Fiery Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Nyesom Wike, since his assumption of office has not minced words nor spared any attempt to give onlookers the impression that, surely, a new Sheriff is in town. While addressing staff of his Ministry late last month during his maiden meeting with them, Wike, in his characteristic combative manner, made some instructive and daring pronouncements as well as declarations.
At the meeting, he drew the battle line between him and those he considered as callous, quacks and enemies of the environment.
He declared: “It is not going to be business as usual. Those distorting Abuja Master Plan, if you build where you are not supposed to, the building will go down. If you build on a green area, sorry, it will go down. Those who were allocated land and refused to develop them, we will revoke such lands and re-allocate them to those who are ready to develop them. Those who don’t pay ground rent, we will not notify them to do so, but I will not be tired of signing revocation notices, uncompleted buildings that have become a safe haven for criminals, will be reclaimed by the government and put to good use.”
The Minister, in his one swoop declaration, warned nuisance hawkers, illegal market operators and lawless occupants of outlawed motor parks and bus stops, establishing that they were all security threats to the FCT and, therefore, threatened that his office would develop a thick skin against them.
To cap his caveat, the blunt Minister said: “If you have a brother, sister or uncle who is involved in any of these, please tell him that the time is up. The goal is to sanitise Abuja and make it safe for everyone.”
And in a rather funny, yet, very critical twist, Wike turned back to his staff, impressing it upon them to get serious and be focused on their primary responsibilities. He retorted: “Working with me, you will develop high blood pressure.” He therefore gave the option of redeployment to other public offices for those FCT Administration staff who feel they could not survive or cope with his no holds barred approach.
His first official assignment was a visit to the Abuja Metro Rail Project. Indeed, the inspection turned out to be a ground for Wike to resonate his resolve to break the “infamous” jinx and do things differently. He acknowledged and asked: “I know that we have a metro station in Abuja, and it is not working. Why is it not working? Can we fix it within a short time?” Now comes the assurance. He affirmed: “I assure the public that the rail transport system is a project we will take to a logical conclusion.”
He however cautioned: “Before commencing another project, we will need to determine which areas are the most traffic areas. This is very important to decongest areas with traffic congestion.”
Few days after Wike made the challenging and alarming declarations and display of zeal to work unrelentingly, a series of events like a litmus test for the Minister followed in the capital city. On a Wednesday night, a two-storey building located in Garki 2 area of Abuja collapsed. The incident led to the death of two persons, while many occupants were trapped under rubbles. With rage while on the site inspection, Wike ordered the immediate arrest of the owner of the property. The Minister didn’t stop there as he took a swipe at the Federal Capital Territory Authority over its failure to resettle natives of Garki village and subsequently plan the enclave. His final declaration at the spot was that immediate action would be taken to see that the indigenes of the village are resettled, after which planning follows. He sounded that the move by the government to take over the territory should not be misconstrued as political.
In another eventful incident, news broke last week Thursday on the death of 30 people via a landslide in Kuje Area Council. The disaster was blamed on illegal mining. Also, another 19 people were kidnapped in Bwari Area Council by suspected gunmen.
Wike was briefed on the worrisome development at the meeting between him and Chairmen of the FCT Area Councils. His pragmatic approach to tackle the challenge was to summon the FCT’s Director of the Department of State Services and the Commissioner of Police to brief him. He’s not stopping there. The Minister charged FCT Council Chairmen to set up Surveillance Task Forces in their areas to monitor mining activities. He expressed a wish to liaise with his Solid Minerals counterpart, Dele Alake, with a view to eliminating illegal mining in the capital city.
Nigerians love and crave for good living. Unfortunately, many have failed to give attention to the environmental variables that would deliver the same. Over time, property owners and developers focus only on monetary and personal gains, but regrettably look the other way, regarding the implications of their actions. People build houses without approved plans, on the water way, call the bluff of town master plans and dump refuse on water channels! Environment is part of the human ecosystem and as such it deserves some degrees of respect. If such is lacking, nature would fight back very severely.
Needless to hazard the much stress that this brazen lack of regard has caused many building collapses in different parts of the country, flooding, poor town planning and fatal environmental disasters as witnessed in the Abuja landslide last week. This is the real challenge with many Nigerians with respect to their relationship with the environment. And Wike seriously stressed on the self-inflicted woe as well as the need to tackle them headlong.
Still on his remarks at the collapsed building site, the Minister asserted: “…these are the things we have been saying, nobody knows whose turn it will be, therefore, when the government says it will take actions in areas we believe there are illegal developments or buildings that don’t comply with the standard codes. It is not as if anybody has any personal vendetta, but for me, it is for us to do the right thing.”
The flagrant disregard for the environmental provisions is everywhere – urban and rural areas. In Lagos for instance, there are many estates that give little or no attention to the master plans. For instance, a legally sited and well-planned estate/enclave ought to be a one stop of all activities, namely: sporting, fitness, relaxation, business, social, shopping and security. Residents of a well-planned estate don’t have business doing anything outside of the confined habitation facility, except going to work. And what about the cost, the hazard, dangers, inconvenience and risks involved and being exposed to in some activities that could have ordinarily been organised or conducted inwardly if owners and residents had taken recourse to master plan?
In the cities and urban areas, illiterate land grabbers operate with effrontery and impunity! They sell and resell lands, encroaching onto another person’s property and changing the original master plan at will. A place that is supposed to be a pathway – passage – and link from one landmark to another is partially blocked or in some instances turned to a close! It’s natural that when and where these anomalies happen, there won’t be peaceful cohabitation among the residents, while the nature, environment will later and certainly take its rightful place.
On green environment, kudos should be given to the immediate past Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola (SAN), especially in his days as the Lagos State Governor (2007-2015). To his credit, Fashola invested heavily in horticulture. In his time as the Governor, many beautiful gardens came up across the state; so many green landscaping on road medians. What about building of recreation and relaxation centres and re-launch of tree planting culture? Some then dismissed and asked: Of what importance are all of these? For those who care to know and believe, Fashola’s initiatives have enormous and invaluable environmental, physical, health, medical, economic, even spiritual benefits.
If the laudable environmental gestures have been vigorously sustained, it’s possible that the state would have advanced in its environmental policy evolution, implementation and proper quality control to the extent that the rising rate of building collapse cases would have gone down appreciatively. And the state could have recorded another landmark in this regard, just as Fashola in his time did.
- Africa Magic unveils new logo for 20th anniversary celebrations
- Independence Day: Governor Adeleke calls for prayers, unity.
- Appoint substantive Auditor General now to arrest corruption in public service, group tells Tinubu
- Breaking: AFRIMA, PMAN, others hold emergency summit on Nigerian music industry
- Wanted kingpin, Chadian, grandpa arrested over UK-bound, other drugs
Painfully, Nigeria as a nation seems not to give proper and adequate attention to the state of her environment. Consequently, the country, year in, year out is suffering from this fundamental error. But for how long shall we continue to record and grieve over losses and damage to lives and property
The current FCT Minister will not be the first in the same office displaying this manner of unstoppable mien. One of his predecessors and immediate past Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, was equally ruthless in his days in former President Olusegun Obasanjo-led administration. His dexterity then earned him an acronym: “Bulldozer.”
It’s for this reason we dare assert that if Wike’s “gra gra”, stern, merciless and ruthless approach and style is what will bring sanity, take us far and become a template for a standard and lasting national environmental planning, management and preservation, Nigerians should cooperate with and allow him to be. In fact, if it can be replicated across the country, the better for Nigeria and Nigerians. Still, Wike should watch and look at his back – be mindful of probity. For he who comes into equity must come with clean hand