THE COMPLEX REGULARITY OF IMPORTING ADVANCED CONCEPTS FOR NIGERIA’S COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT - 2
In spite of our bitter experiences with past efforts, similar types of developments have taken place in our thirty-six States and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja almost two and half decades after. Have you ever pondered on the development packages of the federal government, most of the States as well as the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja? Project development packages that tended to indicate as if we were catching up with the developed world in a twinkling of an eye. I wish to illustrate with a few examples.
First, let us take a look at Abuja. An unconfirmed source stated that the word “Abuja” was coined from a Yoruba word “abuja” meaning a short cut or shortest distance in terms of mathematics. True, Abuja is closest to most parts of the federation than Lagos, Calabar and Lokoja were (these were former federal capitals). Today, the development package in the Federal Capital Territory is awesome. Why?
The federal government sometimes ago gave an executive order directing certain Ministries, Corporations, Agencies, Embassies, etc to relocate their offices to Abuja within a specified time frame. Meanwhile, there were inadequate accommodations and offices to carter for the attendant surge in population.
Husbands and wives were forcefully separated from Lagos only to share the same apartments with strange bedfellows in Abuja. Consequently previous marriages were either strained or destroyed while the strangers became “lovers” overnight. Has the unwanted not started to happen?
Due to inadequate accommodation, some people working in Abuja struggled to build new houses just to find places to retire to after the close of the day’s work. Those moderate houses build by Nigerians in Abuja, Nigeria (but not Abuja in America, Asia or Europe), are being gradually demolished here and there as if the Territory was created for just the rich to live in.
Yet there are no alternative provisions of accommodations for the displaced thousands of individuals. Who says that the unwanted side of development is not happening to us?
Also, the modes of transportation were suddenly changed without considerations for the low income workers. Complaints and comments relayed daily from our television and radio stations as well as articles and commentaries in newspapers illustrate the pains and agony of the common man in Abuja under the current civilian dispensation. The unwanted is truly happening.
One may ask a few questions because they beg for answers. When the federal government wanted Abuja to be like Washington D.C, USA or Beijing, China and the likes, why did they not provide all the necessary accommodations, offices, buses, trains, etc earlier before directing people to move in?
When the surge was noticed without adequate preparations, where were the emergency structures erected by the federal government for the teeming population?
Where were the emergency buses and trains provided to ease movement? Where were the hospitals built to take care of the sick and injured? Yet, after some patriotic Nigerians have truly relocated by erecting their moderate houses in the Territory, a quasi-technocrat could proudly come up today that he was working to restore Abuja to its glory. When and how was the glory lost, and through whom? The unwanted is happening.
Unfortunately, the quasi-technocrat only gives an imperial order for these demolition exercises. The purported illegal building owners were not dragged to our various courts and prosecuted for erecting “illegal” structures that were not in conformity with the Abuja Master Plan.
Neither did this quasi-technocrat seek the National Assembly to pass into law a bill for the demolition of all “illegal” structures that were involved. But mobile policemen, bulldozers, excavators, etc could be deployed at short notices for the demolition exercises.
When has the Nigerian Police become an instrument to be controlled by a Minister, no matter how honourable and highly respected? Yet all these demolitions are happening under a civilian democracy. Is the unwanted not happening to us on every front?
As the demolition exercises were going on in Abuja, another set of quasi-technocrats gathered themselves up in Lagos to give an award to the demolition Minister. Enthused by the award, the latter was reported as saying that he would soon bring his bulldozers to Lagos to repeat the same exercise. Has he forgotten that most of the places demolished in Lagos by the first demolition Minister under the military have now been rebuilt and used for the same lines of businesses?
Where is the federal presence in Lagos? While Abuja has good roads and overhead bridges, street lights, state of the art stadium, etc built (and still being built) by the federal government, even those unmaintained federal government structures in Lagos were being gradually sold out.
Where was he when these two opposite treatments were being meted out to Lagos and Abuja? What an insult on our collective knowledge? When was he commissioned to work for Lagos State Government instead of the Federal Government that employed him?
The development packages in most States included the provision of a dual carriageways or the extension of the existing ones. Some of them span from one adjoining town to the corresponding State Capital with central street lighting system installed along the way through jungles, forests, villages and towns.
Surprisingly, those living inside the State Capitals as well as the adjoining communities traversed by these carriageways have not celebrated uninterrupted power supply for just one week. Who maintains these street lights and for how long can they be maintained? Of what benefit is the provision of street lights through jungles in States that have endemic power outages?
