Following the decision of the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mr Nyesom Wike, to award contracts for the resurfacing of existing and well macadamised roads inside the city of Abuja, NATIONAL RECORD took a tour of the condition of road infrastructure in satellite towns of the FCT inhabited mainly by the working class and peasants. It was a voyage of shocking discovery – of decay, abandonment, subhuman and crass underdevelopment. OMOLE IBUKUN reports…
ON SEPTEMBER 11, 2023, the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) under the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mr Nyesom Wike, kicked off what he described as Phase I of the rehabilitation and resurfacing project for 135 roads. While prospect of smoother roads and improved road infrastructure was a beacon of hope for residents of a city or metropolis that is perpetually under construction, it, however, portrayed some element of insensitivity as the list of streets marked for rehabilitation and resurfacing became public knowledge – the focus was only on the highbrow elite districts of Wuse, Garki, Maitama and Asokoro – the metropolitan areas accommodating Nigeria’s ruling elites.
Although described as satellite towns, virtually all the settlements outside the main city of Abuja and inhabited by working class elements, are glorified shantytowns or ghettoes or ‘villages’, as residents of these settlements prefer to call them, most of whose streets have neither ever been paved nor linked to public water supply, public school, public health centre, among many other basic but essential existential facilities that guarantee decent living condition.
In fact, visits by National Record indicate that all satellite towns or ‘villages’ were cursed to be permanently unkempt; young settlements but all in deep state of decomposition.
These Abuja satellite towns – Kubwa, Karu, Nyanya, Kuje, Jikwoyi, Kurudu, Orozo, Abaji, Kwali, Lambata, Gwagwalada, Zuba, Bwari, etc.; politically segregated into area councils, equivalent of states’ local government areas, have one thing in common – the total absence of government – despite the huge budgetary allocation year in, year out since the proclamation of Abuja as the new Federal Capital Territory.
Where there existed paved roads in some of the satellite towns, there construction dated back to the 1980s and therefore had long been washed away or recently constructed by poorly executed, poorly maintained and therefore riddled with potholes and rendered worse than dirt roads.
In most of the suburbs visited by our reporter in the course of this investigation, the roads are absolutely hazardous and therefore remain perpetual threats to the lives and livelihoods of the people. Every journey, every commute, remains a risk that none could avoid.
A resident of one of the villages on the eastern flank of Abjua, Jikwoyi Phase 4, Mr Andrew Joji, told National Record that though they claimed to be a settlement of the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC), there is nothing to indicate ‘municipality’ in their existence. Mr Joji, a federal civil servant, said residents of Jikwoyi provide water for themselves and that the roads were created not by deliberate government planning but constructed by property owners with tippers and trucks which convey construction materials to building sites.
“You can see that all access roads in our area are very bad. Okadas and cars often breakdown and we are prone to accidents,” Joji lamented.
To accurately grasp the degree of neglect of the satellite towns by successive Federal Capital Territory Administrations (FCTA), National Record visited some settlements in each of FCT’s six Area Councils. Our findings indicate that neither words nor pictures are sufficient to convey the true extent of the underdevelopment of FCT’s satellite towns. Neither is this reporter capable of adequately exposing or expressing the degree of social, economic, health and environmental trauma imposed on the working class residents of these structurally underdeveloped and politically marginalised areas located very close to the ‘playground’ of Nigeria’s ruling class who loot or lavish on themselves trillions of funds from national treasury.
Perhaps close to the reality of the graphic existential contradictions between Abuja metropolis and the satellite towns is the observation by a resident of Angwan Dodo, in Gwagwalada who stated that the FCT is conceived as or has been turned into an apartheid community.
The resident, who works at the University of Abuja, and pleaded anonymity for fear of retribution, said the alarming divide in Abuja’s infrastructure development and deficits is a replica of apartheid, where the ruling class and people of affluence live in choice areas and receive significant attention, while the working class who service the affluent live in satellite towns and suffer neglect in silence. “Indeed, it is a tale of two cities – one for the rich, and the other for the poor,” he said.
