When Abuja was created, it was envisaged by those who drew up the development master plan that the city would be built in 25 years with 79 districts, nine sector centres and 11 satellite towns with the planned maximum population of 3.2 million people.
More than 30 years down the line, current reality shows that the dreams of the founding fathers are far from being met. The population of the nation’s capital city is estimated to be in excess of 5 million people, just as a majority of districts are unserviced with no infrastructure to support conducive living. Where some infrastructure are in place, they have been stretched beyond their capacity by the growing number of users.
Whereas the international standard practice is for government to allocate land where it has provided infrasturucture such as roads, rail lines, water, sewage systems, electricity and other similar amenities, the recerwe has been the case in Abuja. Previous administrations in the territory, in violation of what the master plan provides, allocated land in areas where there wasn’t as much as access roads in the circumstance, Property owners had to develop their own infrastructure, leading to haphazard and low quality developments in most districts.
It is in view of this that DAILY ASSET considers the recent pronouncement by the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) that it would no longer allocate land in any district until engineering design and infrastructure are provided in such areas, a welcome development.
Building infrastructure is capital intensive and for a city like Abuja that requires nothing but the best, being a model city, funds for such projects have constituted a major challenge for past and even the present administration. It was in this regard that the immediate past administration came up with creative way of solving the infrastructure challenge through Public Private Partnership (PPP) and policies such as the Land Swap Policy. PPP agreements superintended by the Infrastructure Concession and Regulatory Commission (ICRC), an agency of the federal government. Agreements reached under this arrangement were for the provision of engineering infrastructure worth N61,194,747,645.00 in Katampe District, N52,609,879,284.47 in Kagini 1 District and N23,650,000,000 in Maitama Extension District and were expected to provide a collective 70,000 kilometres of road network of diverse categories, including bridges, culverts, drainage systems, water, sewage, electricity and communication facilities. The Land Swap Policy which was launched in 2015, was designed as a barter between government and private investors who would put down money for critical infrastructure development in some identified districts, in exchange for land in those districts.
The benefits of private sector involvement in infrastructure development are enormous. Apart from freeing money for government to carry out other important functions, it brings about accelerated development to enable the government meet critical infrastructural needs, faster rate of social development and the creation of multiplier effects in the economy. The Land Swap Policy for instance, was projected to create additional housing for more than one million residents and over 1,500 jobs in addition to roads, storm water drains; foul water drains; water distribution lines; street lighting lines; electrical power distribution lines; telecommunication ducts; and mini sewage treatment plants on an estimated 3,886 land hectares, as well as the payment of resettlement and compensation costs to the aborigines at no financial cost to the government.
While we point out that some of these projects have been enmeshed in some controversy, with those against the policies calling for their cancellation, it is our well-considered view that the FCT administration should revisit and resuscitate some of these policies because government is a continuum. A situation where new administrations abandon projects initiated by previous administrations such as was the case of the Urban Renewal Project, Accelerated Housing Scheme, and Abuja@30 Housing Scheme are inimical to development and must not be encouraged. Policies such as Land swap have accelerated housing development in countries such as the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Singapore and can be replicated here.