While it appears to be a laudable project, it does not bode well with some residents of Abuja, the nation’s capital city. It is a case of mixed feelings for some Abuja residents over the plan by the Federal Capital Territory Administration to commence the construction of the Phase two of the Ultra-modern Jabi Lake Resort this year.
The project, which will be in collaboration with private investors, according to the FCT Minister, Senator Bala Mohammed, has been estimated to cost N334bn.
The minister, while receiving the executive members of Nigerian Young Professionals Forum, in his office last month, said the resort, when completed, would promote tourism in the FCT and generate revenue to augment the budgetary allocation from the federation account.
He said the Federal Government had invested a lot on the development of the FCT and added that the time had come for the FCTA to create institutions and structures in terms of legal framework to encourage private investors in developing the city.
Mohammed added that the crop of leadership in FCTA was determined to set standards and benchmark for the betterment of FCT residents without necessarily taking recourse to government funding.
He said, “The FCTA has received marching order from President Goodluck Jonathan to build human capital and institutions as well as partnership in accordance with the global best practice.
“The Federal Government is at present considering collaboration with competent private investors to complete the multi-billion naira landmark project.”
But some residents of Abuja, who spoke on the issue, wondered why the Mohammed administration was considering the construction of a resort centre when many low income earners are still living in slums because they cannot afford decent accommodation.
Some of them alleged that the FCT administration was deliberately discouraging the low income earners from enjoying decent lives in the nation’s capital by its elitist projects aimed at benefitting only the influential and wealthy members of the society.
They also wondered why the government was not considering the usage of the whopping amount to pay attention to the plights of those living in satellite towns by collaborating with private estate developers to build affordable housing estates.
The residents noted that massive infrastructural development was being concentrated in the city centre while the satellite towns were neglected.
Many low-income earners are living in the satellite towns, such as Jikwoyi, Chika, Kuchingoro, Mpape, Gwagalape, Bwari, Dutsen Alhaji, Gosa, Kuje, Durumi, Kuruduma, Kobi, Apo village, Gwagwalada, Kubwa, Karshi, Lugbe, Karumajiji, Kusaki Yanga, Dobi and Anagada, with little or no government presence.
A resident, Mr. Israel Agabi, noted that the FCT administration had, over the years, been demolishing structures built by the low-income earners because necessary attempts were not made to build affordable low income estates in the satellite towns.
He argued that rather than encouraging collaboration with the private firms to build an hotel for N334bn, the FCTA should have collaborated with various companies to build low income estates in all the Satellite towns.
He also said that all basic amenities to make life meaningful to the residents should be put in place.
Other residents, who also spoke on the issue, said the development of the new towns would provide both formal and informal employment, boost food security, provide links to the villages and decongest the FCT.
Justifying the viability of the project, spokesperson of the FCTA, Mr. Mohammed Sule, said the facility supervised by the Abuja Infrastructural Investment Centre would boost tourism, and create massive employment, when completed.
Sule added that the project would serve as a source of revenue for the FCTA and that money generated from the place could be used to provide basic amenities for residents.
However, the Chairman, Senate Committee on the FCT, Senator Smart Adeyemi, on Tuesday said his committee did not approve any budgetary provision for the construction of the multi-billion centre.
Adeyemi noted that the FCT was enjoying both statutory allocation from the federation account and its own budget which the Senate Committee was effectively monitoring but insisted that at no time was the hotel project provided for in the FCT budget.
The senator said, “The committee can only interfere in this type of situation if the FCT administration wanted to spend part of the money appropriated to it by the National Assembly on such a project. We have found out from them and they have said that it was the private sector that would fund it.
“Since the project is entirely private sector-driven, according to the FCT Minister, there is little we could do about it at the committee level. The minister had confirmed that the FCTA would only be collaborating with the developers in the development control.”
Smart, however, reiterated his confidence that the Satellite Town Development Agency, which will create an enabling environment for the massive development of Abuja sub-urban areas, will take off as soon as the bill for its creation was signed to law.
He said, “It is never going to be possible for all the people working in the FCT to reside within, as the multitude are repelled to the surrounding satellite towns. The responsibility of the Satellite Town Development Agency included to open up/develop the satellite towns by providing infrastructural facilities to the teeming rural dwellers, thereby improving their living standard.”
The lawmaker listed Bwari, Kubwa, Karshi, Kuje and Gosa as the designated satellite towns. He said the sum of N25.965bn was provided in the 2013 FCT budget for the smooth take off of the agency but N108m of the amount was designated as Personnel Costs while another N1.7bn would be for overhead cost.
Adeyemi added that the balance of N24.1bn was earmarked for capital projects for the services of the satellite towns for the current fiscal year.
He added that some of the major projects to be executed as captured in the 2013 Budget Proposal included provision of engineering infrastructure to the satellite towns; dualisation of Jikwoyi – Karshi Road and selected township roads; and the construction of 5, 000 units of affordable housing in satellite towns.
Other projects, according to him, are the construction of the STDA headquarters at Wasa; urban renewal and upgrading of Nyanya Labour Camp to accommodate 4, 000 families; the design and construction of dams, treatment plant, tanks and other bulk water supply infrastructure to Karshi and the development of markets in four of the satellite towns, among others.
Other residents of the FCT, who spoke on the issue, urged the government to vote more funds for the provision of affordable housing estates and good road networks in the identified satellite towns in order to encourage people to relocate there.