AMAC: ‘FCT should be for everybody’
ACCORDING to residents of AMAC’s Nyanya and Karu axis, workers who built the new Federal Capital City, including the government institutions when the capital was about to be moved from Lagos to Abuja, resided either in Karu or Nyanya. According to them, this was the rationale behind the accommodation of these two suburbs, which also are among the closest to the city centre, under the Abuja Metropolitan Area Council (AMAC).
Edoh Ngbede, a commercial keke (tricycle) operator who plies Nyanya-Karshi route each day, but resides in Dagbana, a sprawling slum behind Jikwoyi Phase 3, paints a grim picture of the state of the roads he navigated daily.
Though he said the dualised Nyanya-Karshi Road is paved, and with very bad portions along the stretch between St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Karu through the Karu Juma’at Mosque to Jikwoyi; he was however quick to point out that the major worry to motorists is not this major road, even as bad as it now is; but the access roads.
“It’s the road that stops me from going home in the afternoons,” he lamented. “In the afternoons, there is little or no work, and those of us who stay nearby go home to bathe, eat, and freshen up in between morning and evening rush hours.
“The condition of the road is so bad that if you go back in the afternoon, you won’t want to come out again. If you’re not careful, the road will burst the tires of your tricycle or some other part will spoil. There was a time when my wife was pregnant and I was trying to take her to the hospital and it was not easy for her because of the condition of the road.
“It’s only if you’re lucky that you will go to a mechanic to repair your keke only twice a month. Those of us living in Dagbana donated money within the community some time ago to buy a tipper of stone to level the road and after five months, rain washed it off,” Ngbede told National Record.
On the day this reporter visited Dagbana Community, he saw a group of residents of the community trying to repair the road by themselves.
The impact of the terrible state of the road goes beyond the wear and tear of vehicles. For the residents of Dagbana, even trekking on this forgotten road is a dangerous act of survival.
“Under normal circumstances when rain does not fall, from Jikwoyi Phase 2 Junction to Dagbana by okada (commercial motorcycle) costs N200 but as soon as rain falls, you will have to beg for N400 and some will even charge you up to N800, and you know there is no money.
“Things here are not easy just because of the road that is not good. Sometimes we carry passengers to Phase 4. The road is so bad that when we get offers for passenger drop-offs, we decide not to go because the road is so bad. This is because the road will spoil the leg of the tricycle, and you will be lucky if it is only to grease it after you go to that area, and that will cost you something,” Ngbede lamented.
Ngbede shared a tale of how another bad road in Jikwoyi nearly consumed him and his keke: “I also got drop-off offers to go to the Cherry Field [College] Street which leads through Jikwoyi Phase 1 to Phase 3 at night one time, and I almost fell into the bad bridge because it was night. I almost drove off the bridge. I almost had an accident. Children can fall inside, and it can lead to something else. People are moving out from the area frequently because of the very bad road there.”
A ride on okada through the Cherry Field College Street, through Jikwoyi Phase 1 to 3, confirmed that the residents constructed the dangerous bridge through collective effort. Despite their resourcefulness, the quality of the bridge glaringly exposed the limited financial means of members of the settlement.
“We’re begging the government to come to our aid because the place is not looking like we are even in Abuja. We are begging the government to come to our aid. We are also human beings,” Ngbede pleaded.
In Kurudu, a suburb few kilometres after Jikwoyi, the story of neglect is the same, as access roads on both sides off the main Nyanya-Karshi Road are narrow and untarred with the exception of a snaky street around the inhabitants’ settlement.
In an area called Block Industry, which welcomes one to Kurudu, a street there has a gaping gully that is threatening to sever the road. “The road is very poor, especially during the rainy season because there are no proper drainage channels. Most of the parts of the vehicle that spoils are very expensive, so it’s hard to maintain a vehicle in this area,” said Nasiru Aminu Abubakar, a resident who lives around Block Industry, Kurudu.
Abubakar further stated: “The difference between what we see in Garki or Maitama and this area is unfair. People believe that Abuja Metropolis is only Garki, Maitama, or Wuse areas, but that’s not true. Kurudu is in AMAC, it is supposed to be in the Abuja Metropolitan Area Council of the FCT. FCT should be for everybody! Everybody should have an equal right to access some basic social amenities.”
