Land Swap Gives Opportunity for Growth

 

Oloye Olajumoke Akinjide, minister of state for the Federal Capital Territory

Olajumoke-Akinjide-1

Olajumoke-Akinjide

 What are your assessment and appreciation of the land swap policy?

The land swap policy is an innovative way of bringing the private sector into an area that hitherto only government had taken on, which is the provision of district infrastructure. You will see that phase one was entirely funded by government. Under phase two, we experimented with two districts, Mabushi and Katampe, to bring in the private sector. We had a joint venture where the FCT administration contributed some money and the private sector also contributed some money. Now moving into phase four, these are green field districts, districts that have not been allocated to anybody. The land swap is for green field and the private sector does everything 100 per cent, including resettlement. As you know, government simply does not have the money to develop the city at the rate at which we have influx of residents. So I think this is very laudable, it gives the government the opportunity to invite the private sector with their innovation and their capital, while the government does what it does best, which is regulation –making sure the standards and the master plan are adhered to.

Do you think you have a robust legal agreement that could sustain the projects?

I think if you look at the history of the Federal Capital Territory Administration, you will see that we have a very good and excellent record of fidelity to agreements. It might take some time for us to sign the dotted lines, and get to agreement. But once we get to that, we don’t go back on it regardless of a change of minister. I have no doubt that these agreements would be duly honoured, and we expect that the private sector would live up to their own obligations in terms of the quality and the funding that they say they have.

How is the interest of the ordinary Nigerian protected in the land swap policy?

It is protected in several ways. Number one, all these will generate a lot of commercial and economic activities and it is the so-called ordinary worker that is going to benefit in terms of employment, both skilled and unskilled. So it will generate massive employment. Secondly, in terms of land use, there are going to be areas that would be designated as low, medium and high density areas. High density areas are for affordable housing for the ordinary Nigerians. This will create more housing stock. And if supply is in excess of demand, then prices would be forced down. So I think we will see a decrease in both rental and sales values. You know Abuja is very high now in terms of the rents and in terms of purchase of land, not to talk of purchase of built houses. So I think if there is more supply, it will benefit everybody and make houses more affordable.

In terms of relocation and compensation for the indigenes, the problem in the past has been that the government does not have the money to fully relocate them. You still have indigenes of Jabi in the village; you have those of Garki village there and those of Utako. Here, the investors have provided for the indigenes that are going to be resettled. So I think this is going to be a good thing that people will not suffer any loss – loss of income, livelihood and cultural values because of the development that is coming to their area. They will be relocated and compensated adequately.

What is going to be the fate of the districts in phase two where we still have infrastructural deficit? Will they not be forgotten now that more districts are being opened by the private sectors?

No, they will not be forgotten. As we speak, the agreement has been entered with the private sector for some of them. Katampe is already on; the PPP arrangement has been approved by the Federal Executive Council, FEC. The memo for Mabushi is also ready and going to the Federal Executive Council. Durumi and the other two are not going to be forgotten. In fact, we are working with the RCRC to approve the contracts and the arrangements. Those that government can do we will do. But really we have to concentrate on providing the major arterial expressways, water supply, power, ICT for the entire territory and the city. You remember recently we flagged off phase one of the Outer Southern Expressway, OSE, and we’ve been directed by the vice president to finish the detailed engineering for phase two. Unless this OSE is constructed, the land swap will not succeed because this is the expressway that starts from Asokoro and links up Gwagwalada. That is going to open up that area. So we have our work to do and the private sector has its own.

Among all the projects this administration has embarked upon, which ones are very dear to your heart?

All of them are dear to my heart but I think the Utako motor park will become transformational, and it will become the gold standard for other cities in this country, because as of today we do not have a modern transformational terminal in this country. If you go to the United Kingdom or the US or anywhere, you will have a place where rail, bus, taxis and everything is connected. You also have a lot of economic activities surrounding these hubs, like Waterloo Station, Victoria Station. That I think will transform the way people see transportation. We also have the affordable housing programme, which is a collaboration between the private sector and the public sector. We provide the site and the services, then give small parcel of land, this time directly to the end users. We’ve targeted cooperatives, they will build the housing.

We’ve completely removed ourselves from housing. If you give people serviced land, the houses would be built. There is a market for it. We have cooperatives that have lots of money, and can access money through the Federal Mortgage Bank and other mortgage banks. But we do need infrastructure in place to make the housing affordable. Two districts have been allocated for that by the honourable minister under my purview – Wasa District and Mamusa West District. So government does its duty to the low income earners by providing a site with full services – roads, water, power and so on and we give it to cooperatives of public and private sector workers who will build for their members so that there will not be a secondary market for the land where people are trading on paper.

We also have a contract with the private sector to build a modern abattoir in the territory. It is in Gwagwalada, an agro processing zone. In that place we will have a cattle market run by the private sector, a modern abattoir, a fresh farm produce market where we can source and package fresh produce, and ship it all over this country, West Africa and beyond, taking advantage of fresh produce cargo terminal being built at the airport by the government.

Lastly, we are going to have an agro centre for people; small farm holdings where they can just come and hire tractors, harvesters and so on. There will also be a cold store where they can store their produce. We also have another farmland project in Kwali Area Council where we gave the land, about 30,000 hectares, to the private sector which provides the infrastructure for the farmland. These lands are now being marketed, so that you don’t have to come to the minister for farmland. These are all people-centred projects in the FCT.

