Challenges of living in the FCT

By Chijioke Okoronkwo

Most residents of Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), are contending with various challenges, ranging from accommodation to transportation, among others.
Abuja, especially the city centre, is considered expensive and ranked the 31st most expensive city in the world by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) Cost of Living Survey, conducted in 2011.
Residents are also worried that notwithstanding poor public utilities, they are compelled to pay levy on virtually all facilities in the city.
Observers note that FCT, especially the city centre, is gradually becoming an elite settlement.
They say that Abuja has attracted a huge influx of people, leading to the development of satellite towns such as, Kubwa, Karu, Nyanya, Mararaba, Suleja, Gwagwalada, Lugbe, Kuje and other smaller settlements within and outside the FCT.

According to them, most of the low income earners live in these areas with inadequate infrastructure, where the annual rent of a bedroom apartment is between N350, 000 and N450, 000.
Mr Femi Olubode, a resident of Lugbe, a satellite town of FCT, opines that the Ministry of FCT ought to have built more houses for civil servants and low income earners.
“A situation where a civil servant who earns N50, 000 or N60, 000 monthly has to pay N350, 000 or N450, 000 per annum for a bedroom apartment is worrisome.’’
But Olubode observes that rents will have been lower if the Ministry of FCT has been aggressive in the construction of houses in the Federal Capital Territory.
“I have been living in Lugbe for many years, in spite of high rent, the residents have always relied on boreholes and water vendors as sources of water.
“Beyond the accommodation problem, most of the residents pay about N1 million per session for a child’s school fees in private schools in FCT and most of them spend a lot of money on transportation,’’ Olubode lamented.
Mr Martins Egbe, a resident of Galadimawa in FCT, says appropriate authorities should introduce measures to regulate the cost of accommodation in the FCT.
“There should be fixed rents and regulations and how much apartments should cost depending on where they are located and the available facilities,’’ he said.
Citing some challenges in health sector, a resident of Wuse in the city centre, Mr. John Ibe, narrated his experience when he took his son to a public health facility.
“I had to wait for five hours; I watched my son being weighed down but there was nothing I could do.
“Even after seeing the doctor, the hospital did not even have the prescribed drugs and I had to buy the drugs elsewhere.
“It is a very pathetic situation and it happens in virtually all government hospitals in the FCT,’’ he said.
On transportation, Mr. Johnson Umeh, a resident of Kubwa, said that when the FCT new transport scheme was introduced, residents heaved a sigh of relief.
He however said that several months after the introduction, many residents could not make effective use of the high capacity buses because of their irregular schedules.
“If you have to depend of those buses, it is either you miss going to work or you go to work very late, because some of them operate at a time when most workers might have left for their offices.
“Sometimes, more than three buses will be at the bus stops waiting for passengers; at another time, passengers will be at the bus stops waiting for the buses,’’ Umeh noted.
According to him, the few FCT cabs available charge cut throat prices to convey people to their various destinations.
All the same, the FCT Administration is aware of the myriads of problems facing the residents, and poised to solve them.
On housing, Minister of State for FCT, Ms Olajumoke Akinjide, said the administration would provide affordable houses in order to address the accommodation challenges faced by residents.
Speaking at a forum in Abuja, Akinjide said the government would allocate land in the area councils to individuals and estate developers.
She said the administration would then develop infrastructure in the satellite towns and declare certain districts as affordable housing districts.
The minister also said the administration would involve the private sector to provide the houses, saying that the design, price and quality would be controlled by the administration.
Akinjide said 5,000 housing units would soon be constructed in Mamusa and Wasa districts of the FCT.
“The overall objective of the project is to stem the dearth of accommodation in the FCT and ensure that a secure community conducive for business and leisure is provided,’’ Akinjide stated.
Recently, President Goodluck Jonathan also inaugurated two phases of the Abuja Water Treatment Plants at the Lower Usuma Dam, Bwari, to boost water supply in the FCT.
Speaking shortly after the inauguration, the Minister of FCT, Sen. Bala Mohammed, said the plants had the capacity to treat 20 million litres of water per hour.
In the same vein, the Minister of Information, Mr Labaran Maku, said the Federal Executive Council had approved the borrowing of 170 million dollars from the French Development Agency to boost electricity supply in the FCT.
“The loan, which is usually given on exceptionally concessionary grounds by the French Government to very friendly countries, and in this instance when the French President visited, the two leaders accepted the need for this loan, which is to support the power infrastructure in Abuja,’’ Maku said.
While the efforts of the government are recognised, stakeholders want the government to evolve workable approach to address all the challenges faced by FCT residents. (NAN)