A visit to other areas – Phase 4 and the vicinity around the MTN mast in Kurudu – further affirmed the grim underdevelopment reality of satellite settlements of Abuja. The roads were more than just neglected; they were neglected to the point of endangering lives and impeding economic growth. The neglected roads of AMAC corroborated the opinion that Abuja is not just a tale of two worlds in one capital city, but a tale of two worlds in one area council.
Abaji Area Council: ‘Government just abandoned us as if we’re not human beings’
ABAJI Town, headquarters of Abaji area council, the southernmost settlement of the FCT, bordering Kogi State to the south, Nasarawa State to the east and Niger State to the north, is not any different developmentally; in fact, the disparity is greater by virtue of its remoteness from the city of Abuja.
Mr Akomolafe Seyi, owner of a mobile phone accessories shop located along Abattoir Road, Abaji, told this reporter that the roads in the town are maintained by residents.
“Our roads are very bad,” Seyi lamented, adding that “during the rainy season, we always have challenges due to erosion. If not for the efforts of the community people who contribute little, little money to repair the roads, you wouldn’t have had access to this place. Once the rains fall heavily, the road will almost break; it almost cut off.”
This reporter noticed that erosion is an unrelenting antagonist in all the satellite towns visited because there are little or no drainages, and as a result, the roads become water ways. In this regard, Abaji is no exception.
For residents of Abaji Town, Abattoir Road is not just a thoroughfare; it is also a big water way as well as a major business artery that sustains the economy of the town.
Seyi said the deplorable condition of this road is a big challenge for commercial activities. “It affects our businesses because if we stop bike man [as okada or commercial motorcyclists are called in Abaji] to take us here from outside, they don’t want to come. We feel neglected. There is not much government presence here. The area council has been coming and making promises that they will fix the road, but up till now, we’ve not seen anything.”
Ibrahim Shuaibu, a bike man in Abaji, echoed Seyi’s agony. He took this reporter on a tour to Tudun Wada Road in Abaji to show him graphic examples of decayed roads. Before embarking on the tour, Shuaibu said: “We have plenty of roads in this area that are not good. For example, we have roads like Abattoir, Tudun Wada, Kekeshi, Sabon Tasa, and Narati. Those places I’m calling for you; if you come here during the rainy season, you won’t get any transportation to get there.”
The plight of the community had pushed the bike men to the brink, but they know that charging exorbitant fees was not the solution, Shuaibu said. “We know it’s not good for us to charge them like that because they will not want to carry a bike again. A lot of people no longer rent houses there because of the problem of going in and out. I had an accident on the Abattoir Road recently because I was trying to dodge a pothole, and I ran into another bike man who was in his own way, and I was at fault. I had to take him to the local hospital.”
According to Shuaibu, the frequency of bike repairs is an additional price of they had to pay for plying the roads. “Because most people stay in these areas with bad roads, and we don’t want to go there, we stay at the junction, and we don’t see any customer to carry again. The thing is really affecting us.”
Shuaibu’s cry for government intervention is not merely an appeal for road repairs but a cry against the dehumanising condition as well as the paradox of living close to the visible opulence of Abuja. “I will love it if the government can come and help us to construct the roads. The federal government should help the local area council to look into these roads. If you compare our roads to the roads in Maitama and Wuse, it’s as if you’re not even in Abuja. It’s just as if the government just abandoned us as if we’re not human beings or we’re not part of Abuja.”
Kwali Area Council: ‘Government needs to do something to save souls’
AT Angwan-Cashew in Kwali Town, Kwali Area Council, residents testified to the heavy toll that their dilapidated roads had taken on their lives, both economically and personally.
Mr. Ayodeji Ogidan, a civil servant who called Kwali his home, shared his anguish with National Record. “It even got to a stage where goods cannot be taken to the market because of bad roads,” Ogidan grieved.
According to him, the absence of drainage systems compounded the problem, as erosion crept into people’s homes. “For example, today which is our market day, if it rained, the villages around will not be able to bring their farm produce to the market. Some communities try to patch up their roads because they cannot wait for the government after they have complained and complained.”
