Alhaji Hussaini Monguno is a member of the recently inaugurated Board of the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA). In this interview with City News, he said improved funding by the federal government in line with the template of the past years will make Abuja city more economically viable and environmentally friendly.
It has been observed that succeeding administrations of the Federal Capital City have not been able to deal with the continued influx of people into the city as public utilities appear to be overstretched. What do you think?
Abuja has faced multiple layers of natural and man-made distortions over the years, especially during the last two or three administrations. It is in our nature to want to cut corners and when you have an undisciplined set of political administrators under the kind of governments we have had in the last dispensation, then we should expect certain abnormalities; not just in the way a mega city like Abuja is run, but in the way the entire gamut of nation building was handled. We also have a citizenry that was not willing to insist on following the rules in getting things done. If you say there had been an element of overstretching of utilities to the point that the city is suffering, then the dislocation is not farfetched. I live in Abuja and I think I will agree with you that things were not done as they should have been. But again, I will like to say that the current FCT administration has demonstrated a capacity to be different from the unfortunate norm. I am just a few weeks old as a member of the board of the FCDA, but within this short period I have come to appreciate the selfless and unique determination of the administration to stick by the rules and be as transparent and frugal as possible in order to sanitize the system and push it towards prudence and lawful conduct.
Some observers have noted that poor funding of FCDA has impacted on its capacity to discharge its duties. Do you agree?
Before I answer this question, I will still draw your attention to the kind of discipline and transparency that have become the norm in the entire administrative structure of the Abuja capital city. Believe me, the entire system, which emboldened past administrators to circumvent the process in order to bend the laws or cut corners to the detriment of cohesion and stability of the system have all become a thing of the past. It is the insistence by the minister in particular, that things should be done according to the rules that seemed to have jolted the old order and everyone can feel the impact. My personal observation on the issue of high level of influx of people into the city and the accompanying overstretching of utilities is that, as one of the fastest growing cities in Africa and as the capital city of the most populous and most economically viable and vibrant country in Africa, it is natural to expect that pressure of density, diversity, economic opportunity pursuits and vehicular challenges among many other challenges would exert additional pressure on existing facilities. In my view, corruption too, which has had a free reign in the past years had greatly helped in the misapplication and mismanagement of resources that should have been channeled to servicing and providing more infrastructure to deal with the expected high demand for utilities.
There is the task of constant maintenance, rehabilitation and provision of facilities like roads to many areas in the districts, electric bulbs for street lights and evacuation of refuse dumps. How challenging is this?
There are many challenges for a government that has inherited a wholly vandalized country. This government is less than three years in office and as we all know, this country needs re-fixing and repositioning from the scratch. Look at the culture of stealing and vandalism of government properties on the various roads in the city by some unscrupulous elements. Have you observed that the heavy iron and steel cover of the many manholes in strategic places on our roads in the city are being stolen? Have you also observed that this development is capable of endangering peoples’ lives? Just drive along and on both sides of the roads, you are forced to constantly be on the lookout to avoid falling into very large craters of wide holes whose covers have been removed by scavengers who roam the streets of Abuja daily. I am worried by this state of affairs and I think we should seriously look into it with a view to arresting the situation before more people are either killed or maimed by the accidents that are inescapable as a result. Of course there are many issues requiring attention and this has to do with resource constraints bedeviling the FCDA in particular.
What exactly is the nature of this resource constraint?
The FCDA used to be funded by the allocation of two percent of all revenues of the federal government. Much later it was reduced to one percent and I think during the Jonathan administration, it was zeroed to only internally generated revenue. Oil revenues were excluded and this accounted for the cash constraints that have rendered the FCDA incapable of meeting up to its statutory obligations and responsibilities. The FCDA is the driver of development in the capital city and starving it of funds as orchestrated by the Jonathan administration is counterproductive. The gamut of the problems of inability to discharge its duties is the direct function of this cash constraint. And you know it is very important for this matter to be revisited with the intention of righting this wrong. Abuja is important to the image of Nigeria and the emotion of all Nigerians. It is the one single instrument or one single melting pot of our pride as the power of Africa and of the black race. All Africans are proud of Abuja and if we deliberately channel resources to, not just maintaining its infrastructures, but to build more and enhance its prestige, we are in a way, preserving what is dear to us. I am sure as soon as presentation is made to the Buhari administration on the need to pump in more money into protecting the nation’s huge investments in Abuja by the minister of the FCT, all the anti-Abuja policies of the past administrations would be jettisoned and a new era will unfold.