The transformation of the FCT under Musa Bello

How President Muhammadu Buhari chose to appoint Mallam Muhammad Musa Bello as the Minister of the present Federal Capital Territory (FCT) amidst strong contenders for the position, to me, was not unexpected, though it remains a divine one. No peg would have fitted the hole in the FCT administration than the chosen, if the development-driven federal government agenda and anti-corruption crusade must be achieved. Testimonies abound that he is one of the foremost performing ministers of the Buhari-led government.

Bello is a man who had proven before his appointment his patriotism, accountability, dedication to duty and broadmindedness in human management and institutional administration. These exceptional appellations have been part of him even when he was schooling and in private entrepreneurship. They became more manifest when he was appointed to manage one of the then most hazardous institutions a�� the management of Hajj affairs in Nigeria. In 2006, the National Assembly enacted a law that established a full-fledged body, the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON). Simply put it, he came, he saw and he conquered, same step with hard work to conquer in the FCT.

Bello administered NAHCON with wisdom, forbearance and the fear of God. Any person who has ever worked with him can testify that he is incorruptible, humble, a�?small but mightya�? according to the Sultan of Sokoto and intelligent. He believes in team work. Besides, he is scored very high in terms of frugality in financial management and human resources, so frugal that he hardly approved any financial transaction without backings by federal government financial regulations. Surprisingly, none of Belloa��s son or daughter is in the call roll in his former place of national duty though he was the chairman and chief executive officer.

As the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), a position he took-over on the 11th of November, 2015, Bello has proven, beyond doubt, to be a vanguard for President Muhammadu Buharia��s Change Agenda. Since inception, he has excelled in his job which includes but not limited to completion of on-going or abandoned critical infrastructural projects that positively 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.

Yes, Abuja was littered with abandoned projects made up of highways, byways and other social amenities as a result of incomplete works or absence of finishing touches. Many connecting arterials were incomplete, including ramps, pedestrian bridges, tangent roads, loops and interchanges. Today, most of these projects have been completed. Having succeeded greatly in this direction within two years, Bello is shifting focus to the satellite towns and area councils where many rural infrastructural facilities as well as urban renewal projects are aggressively being pursued.

For instance, the Inner Southern Express Way Bridge has been opened for public use, connecting AYA, Apo Roundabout, the Murtala Muhammed Way and Aso drive. This has made it easy for motorists to access Abujaa��s main business district. The contract has been awarded for the Villa Roundabout Bridge project, a major component of the Outer Northern Expressway (ONEX). Also the B6 and B12 Roads otherwise known as Constitution and Independence Avenues are ongoing. The roads which traverse the World Trade Centre and the Diplomatic Zones hold the key to the economic and social vibrancy of the FCT 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.

Motorists coming from the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport can now travel in dual mode straight through the Churchgate building without the detour which used to make driving clumsy. Works on the roads were very skeletal since 2011 because of paltry budgetary provisions. But recently the administration cleared a backlog of payments owed the company handling the project. The 15km Apo Karshi Road awarded by the former administration but abandoned has been revisited to aid commuters from Mararaba, Nyanya and Karu axis.

The Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved the sum of N2.6bn for massive construction of road infrastructure within the satellite town of Karu Phase 2, Abuja, a project expected to open up the area for the development of affordable housing for low income earners, boost economic activities, create jobs and ensure slum upgrade. The Kuje-Gwagwalada road project, Katampe District, Phase 2 projects are also ongoing.

Documents obtained from the media department of the FCTA showed that the transparency followed all the awarded contracts. It showed that the sum of N57.6 billion have been paid to contractors handling various projects in the Federal Capital Territory in the areas of infrastructure, water provision and railway construction as well as health, education and environmental sanitation services. 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 N3.3b billion was paid to 403 other contractors with similar bills in the first quarter of 2017. The sum of N7.009 billion was released to contractors handling the Abuja Light Rail project.

From the last quarter of 2016 to the first quarter of 2017, the number of liabilities came down to less than 50 per cent. Pensionersa�� outstanding arrears have been paid up-to-date with the release of N2.3 billion. The sum of N2.4 billion of its obligation to on-going counterpart projects has been offset, while the school feeding programme has been re-invigorated with the sum of N980 million. Funding for these payments was mobilized through transparent, diligent and judicious management of funds without leakages in the system.

It is good news that Abuja residents will soon begin to ride light train, a project that has reached 98 percent completion. This will relieve public transportation within the city. The Muhammad Bello administration met the project packages at below 70 and 50 percent respectively, but drove the projects to 98 percent completion. Further investigations showed that 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.

Furthermore, there is no gainsaying the fact that street lighting has improved within the city with all the challenges inherited. The FCTA achieved this feat with the procurement of over 25 standby generating sets as backup power source. Additionally, the detailing of security guards to these installations to avert vandalization is a good option.