Personal mobility also suffered. Ogidan revealed how frequently he had to repair his vehicles due to the road conditions. “I have a bike and a car. I repair my vehicles at least twice a month. It has reduced because I don’t use my car frequently these days because of high fuel price.”
Ogidan pleaded with the FCTA to come to the aid of the community. “The Federal Capital Territory Administration should please come to our aid and build road networks that will make it easy for the economy of the local councils. The government should assist in fixing the roads leading to those villages to help our local economy.”
At the Lambata area of Kwali area council, a commercial motorcycle operator, who simply identified himself as Joseph, told National Record of a stony road that punctured tires almost every day. The challenges were not limited to a single street; they extended to roads like Primary School Street, Kamo Street, Angwan-Jagba Street, Tukruwa Road, amongst others in the area.
The Abuja-Lokoja dual carriageway is also seen as a danger to okada operators because it dissected the Kwali area council into two without a flyover bridge. “I had an accident two months ago because of the lack of a flyover bridge in the area. Assuming there is a flyover that I can use from the other side, we would not be in constant danger of being crushed by fast moving vehicles. We need the government to do something about it so that souls will be saved,” Joseph told National Record.
On the disparities between their reality and the elite areas of the FCT, Joseph’s exclamation rang with a bitter truth, “Ah! We cannot compare it.”
Bwari Area Council: ‘No normal human being can drive on that road’
Guida Street, in Kubwa, a sprawling satellite town under Bwari Area Council, is nothing but an eyesore. Though not far from the FCT’s NYSC Orientation Camp, Guida Road is as bad as any street in a typical slum.
In addition to this reporter’s personal experience on the road, Isaac, a tricycle rider who daily plies Guida Road, shared his ordeal when he said: “I ply the Guida Road daily. The road is not encouraging. It’s filled with gallops. You come out of this one and enter the next one, especially during this rainy season.”
He said his tricycle had borne the brunt of this problem. “Even yesterday, I had to work on the leg of my tricycle. This is my second week of working on this road, and I’ve visited a mechanic to work on the leg of my keke more than three times already.”
Isaac’s struggle wasn’t limited to mechanical repairs; he had experienced a heart-stopping accident due to the road conditions. “One accident occurred in that period when I entered a gully on the road because of the rain, and the water controlled me out of the road. The bad road affects how much money I make because of the amount of time I spend on each trip that I could use for about two trips if the road was good.”
Isaac says the impact is not just financial. “It does not only waste fuel. It wastes your time and it wastes your strength, such that you feel pains after each day’s work.”
The poor condition of the road infrastructure goes beyond Guida. Isaac described the roads in Kagini-Kaba, another community in Kubwa, as terrible. He said he is not able to give a rational description of the road. “No normal human being can drive on that road. You need to be rugged, to be stubborn and without feeling to drive any vehicle, especially tricycle, or bike to use that road. The road is very, very bad. I have not seen any government effort to repair the road. The government really needs to pay attention to these roads.”
The glaring disparity between the infrastructure of elite areas in the FCT and the satellite towns was not lost on Isaac. “Most of the ordinary people of Abuja stay here, and the infrastructure is very bad, they don’t even exist, only the poor do.”
A visit to Kagini-Kaba confirmed the challenges being faced by the people. Pastor Thomson, who was sitting in his vehicle at a mechanic workshop when this reporter visited, shared his frustration on the road conditions. “The road has not been okay for some time now. We spent a lot on a weekly basis repairing our vehicles. The leg of the vehicle, the shock absorbers, the bushing require to be changed frequently.”
The toll of woe is not limited to vehicle breakdown only; it also invariably impacts on the daily life in other ways. “The delay on the road also affects the amount of money we spend on fuel. Most times in the morning, if you’re going out to work, the road creates traffic because of cars trying to navigate, and you will buy more fuel because of that delay, especially when it rains.”
Pastor Thomson spoke on the difference between the city and his Kagini-Kaba settlement: “Those are places [city areas] accommodating people of influence, and they make sure that things in that environment are more solid than in this area. This our road was repaired some years ago, but the quality of what was used here was poor – you can see some signs of that.”
