation
While some of the occupants of this illegal structure understand the high risk involved in the environment where they stay, they are insisting that government must compensate them and relocate them to a ‘ safer’ environment.
Festus Obieze, is the Chairman, Lugbe Building Material Market, one of the affected communities earmarked for the demolition. He told Inside Abuja that FCTA was not fair in the hasty arrangements to demolish the market on the allegation that their trading facilities encroached on the right of way of the power line.
Obieze, said that it would be fair judgement for government to adequately compensate the traders and possibly relocate the market to another place where they will continue to contribute to the building of the nation’s economy.
Inside Abuja gathered that the Lugbe Building Material Market had been operational in that place before 2003 when the high tension power line was constructed.
Obieze also claimed that the traders had been paying revenue to the Abuja Municipal Area Council ( AMAC) and that it would be an act of injustice to remove the market without providing the traders with alternative.
According to him, the traders were not resisting on any move to remove the market, but will resist forceful eviction from the place they have been carrying out their trading before the power line project was ever conceived.
He also confirmed to Inside Abuja that officials of AMMC had hinted them about the demolition plans.
“Sometime last year, some government agents came and told us that we are staying under high tension electrical installations. We were later invited by some FCDA officials for further talks over the matter. The officially informed us that the market would be removed. We told them that it won’t be proper to be displaced without being relocated to another place where we can continue our trading.
“We demanded for compensation because the market has been existing in this place before 2003 when the high tension installations were carried out. When the work started, on our own volition, we decided to remove some of our make shift shops to pave ways for the construction work.
“Nobody was compensated. If they actually compensated anybody, I am not aware. We left FCDA without resolving the matter. Already there is a place we are negotiating with AMAC to be relocated to. We also disclosed to them that we have been paying revenue to AMAC.
“It was AMAC officials that demanded that we pay revenue under the high tension. We started paying revenue to AMAC without any amenities provided for the traders in the market. We pay revenue and yet to not get any form of benefit from the government.
“We negotiated with AMAC officials and agreed that the transport unit of the market, that is the trucks that convey goods in the market should be paying revenue to AMAC instead of our union in the market.
“That was how AMAC started collecting revenue of N50, N100 and N500 respectively from the trucks, depending on the truck capacity and the revenue has been on a daily basis. AMAC wanted us to be paying revenue for the makeshift shops but our union refused. So, we have been hearing of the demolition but we believe that the demolition cannot be carried out without due diligence. Otherwise, there will be trouble if our shops are pulled down without relocating us” Obieze said.
A resident at Tudun Wada village, Madam Esther confirmed that many of the houses at the village were built before the power line project begun. She said that many of the affected residents were not compensated, and because they have no means to relocate, they are still living in the place considered to be unsafe.
She however, denied receiving any demolition notice from AMAC. According to her, their area which is directly under the high tension power line might be spared by the demolition squad.
Like the former respondent, she also stated that it would be fair for government to compensate the affected residents before throwing them out of the place.
One other discovery that would rattle any rational being was the fact that some private schools and church buildings were also cited directly under the high tension power lines without considering that probability of disaster.
Nigeria: Soaring investment inflow amid deficit, insecurity
Nigeria’s investment profile is rising based on data from the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC) and The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). Ironically, infrastructure gap and insecurity are threatening the investment landscape. Abdulwahab Isa reports
Nigeria’s exit from economic recession has spurred investors’ appetite. They have, in recent months, upped their investment stakes while potential ones are at various stages of taking decisions.
Investment data from key agencies, the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC) and National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) attest to increase in this regard.
Latest chart by NIPC revealed that inflows totaled $17.88 billion in first quarter of 2018 while NBS put it’s own at $6.3 billion. The figure is higher than that of 2017.
With a population of over 190 million, Nigeria is unarguably a darling for discerning investors.
For instance, NIPC’s investments record shared recently with the media revealed that of the $17.88 billion investments recorded in the first quarter of 2018, they were spread across 32 projects in eight states of the federation.
The figure surpasses the $6.38 billion investment flow in six projects across four states recorded in the first quarter of 2017.
Further scrutiny of NIPC data showed that most of the investments and sources of their finances came from the United Kingdom, accounting for $59.000 million, followed by Nigeria with $212.00 million, United States $2,357 million and China $1.200 million.
Others are Switzerland with $847,00 million, while $262,00 million came from other sources respectively.
In a similar data by National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), first quarter 2018 saw a continuous growth in total capital importation into Nigeria.
The total value of capital imported in the quarter stood at $6.30 billion, which is a year-on-year increase of 594.03 per cent and a 17.11 per cent growth over the figure reported in the previous quarter.
This increase in capital inflow in Q1, 2018 was driven mainly by portfolio investment, which grew from $3.47 billion in the previous quarter to $4.56 billion, accounting for 72.42 per cent of the total capital importation during the quarter.