What prevented the State Governments from spending the money allocated for these street light projects on something that would impact more positively on the lives of the people such as health and education?
Some of the States’ University Teaching Hospitals (doubling as the State Specialist Hospitals) have had inadequate oxygen bottles, x-ray machines, etc for years. Also the standby power supply plants (generators) are not too reliable to perform surgical operations unless privileged citizens are hospitalized and temporary provisions made for them.
Instead of just widening existing roads, dual carriageways have been built. Yet major streets in most of the towns and big villages in the States remain untarred. Apart from the traffic logjam created by nearly unmotorable earth roads in some areas, dust is raised everywhere in dry season causing catarrh and cough to spread. In the rainy season, mosquitoes rapidly breed from adjoining blocked drains and stagnant water pools causing malaria to spread.
At the same time stench odours ooze out from same spots causing nausea. Immaculate dresses cannot be worn throughout a full day without blemishes thereby causing waste of time, energy, material and money to keep them clean.
Has this type of development eradicated diseases in the society? No. Rather it has allowed diseases to multiply thereby causing more harm. The unwanted has started happening. The sales of drugs and menthols manufactured outside the country are on the increase to combat diseases.
Of course, the little incomes of the average citizens are gradually being depleted on “cheap” imported drugs because of our skewed perception of development. Because the cheap drug market is ever expanding, “fake drugs” find their ways into the country causing the National Agency for Foods, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) hectic times to search, apprehend, seize and destroy. Who says the unwanted is not happening to us?
In one State, cutting edge technology has been used to rebuild hillsides and lowlands in spectacular designs. Education and health services do not get such attentions, they are still very expensive for the common man.
While it was difficult to invest in education, it was easy to invest in mega-projects of the world’s first class rating. How soon can the costs of these investments be recovered, ten or twenty years or more going by what has happened to gigantic projects like our steel plants, stadia, Nitel, Cocoa house, etc?
Who maintains the traveling cranes and lifts which today hold all the excitement and admirations of all? Where are the funds for their sustenance reserved? Where is the home grown technology and personnel to fall back upon when faults start to manifest? The unwanted side of development is lurking somewhere ahead.
Suddenly, we become living witnesses to the various State Governments’ “low cost” housing schemes where a three bedroom apartment in a multi-storey building complex or a bungalow goes for a “mere” N5.0 to N10.0 million at “give away prices”. But majority of the citizenry live on less than N0.1 million annually (some people reduce this benchmark to $365.0 per annum or $1.0 a day).
For whom are these “low cost” buildings provided, the above average or the rich? We often hear of the best this or that “complex”: “Judiciary Complex”, “House of Assembly Complex”, “Market Complex”, “University Complex”, “Tunnel”, “Trade Fair Complex”, “Tourism Complex”, etc that have nothing to do with the lots of the common man. What proportion of the society benefits from these mega-projects? Are they not very few, less than 10% of the population?
Who are the people for whom development is meant to target, the few rich and politically powerful or the generality of the masses? Do the people need the type of development foisted on them by the leadership, where children of the poor cannot have access to sound education, especially secondary and tertiary education because of their prohibitive costs?
And when the children of the poor and neglected turn out in their large numbers to “collect” their perceived “share” of the national wealth, they are derided and called “armed robbers” or “militants”. Who among the children of the rich would be denied their basic rights without becoming rebellious? Of course, none! Are the unwanted side of development not manifesting around us all the time?
Who among the leadership (President, Governors, Ministers, Advisers, etc) would house his children or aged parents in a dilapidated bungalow without water and power supply but yet overlooking a magnificent building complex with automatic standby power supply, state of the art interior and exterior finishes, stocked with various food stuffs and drinks but fail to pay school fees or consider feeding and medical cares respectively for the children and their aged?
Would the needs of the latter have been met by merely admiring or pointing at the extraordinary architectural master piece in their environments alone?
The citizenry have been given projects that have very remote benefits (if any) to them. The lists of ill timed projects in all the States of the federation are endless. They pervade every nook and cranny of the land. Roads, bridges, buildings etc of spectacular designs and construction built at astonishingly high costs adorn most parts of our States for commissioning every month by Mr. President “To the Glory of God and benefit to mankind”.
Will the unwanted scale over these projects and their intended purposes in future? Time will, definitely, tell.
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