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Abuja’s population explosion can’t be stopped – FCT minister

*Says no compensation for owners of demolished shanties

Ukpono Ukpong

The Federal Government has said that attempting to stop the escalating population explosion in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) could be a tall dream, as it is a function of urbanisation.

FCT minister, Malam Mohammed Bello, who said this while answering questions from State House Correspondents after the week’s virtual Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, however said the administration is making efforts to manage the situation.

According to Mallam Bello, stopping the population in the FCT from increasing is not an option because of the nature of the city and the purpose it serves, pointing out that the situation is just following a trend with the urbanisation factor, which is a global reality.

He further noted that the administration is doing everything to make sure that the crowd is managed by ensuring that institutions are strengthened and infrastructure is increased to meet the needs of the city.

“Urbanisation is a reality that we cannot reverse, it’s a worldwide phenomenon and urbanisation will continue. As a matter of fact, it has been projected that by 2050, 70% of the world population will be living in urban areas, Abuja is no exception.

“It has served as a magnet because it’s the centre of government, it’s secure, it’s peaceful, it’s in the centre of the country and it provides tremendous amount of opportunities for young people. So, this will continue.

“But it’s something that we are trying to manage. How do we manage it? We are strengthening our institutions, increasing infrastructure within the available resources, but with urbanisation and movement of people, obviously crime also increases; the need to handle urban waste increases, and so many other things.

“It’s something that we’ll keep on working on, and some of the demolitions we even do is as a result of that. When people come in, they don’t have housing, they don’t have accommodation, they go into shanties and they create slums.

“As you continue economic activities, labour has to come in. So, we are trying and Abuja is trying to see how we can fit into the Millennium Development Goals of sustainability. We are trying to make a sustainable city and I tell you, it’s not going to be just the government, it has to be a combination of government, private sector, the citizenry and all of us.

But in spite of what you said, by and large, it’s still one of the best cities in Africa and we’ll continue to do our best”, he explained.

Meanwhile, the Minister has ruled out payment of compensation for illegal structures demolished to restore the master plan of the territory.

The minister said many illegal structures and shanties demolished were built during the lockdown imposed on the territory due to COVID-19 pandemic.

He, however, said that compensation would be made available for any structure removed to expand roads or provide essential facilities.

“The issue of renovations in the FCT is not new, it’s something that occurs as part of the daily work of enforcement, unfortunately, in the recent past, particularly during COVID-19, when most of the inspectorate staff were not able to cover many parts of the city, a lot of people went and started doing illegal constructions.

“The policies and guidelines for building in the FCT are very clear, they are well documented, the laws are there. So, what we have been doing, basically, is just to remove infringements. So, the issue of compensation, normally, will not arise because everything is illegal.

“If, for instance, somebody decides to go and start building on a road corridor, which is common knowledge is a road corridor, and in most cases some of these buildings, you will notice that abatement notices had been given to them, but they still go ahead. So, we keep on demolishing.

“But there are some areas where, as part of our urban renewal and upgrade, if we need to take off a building, either to expand the road corridor or to create essential facilities for social services, obviously, these ones will be compensated, it has always been happening”, the Minister explained.

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Chuka Francis

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