Further analysis of the report showed that foreign direct investment stood at $246.62 million, dropping by 34.83 per cent from the figure reported in the previous quarter, and growing by 16.67 per cent on a year-on-year basis.
“Foreign Direct Investment in Nigeria was still weak when compared to Portfolio Investment and Other Investment, representing only 3.9 per cent of total capital imported,” NBS capital investment flow data revealed.
While presenting investment data to the media in Abuja, NIPC Chief Executive Officer, Ms. Yewande Sadiku, listed oil and gas sector, transport, construction, ICT, manufacturing and solar plants as areas mostly favoured.
Sadiku listed Lagos, Kano, Niger, Ogun as preferred destinations.
I Guide Nigeria
To consolidate the process, NIPC has come up with an investment guide, a sort of compendium on investments for investors.
I Guide Nigeria is meant to open Nigeria investment opportunities to foreign investors. It was launched by NIPC in collaboration with United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the United Nations Conference on Trade Development (UNCTAD) to showcase country’s investment opportunities.
It houses all the vital investment information, which gives details of the business opportunities in Nigeria as well as steps for engagement from registration to land acquisition to would be investors.
Speaking at the occasion, Sadiku said the online platform showcasing Nigeria business environment would assume the position of the country’s investment voice, saying it was important to give Nigeria business environment a voice
“The I Guide online platform is such a simple investment tool, yet very useful. I Guide is an easy-to-use online platform providing investors with up-to-date and pertinent information on the processes, procedures and basic costs of doing business in Nigeria, to enable investors get access to the basic information they need to make better informed decisions on Nigeria as a preferred investment destination.
“The platform provides information on starting a business, labour, production factors, land, taxes, investor’s rights, growth sectors and opportunities. It is a marketing tool as information on Nigeria investment processes and procedures are on one platform for easy access,” she said.
Sadiku said the platform provides information on local data, which “contains information on labour costs, taxes, rent values, utility prices and transport cost as well as information on relevant laws and regulations as well as contact of ministries and agencies responsible for the issuance of licences/approvals.”
While investment horizon looks pretty good and decidedly certain for Nigeria, the country is contending with huge infrastructures gap and protracted insecurity challenge – the two are vital indices that influence investors’ decision.
Experts in infrastructure postulate that the country needs to spend $3 trillion on economic infrastructure over the next 30 years, if it must meet its ambitious development goals.
Nigeria’s major infrastructure challenges border on poor power supply, bad roads, and inefficient railways.
Relatedly, security is intractable challenge and a draw back to investment. Kidnapping, banditry, Boko Harram attacks and other crimes cast a spell on investments flow.
Whatever quantum of investments that came into Nigeria during the period under review, a higher figure of investments flow would be attained under a better atmosphere.
Interestingly, the Federal Government said its faith on investment flow was undaunted, notwithstanding security and infrastructure challenges.
Minister of Industry Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelemah, said the Federal Government was aiming first to 100th position on the World Bank ranking on the ease of doing business with the launch of I Guide.
According to the minister, Nigeria appreciated 24 places in the recent ranking of the World Bank’s ease of doing business presented last year, moving from 169 places to 145 among 190 countries.
Enelemah expressed optimism that with the government’s efforts to improve ease of doing business, Nigeria would fair better in 2018 ranking.
While the country’s investment outlook is very attractive and irresistible to investors, the onus is on government to upgrade its various infrastructure facilities and curtail the current high level of insecurity.
A work on these two infrastructure will certainly put Nigeria in league of first top investment destinations.
Coping with economic realities in Abuja
Times are hard and the role of women in many families are changing. In Abuja, many women have dumped their traditional status as housewives. DEBORAH OCHENI reports
The economic hardship in Nigeria has unleashed a silent revolution in many homes in Abuja. The rate at which women financially support their families to make ends meet is now unimaginable.
Gone are the days when women were contented with keeping the home as housewives and their husbands were meant to carter for all the needs of the family. In some homes today, women have become the bread winners, particularly where the husband has lost his job due to the job cuts, down-sizing and lay- offs in various work places in and around the Federal Capital Territory. Nowadays, it’s very difficult to find a “stay at home mum” in Abuja.
But this is not only attributable to the hardship but also to the growing population of women who have acquired western education and have got the skills to seek paid employment or be self employed.
These educated women try to force their way into one organization or the other no matter how little the salary might be, while the semi-educated acquire vocational skills such as catering, tailoring, soap making and petty trading to assist their husbands in running the homes. Indeed, many women, who were once mere housewives are now in the business of selling provisions and food stuffs in Abuja.