Under your tenure, what are the transformations in terms of infrastructure in the satellite towns?

We are starting to do GIS mapping of the satellite towns and the area councils because if you don’t have a map, you really can’t begin to plan. Secondly, we are completing the detailed engineering plans for all the satellite towns. So far we only have a few that had been done. And with the organic growth in the FCT, we find that we have fallen behind because if you don’t have detailed plan you cannot award contracts for infrastructure. People are not going to wait for you. Massive movement is coming into the FCT from the South because of the economic opportunities and from the North because of the insecurity. We find that we are being outpaced in terms of settlers coming in and the infrastructure.

So we have asked that detailed engineering of all the satellite towns be done in terms of award of contracts in Karshi town, where infrastructure is being developed in phase one and phase two of the city, and has reached a very advanced stage by SCC. And there was no water, so we awarded a contract for a dam, water treatment plant and reticulation. For Karshi town, Jikwoyi and environs. Secondly, we awarded a road that is going to link Karshi-Apo road. The idea is to relieve the traffic that builds up on that axis. When the road is [completed], it will take 30 minutes to drive from Karshi to Apo. We are hopeful we will complete the road this year. We are working with the SURE-P people on that. The NYSC camp at Kubwa was massively rehabilitated. We have got the land for the permanent site in Kwali. The land has been surveyed and approved and the design has been put in this year’s budget. We are going to design a modern permanent camp that will be a model in the country. The design should be completed this year and we hope that by next year we will break ground and start the construction. It will be a camp that we have not only residences but also a mini-stadia, it will be complete with all the amenities.

We also have the stadium project; we are building a mini-stadium in every area council. The idea is that every area council should have a recreation centre where every young person can go. We are also relocating people from Nyanya Labour Camp, which was declared unfit for human habitation, to a new site where we are providing infrastructure. The contract for the infrastructure was recently approved by FEC for N14 billion. After that we will build houses for 7,000 families of Nyanya labour camp to the new site at Gidan Daya, along Karshi road. The houses will be built through a loan we got from ADB (African Development Bank). We will provide all the amenities in the area.

Could you give us an assessment of the area councils? In what ways are they keying in to the Transformation Agenda?

I’m proud to say that we are probably the only government that complies fully with the letter and spirit of the constitution. We recognise them as the third tier of government. We do not have appointed area council chairmen; they are all elected at the right time and we don’t extend their tenure. The elections have also been free and fair. That is one. The area that we are building on and developing is in the area of monitoring their activities. This is what I have spent the last three years building on. We started with doing a NEEDS assessment and a facilities assessment of the infrastructure in the area councils – schools, rural electrification, roads, water supply and boreholes and primary health care. Now we have a comprehensive record of every single community, what they have and the state of the infrastructure, and where there is none.

The second thing we are now doing is working with the area councils on their budgets, to streamline it. We have given them a template for the budgeting, in terms of the technical template. And then in terms of the contents, we have given them policy directives – the ratio of recurrent to capital and the spread of projects, so that we approve their budgets now before it goes to their legislative houses. The third phase is procurement. We are now developing for them a framework for their procurement where we pre-qualify their contractors. We are not saying we will be the one to issue the contracts, No. But if you want a contractor, we want to be part of the process of pre-qualifying them. Just as we are also under scrutiny and regulation by Bureau of Public Procurement, they also must be under regulation so that they only have contractors in their books that are fixed to provide the services. We are also now giving them a protocol for procurement of a certain amount. Beyond a certain amount, we want to be involved to monitor the process so that they get value for money and get competent contractors. We are also setting standards. For instance, we say every single primary health care centre must have water, a source of power, minimum staff, and disposal for medical waste in place. We are starting to build these standards and protocols because we find that half of them don’t have water, toilets, electricity and some other facilities. For primary health care centres, we have given them three years within which to come to the minimum standards. But we can’t do it all at once, so we are now looking at their budget and then the FCT administration will pay for some through the MDG programme while some will go through the SURE-P programme.

For the schools, we are setting the standards and saying every FCT primary school, which is under the area councils, must have a certain ratio of toilets to the pupil, a ratio of teacher to pupils and certain number of teachers per subject and must all have water supply or borehole. We believe the area councils are the nearest to the grassroots, but they need support in terms of monitoring and standard setting.

How are they performing generally?

I will mark the area council chairmen as average; some are above average, but nobody is performing poorly. And I think they can optimise performance with the kind of support we are giving them.

I will like to know your working relationship with the senior minister.

It’s a very interesting question. When I came I was told that the minister and the minister of state in the territory always have, traditionally, difficult relationships. But I am happy to say that Senator Bala Mohammed and I have had a very good relationship. I think we are both here to do the best we can for our boss, President Goodluck Jonathan, who is a transformational president. And if you want to transform, you cannot spend your time fighting. I think also, may be because we are also both seasoned politicians and professionals. And may be the male-female combination also works. I don’t know, but we have had a very good relationship, which is not to say that there are not areas where we have disagreed. But we talk it over and resolve it, not letting it affect the work of this great territory. It’s a sacred trust which we take seriously. I’m happy to say that we have worked very well together.

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