The Challenges of Demographic changes

Since its creation, Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory has contended with the vagaries of demographic challenges


Abuja Central Business District

John Chukwu, Engineer, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, never shies away from admitting the unique challenges faced by administrators of the country’s capital. Going by the privilege of his office which, had he been a functionary in any of the 36 states in the country, could rightly be addressed as the Head of Service, HoS, of the state, Chukwu is placed in the position to assess any FCT minister. For him, Senator Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed success in managing the FCT “is obvious” given the onerous task of administering Abuja.

By Chukwu’s estimation, the challenges facing the FCT are brought about by its pull for many from all parts of the country and beyond, seeking greener pastures or seeking to find where to live quality life. As a result, Abuja is exposed to the vagaries of population explosion brought about by massive influx of people. This brings about the need to plan and provide infrastructure, proper administration and drive business so that its residents can be gainfully employed. There are also peculiar problems also associated with being the FCT. “You are talking of issues that have to do with community, chieftaincy and so on. Then you have issues in the contiguous states. What happens in Kogi or Nasarawa affect us here. Then you have influx of people coming around. People now see the FCT as a safe haven. So you are dealing with increased demographics but with limited resources”, explained Chukwu.


Traffic gridlock at the Nyanya-Karu axis of Kefffi-Abuja Road, Kugbo

His summation becomes more apt going by some demographic estimates and figures. For instance, the Abuja Municipal Area Council, AMAC, one out of six other area councils, has a population exactly like Bayelsa and Jigawa, respectively, both states in the country. According to Kabir Usman, Secretary of Education, FCT, it is clear that almost 60 per cent of people who come into Abuja for one business or the other don’t return to their previous destination, seeking, instead to make Abuja their home. According to Urban and Regional Planning Unit of the federal capital, population growth in the FCT is slated at 3.4/5 every year.

Explaining the implication of this population growth in the FCT, Chukwu said that Abuja has to run optimally, perhaps better than any state in the country. “The FCT is not like other MDAs. It is like a state. We have 28,000 staff in all gamut running a state. You are talking of roads, health, education, and so on”, he said. Going by the Abuja Master plan, the FCT development should be in phase three by 2011. The plan was to have finished all the phases meant to accommodate just 3.1 million people. Under Senator Mohammed, these whole estimates can only mean that there is need to leapfrog development projections in the FCT and work towards providing meaningful infrastructure and quality services to make living standards good for its residents. A clear demonstration of this vision is the nearly completed Umaru Yar’Adua Expressway. Formerly known as Airport Expressway and whose contract for reconstruction was awarded by late President Yar’Adua, Mohammed threw himself into making the project a reality. From its initial four-lane carriageway, the expressway has since metamorphosed into a 10-lane modern highway, with the full complement of streetlights, emergency service units, pedestrian bridge for crossing and landmark monuments that could rival its peers in world leading cities. Aside from the beauty it has since brought into the FCT, the trunk road has since eased traffic on the ever busy highway making commuting easier for residents. But with more people living in Abuja, strain is put on other spheres of life like in education, health, waste management and so on. Challenges in these areas have not been child’s play. Explaining the Herculean task of taming the odds, Shola Salami Abdulrahman, Acting Director, Urban and Regional Planning, FCT, has this to say: “We are having sleepless nights to meet up with the expectations because the rate of influx of people”.

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