On land administration, there has been tremendous progress. Over 1000 copies of Certificates of Occupancy (Cs of O) have been cleared. Similarly, the operations of all FCTA departments central to the land administration have been reorganized and harmonized while the FCT Land Use and Allocation Committee has been reconstituted in line with the provision of the Land Use Act. It has streamlined various cases of multiple layouts, revoked titles on wrongfully allocated Green Areas while machinery has been set in motion to calm the anxieties of beneficiaries of approved mass housing projects by giving them bankable personal titles.

In the housing sector, the Bello-led FCTA has commissioned over 300 housing units in Capital Estate in Kaba District along Kubwa Express Road. The project was executed by Abuja Property Development Company Ltd. (APDC). It is for low income earners such that with as low as 6, 12 or 16 Million Naira, young, middle or higher level officers could subscribe to houses that fit their income after an initial modest down-payment. And beyond the commissioning of the already completed houses, the administration has broken new grounds for the second and third phases of this estate development initiative. The APDC has employed over 700 construction professionals and artisans for the projects.

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The administration is reviving selected rural settlements. The indigenous settlements include Jikwoyi, Dutse-Alhaji, Gwagwalada and some Kuje communities. It submitted proposals which were acceptable to African Development (ADB) and UN-Habitat. 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 to benefit over one million people.

A man with human feelings, Bello came into office when staff of the FCT Area Councils were protesting months of unpaid salaries by the immediate past Area Council administrations. However, though salaries and wages of area councils are not the responsibility of the FCT administration, the minister intervened by releasing the sum of N1.9 billion as bailout to the councils to settle these arrears of salaries. The administration commissioned a fleet of 25 buses for staff transportation with a view to cushioning the effect of recession on its staff. The administration has sustained prompt payment of salaries and allowances as well as stepped up trainings and capacity building with promotion exercise timely conducted.

To ensure adequate water supply for FCT residents, the FCTA look on to the Chinese NEXIM Bank for a $450 million loan for the extension of water supply to areas like Lugbe and neighbouring communities. Contractors handling various projects for FCT Water Board have returned to work following recent payments of outstanding liabilities owed them by the former FCT administrations. The board realized over N1.5 billion in Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) in 2016 alone. Achievements of the Board include introduction of payment metering system and the completion of 1.2MW solar power project in collaboration with the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), a project that has reduced the cost of energy needed to power the water treatments plants.

Huge emphasis is being placed on environmental sanitation. The FCT minister launched the FCT Household and Community Sanitation Exercise Scheme in the area councils and satellite towns to effectively mobilize the communities to keep their surroundings clean. The administration also undertook drastic measures to recover huge debt owed Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) and to ensure they carried out their statutory duties in a more proactive manner. 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 before. The result is that refuse contractors are timely paid.

On beautification of Abuja, a boulevard of flowers and ornamental trees describes the future of the Umaru Musa Yar’adua (Airport) Expressway when the plan of the FCTA will come to fruition. The FCT minister ordered the Abuja Metropolitan Management Council to transform the highway into a modern driveway in line with what obtains in other great cities of the world. National monuments are to be added to the highway including a new city-gate which will be located a couple of kilometres off the Bill Clinton Bridge.

It will be recalled that the FCTA, in collaboration with the Office of the Vice President organized a Nationwide MSME Clinic pursuant to the current administrationa��s commitment to facilitate the rapid growth of the sector in the FCT and the country at large. MSME generates 48 percent of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and employs about 33 million of the nationa��s workforce. FCTA has provided credit facilities ranging from N70, 000 to N2 Million to budding entrepreneurs as well as offered services such as business advisory, capacity building, assistance and workspaces among others with the target to create 10,000 jobs by 2020, thereby reducing unemployment at the rate of 11.8 percent as well as extreme poverty in the city.

Again, the administration through the Abuja Enterprise Agency has affectively keyed into the federal governmenta��s Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Fund (MSMEDF) under which it has accessed its own allotment of N2 billion being disbursed to successful applicants. Under the fund, the FCTA has established 2150 different enterprises and promoted 250 cooperative societies resulting into empowerment of more than 4500 residents. Also, the administration is properly utilizing its schemes such as a�?One Village One Producta�? (OVOP) and a�?Youth Mobilea�?, to reach out to the youths and women.

Minister Muhammad Bello has the political will to do more for the FCT. Recently, he swore in his mandate secretaries who are equivalent to state commissioners. This move heralded the commencement of the next phase of his administrationa��s developmental initiative. Areas of future focus would be massive investments in infrastructure in the satellite towns and rural areas, in education, in health and in making Abuja a smart city.

The appointees have been tutored on the direction and priorities of the administration, as well as the public service rules and government procurement guidelines, in line with the Federal governmenta��s zero tolerance for corruption.

Bello has done excellently in FCTA, a clear indication of his ability to handle a state government or a higher federal position in Nigeria. I am sure that President Buhari has recognized this selfless, dedicated and God-fearing patriot whose service should be prolonged in the FCT administration and beyond.

Muhammad Ajah is an advocate of humanity, peace and good governance in Abuja. E-mail [email protected]

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SOURCE :The Nigerian Voice (opinions)

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