Kuje Area Council: ‘The road is something else from the beginning to the end’
EWENDI Street in Kuje’s Soka area is a vivid illustration of abandonment. The road that connects this street to the main road has been damaged, nearly severing the residents from the rest of the world. On a working evening, this area harbours no cars as their owners have no choice but to leave their vehicles behind as navigating the road remains a perilous adventure. Children were left to walk into the streets because school buses could no longer reach their houses after school.
A resident of the area, who has a shop, Madam Confidence, didn’t mince her words when describing the road: “The road is something else from the beginning to the end. Even if you are coming in with okada, you have to drop at the junction and walk in so that you will not fall and then hop back on the okada to continue your journey.”
Mrs. Blessing, another resident of the street, said she has lost the privilege of driving her car. “My car has low ground clearance, so I cannot use it, and I trek to the main road and go out to work with okada. That has increased the cost of getting to work for me,” she lamented.
The agony extended to Tipper Garage in Kuje which is a main roundabout linking the area council to the Abuja metropolis. Potholes had turned the road into an obstacle, a daily tasking adventure for residents and businesses.
Ibrahim Nuhu, a young POS operator at Tipper Garage, spoke of the perilous road conditions. “Accidents are daily occurrences at this junction and towards AA Rano Filling Station and the market because of the condition of the road. In one case earlier today, someone was coming out and another person was going in, and because the road with its condition does not have two lanes, they hit each other.”
He recounted that the only government intervention in the area was periodic visits by cleaners, whose task was limited to sweeping the road.
The lack of access to public water supply rankles Nuhu, saying it compounded their predicament. “We use to buy fuel for the generator to pump borehole water. For like months, we’ve not had power in the Federal Low-Cost Housing Estate because of the damaged transformer. We don’t have access to water from the FCT Water Board because the water network doesn’t reach Kuje at all.”
When asked his feelings about the disparity between the infrastructure in districts like Maitama, Asokoro, Wuse and Garki and that of Kuje, where he resided, Nuhu had no hesitation in his choice: “I prefer there than here.”
A journey to Federal Low-Cost Housing Estate, Kuje, confirmed the impact of lack of power on residents. Adedimeji, a barbershop owner in the area, bemoaned the road conditions and electricity supply. “People hardly come into the area because of the bad untarred road. Lack of electricity has been a major issue. I just opened this shop, and the electricity supply stopped three weeks after I opened.” He said the lack of government attention is a far cry from his previous experience of working in Garki, where prompt transformer repair was the norm.
Gwagwalada Area Council: ‘It’s as if the FCT has forgotten about the area’
AS you enter Abuja from the southern axis, the SDP overhead bridge in Gwagwalada a major landmark. Just behind this bridge is the Angwan-Dodo Community, which is a melting pot for FCT indigenes, university students, and civil servants working in Gwagwalada.
Unfortunately, however, accessing this area has become a nearly insurmountable challenge for vehicles. Even navigating with a bike is restricted by the deplorable state of the roads.
For Yusuf, a student of the University of Abuja (UNIABUJA) who resides in Angwan-Dodo and transits daily to the mini-campus in Gwagwalada, his daily journey to school is a torment. “Not just Angwan-Dodo Road. From here, I take the road to Megascreen to school every day, and the road is so bad that I sometimes stop the bike to avoid accident. The name of that Junction is Doma Junction and it is at the economic heart of Gwagwalada. But the Junction is like a death trap. The interesting thing about that Junction is that it is just a stone throw away from the Area Council headquarters itself,” Yusuf said.
Eseyin Jacob, a staff of the Nigerian Immigration Service, described the dire state of the road and infrastructure in the Angwan-Dodo area as very bad. “We lack good roads here. This road is a major one, and there is no good entrance to our houses, even though other streets have been worked on and tarred. I go to the mechanic almost every two days because the road is simply bad; the road is bad, it is not motorable, but we just manage ourselves. I have witnessed many motorcycle accidents because the riders lack patience, and the bikes hit children who play on the road. The road is affecting most of our children.”
But it wasn’t just the road; Jacob is also worried by water scarcity which plagued the community. “The issue of water is bad. We don’t have access to water from the water board. The water we buy is from boreholes and we can only use it to wash clothes. Using it for bathing is a problem. It is affecting our skin and our health. We don’t have good water here. It’s as if the FCT has forgotten about the area. Many people have struggled to see if we can get tap water from the water board to reach here, but all the efforts have led to nothing.