Invariably, there is no point denying the fact that they are happy at their decision of refusing to be ‘stay at home mothers’, as they can attend to their vital needs and the needs of their family from their income without involving their husbands. Most of these women are no longer contented with the meagre resources they get from their husbands as housekeeping allowances.
They now hustle their way to ensure their contribution to the economic wellbeing of the family is greatly felt in their homes. Inside Abuja went on the streets to interact with some of the financially independent wives.
The interviews showed that they all have diverse reasons for their choice of pursuing additional livelihoods independent of their husbands. However, the underlying factor is the fact that most women are tired of always asking their husbands for money to cater for their needs no matter how little it may be.
Blessing Augustine, a mother of four children, said she decided to enrol in a skill acquisition training programme to enable her acquire the needed skills to do something meaningful for her family. “I only regret not taking this decision earlier.
The worst thing that can happen to any woman is to relax at home and watch her husband providing all her needs. It doesn’t matter if you have to suffer a lot before you can have small gain on whatever legal business you do. It is better you suffer and make your money because it will cause your husband to respect and appreciate you more.
Before now, it’s so difficult for me to feed my children if their father doesn’t provide money for feeding. But those days have passed. I can’t even remember the last time I asked my husband for feeding money but my children are feeding fine and I am happy. I can now do my daily contributions, feed my children conveniently and buy my cosmetics effortlessly,” she said. Ladi Sunday is a provision shop owner in Abuja. She said she was living comfortably but decided to earn a living on her own.
“I thank God I have a husband that cooperates well with me. He said I should stay at home and take care of our children. Although he meets every of our needs timely, he never complained but I was still not comfortable.
I discussed with him how I desire to have a personal source of income and he opened a shop for me. Since then, I feel so fulfilled because I do so many things now without involving my husband.” Sunday said. Joy Akhire, a seamstress, who makes a living from her fashion and designs shop, said it was a decision she had to make because of the realities of the times.
“My upbringing did not allow us to stay completely idle at home no matter how wealthy the husband is. Marriage almost made me a lazy woman but the present condition of the country made me to realize the need to seek for extra income for the family.
I have slight knowledge of tailoring but when the family load became too much on my husband, I decided to perfect the tailoring skill in me and the outcome has been awesome,” Akhire said. Mary Makoji, a mother of four children, narrated to Inside Abuja how she delved into multiple economic activities that made her financial contributions to the family almost equal to that of her husband.
“Initially, I was comfortable using whatever comes out of my husband’s pocket but when we had our second baby, I thought of the high rate of house rent and our children’s school fees and then realized that my husband’s salary cannot handle it.
I saw that if we continued that way, we might not feed well or attend to other things. “Severally, I sold the idea of opening a hair dressing saloon to my husband but he wouldn’t allow me based on what people may say. I started by bringing customers to the house for hair dressing at an affordable rate. Gradually , the level of patronage blossomed but my husband was not aware of all this as he goes to work early and returns late.
I could attend to three customers in a day and I get paid. “As time went on, I was not complaining much in terms of feeding again because whatever he drops for feeding I will add up money and prepare delicious meal while paying my daily contributions. When it’s time to renew our house rent, I suggested to my husband that we should add up what I have saved from the daily contribution to the rental fee to build a house since we already have a land and my husband was shocked to his marrow at the amount that I coughed out.
That was how we built our house. Although, I have not gotten a shop yet, I still do hair-dressing and tailoring in one of my rooms. I sell soft drinks and foodstuffs too. I am relieved of so many things now.
We no longer pay rent. Our four children go to the best school around us and we feed better. My husband loves and appreciates me more now,” she said. Similarly, Veronica Ochanya, mother of three, said she detested being called a ‘housewife’ and decided early in her marriage not to allow herself to be boxed into a corner. “I detest the slogan ‘housewife’ that relegates many women to the house.
We have a lot of potentials that can fetch us better money but men with their ‘I can take care of my wife’ mentality will waste our potentials in the name of marriage. “Thank God for the hype in cost of living in Abuja. It has made my husband to realize the need for me to go out and make extra money for family upkeep and he is enjoying everything now because it’s a great relieve for him,” said Ochanya.
Creating partnerships for transparency
The Open Government Partnership Week which held recently in Abuja, brought together government functionaries and civil society groups where they linked public confidence in any government to the level of transparency and accountability in that government. CALEB ONWE reports
The Open Government Partnership( OGP) Week is a global dialogue platform for both the government and all stakeholders to evaluate the impact of government’s policies on the citizens.
Its overall goal is to provide an objective assessment of the situation and chart the way forward on how best to institutionalize good governance in the country. At a symposium on the week, government officials tried to prove that the current administration has been laying greater emphasis on transparency and accountability in its activities. They claimed governance in Nigeria was no longer business as usual, but the Civil Society Organizations were not particularly convinced that anything had changed.
