The Land Swap Initiative may soon concretise the vision of Abuja as a true modern capital city
A modern capital city in the 21st century must be one with state-of-the-art infrastructure – roads, water supply, underground electrical and sewage connections, telecommunication, health, education, recreation and security facilities, and many more. Building this kind of city requires huge financing, which many governments are unable to provide. Yet, creating mega cities with functional infrastructure is the ambition of most governments and nations.
This is why many smart governments all over the world are looking to the private sector for a partnership that can deliver quality infrastructure and a better life for their people. In line with the Transformation Agenda of the President Goodluck Jonathan administration, Bala Mohammed, minister of the Federal Capital Territory, and his team have found a way to turn Abuja into the dream city that it was intended to be.
The way is a new infrastructure development policy called Land for Infrastructure Swap Model or Land Swap. Under the policy, the FCT Administration collaborates with the private sector to deliver comprehensive development through provision of primary infrastructure in selected greenfield districts of the Federal Capital city. The FCDA grants land to investors for real property development in exchange for the provision of specified infrastructure in the designated areas.
Through this initiative, the FCDA hopes to address the acute infrastructural deficit in the nation’s capital city and save it from growing into a slum. At present, many districts in phases two and three of the city lack proper infrastructure such as roads, water and a decent sewage system. Flooding of roads, houses and other public facilities has been reported in some districts in the city where government could not provide adequate infrastructure before houses were constructed.
According to Mohammed, the FCDA requires not less than N500 billion annually to be able to provide infrastructure for the city that is one of the fastest growing in the world. But what the territory gets as annual allocation from the Federation Accounts is a far cry from what is needed. For instance, this year’s federal allocation for capital development for the Territory is a miserly N31 billion, according to Umaru Sanda Adamu, senior special assistant to the FCT on finance and economic matters. That is why, according to the minister, the land swap model is a revolutionary initiative.
With the introduction of the land swap policy, primary infrastructure – roads, water, and electricity – will be provided before construction of real estate begins. This provision is included in the agreement with the investors, and it provides a guarantee that the new districts to be developed will have functional infrastructure. Mohammed said the agreement has been done in such a way that investors could not put any structure on the land without first developing the primary infrastructure.
Apart from developing primary infrastructure through private capital, the land swap would also help to develop other secondary infrastructure required for a modern city. The land swap districts will see rapid development of modern infrastructure in transportation, telecommunications, hospitality, real estate and other areas of the economy. After building primary infrastructure as required by government, investors will venture into the hospitality business and construct world-class hotels to boost tourism and business in the country.
The land swap has already attracted investors in the transportation business that are set to build an ultra-modern, high quality, functional transportation hub in the city. Intercity Transport Terminal Limited, ITTL, will provide an integrated multi-modal transport terminal with a shopping mall, hotel, commercial support services, leisure and entertainment complex at the current location of Utako motor park. The goal of the project is to make public transport in Abuja and nationwide more convenient for passengers by providing infrastructure that is easy to identify and understand.
The Centenary City is another project that will be developed as a land swap project. It will be a city within the city, complete with all facilities a modern city should have. And it will be done by private capital, while the FCDA only gives land as its equity participation. Abuja will also have an industrial hub that will be located at Idu. The Abuja Industrial Park at Idu is a multi-billion dollar project designed to make Abuja an industrial hub for the country and the continent. The investor will develop the infrastructure and partner other local and international investors to build factories and industrial estates in the area. Abuja gets all these in exchange for land.
According to Faruk Saleh, managing director of Gwagwa Concession Limited and one of the investors in the land swap initiative, the land swap, on a national scale, is an opportunity for the country to develop world-class infrastructure. Expressing his excitement at the prospect of being part of the innovation of FCDA, he said, “For me it is the fact that I am going to participate in the development of our city in line with what obtains in other global cities and capitals of the world. We are not moving at the pace we are supposed to move in terms of development and modernisation of our infrastructure – roads, transportation, telecommunication, hospitality, real estate and other developments that could make a capital city compete with other capital cities of the world. Moving from the government to the private sector to fund these developmental initiatives will lead us to that goal.”