“Most houses here belong to the Gbaggi people who ceded their land for the FCT to be built, and their houses are in poor condition. It’s the civil servants’ houses here that are in slightly better shape. We’ve tried our best to approach the area council chairman to help us resolve issues like electricity transformers. We only have a few transformers. About four months ago, the power supply in part of our community has been on load-shedding due to the lack of transformers. We’ve met with him several times about the road’s construction, but it’s all promises as nothing has been done.
“It is only during the campaign that they acknowledge us, and as soon as they take office, we hear nothing again. They’ve abandoned this area.”
THERE are many other satellite towns that are developmentally in very bad if not worse conditions. Settlements such as Karmo, Gwagwa, Dutse, Giri, Lugbe, Durumi, Mpape, Gidan Mangoro, Orozo, Waru, Apo-Dutse, Gudu, amongst others, are working class areas in Abuja whose living or existential challenges are worse compared to communities in many states and local governments.
Budgetary Allocation For 2022
A close look at the budget of the Ministry of Federal Capital Territory in the 2022 Appropriation Act showed that more funds went to construction than repairs and it was only in repairs that road took a good portion of the budget.
Within the construction budget, a staggering 65%, amounting to N34.2 billion, is allocated for the provision of water facilities. While access to clean water is undoubtedly crucial, the magnitude of this allocation raises eyebrows. The discrepancy between allocation and observed access to water in satellite towns also demands explanation.
In addition, it is a clear indication of the low priority given to building new road infrastructure in the FCT, especially for satellite towns where road infrastructure has become a compelling need. Most of the highbrow areas in Abuja do have and are actually known for their smooth roads and therefore hardly deserve new roads or re-construction or the ongoing ‘resurfacing’.
For the capital budget on repairs, N3 billion (48.3% of the repairs budget) went to the repair of roads while the rest went to the repair and rehabilitation of office buildings. This also shows that almost the same amount allocated for road construction is allocated for repairs, even when construction is more capital-intensive than repairs. The budgetary allocations for the FCT Ministry in 2022 underline an imbalance in infrastructure prioritisation.
Administrators Keep sealed lips
EFFORTS to secure interviews with relevant officers of FCT Ministry, including the Satellite Towns Development Agency and the area councils were initially fruitless.
However, persistent effort through bureaucratic channels finally yielded a response from the Gwagwalada Area Council, where National Record spoke with Engr. Jibrin A. Suleiman, Deputy Director (Works) of the Council, who offered some insight on the development deficits of the area councils.
“Generally, the council is faced with problems of inadequacy of infrastructural facilities development. In the light of the recent call by the FCTA to submit road projects, Gwagwalada Area Council has submitted two (2) road projects for intervention.
“The major challenges that have caused inadequacies in the provision of infrastructural facilities are underfunding of the area councils and the infrastructural projects being prioritised based on the seasonal conditions. Communities that are hardly accessible during the rainy season are put to hold for the dry season and vice versa.”
When asked about potential solutions to resolve these issues, Engr Suleiman said: “Provision of technical supervisors and monitoring and evaluation to ensure that projects are delivered on cost and time. No time and cost overruns of any project. Projects can be enhanced through the adoption and establishment of renewed ideas and techniques to ensure greater results.
“My vision for the infrastructural development in the area councils and satellite towns is by engagement of stakeholders. Improved revenue generation and allocation will bring fast infrastructural facilities development.”
He concluded by stressing the need for political will and collaborative efforts to mobilise resources for rapid development. “There should be political will and all hands shall be on deck to jointly come up with resources for rapid development.”
As the new FCT administration kicks off its work, only time will tell if there will be the political will to rapidly solve the infrastructural deficits of the satellite towns of Abuja – the other side of FCT.
This report by National Record is supported by the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ) under the Collaborative Media Engagement for Development, Inclusivity and Accountability project (CMEDIA) with funding support from the MacArthur Foundation.
- This article was edited on Saturday, November 11, 2023 to include the budget infographic and names of some underdeveloped settlements of the FCT that were not mentioned in the earlier publication..