They argued that relentless efforts must be made to raise the bar for continuous improvement in the processes of governance. Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo’s keynote address at the event, showed deliberate efforts by government in changing the narratives that once depicted government’s activities as the exclusive preserve of a few privileged individuals.
Osinbajo stated that in the time past, government business was hijacked by a few greedy officials at the detriment of the citizens. According to him, the present administration was working to institutionalize policy frameworks that would ensure higher transparency in governance.
Osinbajo noted that the OGP Nigeria has since developed its first National Action Plan (NAP) of 14 commitments and with focus on four thematic areas of Fiscal Transparency, Anti-Corruption, Access to Information and Citizens’ Engagement.
“One of the remarkable things about the OGP is that it was designed to function as a partnership between the governments and the private sector. Without this coalition-building, I doubt that much progress would be achievable.
Regardless of whether the goal is improving infrastructure or fighting corruption, it is clear, as it has always been, that governments cannot do it alone. “The skills, experience, resources and technology that the private sector brings to the table, are often invaluable and in many instances represent the difference between success and failure.
We ought to equally acknowledge that there is a limit to what civil society can accomplish by itself, without building bridges with the public sector that is very often the target of its work. What our experience with OGP in Nigeria has proven, is that it is possible to build a coalition of like-minded reformers drawn from government and non-state actors,” he said.
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, said that Nigeria would not lag behind in any activity that would place the citizens at advantage. Malami, who reiterated the resolve of government to full implementation of the OGP principles, was however not happy that some government’s agencies were yet to key into the ongoing reforms which OGP seeks to institutionalize.
“The Open Government Week is a global week of action during which developers, and implementers of issues of open government will come together to share ideas, discuss challenges as well as solutions aimed at transforming how government serves their citizens.
It offers us an opportunity to take stock of what has been our achievements so far and try to take an inventory of challenges we face currently and brainstorm on how best to overcome them.”To reap the fruits of openness, I urge government agencies to re-dedicate themselves to fulfilling their part in the commitments set out in the NAP.
It is now more than a year now since we started implementation and there are still government agencies who have not implemented the activities we committed to,” Malami said.
The British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Paul Arkwright, who was present at the event, did not mince words when he stated that citizens would always be insatiable in their expectations of good governance from those elected to represent them at various levels.
He said that while many governments across the globe were struggling to make all processes of government open to the citizens, corruption has hindered development in many countries. According to him, corruption thrives when so much secrecy has been adopted in running governments.
“Open government is the simple but powerful idea that governments and institutions work better for citizens when they are transparent, engaging and accountable. It is not a set of lofty principles, but the building block for a more democratic, equal, sustainable and prosperous society.
These issues are relevant to all societies and always work in progress. “The consequences of an opaque and unaccountable government are clear to see. Secrecy enables corruption, injustice, and negligence to go unchecked.
The release of the Panama Papers revealed the scale of global resources hidden in secretive tax havens. Lobbying scandals have revealed how vested interests seek to influence public decision-making.
“Citizens today have access to technology and data that would have been unimagined a decade ago; pro-viding new tools and data sources to monitor what a government promises and delivers. Citizens are expecting and demanding more from their leaders.
In Nigeria alone, it has been reported that over 90 million people use the internet. “But there are formidable challenges. In many countries of the world, governments lack the capacity to implement transparency reforms and respond to citizens’ demands.
Poor public financial management increases the risk of leakage of public funds, meaning that in many places, delivery of critical services such as health and education are weak,” Arkwright said. One of the leaders of the Civil Society groups, Dr Otive Igbuzor, counselled the government on the need to be committed to the implementations of the OGP principles.
The public affairs analyst believed that there would be greater development when the citizens are carried along in all processes of governance. Igbuzor, who is the Executive Director of the African Centre for Leadership, Strategy and Development, was of the opinion that when civil society groups were not allowed to actively participate in monitoring and evaluating government’s project and activities, corrupt tendencies would take root in public spheres.
Igbuzor said that there was need for the citizens to enjoy unfettered liberty in holding the government accountable, arguing that corruption could be reduced in government by opening up the activities of government to public scrutiny. “There are many reasons for holding government to account.
First and foremost, holding government to account will promote accountability and transparency and prevent corruption. “This is very important in a country like Nigeria, where the level of corruption is very high.
The problem of corruption is as old as society itself and cuts across nations, cultures, races and classes of people. It is undoubtedly one of the greatest challenges of our time, leading to underdevelopment and poor service delivery.
Corruption has a lot of negative consequences on every sphere of societal development whether social, economic or political. Corruption not only leads to poor service delivery but loss of lives,” he said. The symposium ended with a rally to create awareness and arouse public interest on the progress already achieved by adopting OGP principles in the country.
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