Mukhtar Galadima is the Director, FCT Development Control Department. In this interview he explains the functions of the department, its challenges and what they are doing to restore the Abuja Master Plan.
There is this misconception that your department is synonymous with demolition, what actually is the role of the FCT Development Control Department?
First, let me disabuse the minds of those who have this misconception. Statutorily, the department is responsible for granting development permits and ensuring that it is being implemented as approved, and ensure that all the components and context of the Abuja Master Plan is being followed. People are more concerned about demolition because it touches their interest. Anyone that doesn’t want to go contrary to the provisions of the Abuja Master Plan will try to ensure compliance, if you fail that is when we apply sanctions.
What are these permits that you mentioned?
We have the building plan, the setting out, telecom mast, and stage by stage development approvals;
What is the level of compliance?
To a large extent, the level of compliance, if I can put a percentage, I can say there is 85% compliance. But you see a city, just like every organism, as you are developing you are seeing changes, so our agency’s responsibility is to look at, predict and manage these changes. So also the city’s development, you cannot escape this dynamism.
The approval fees you charge, what are they are like?
These fees are subject to locations and availability of infrastructure as well. The fees that someone in Kuje pays will not be the same as the one paid by someone in Maitama. Secondly it depends on the volume of development that you are putting up, so also the land use. So, it is not just being subjective, no, there are certain standards and criteria that we follow in charging these fees.
What are the sanctions for people who flout the rules?
We have a number of sanctions, sometimes we seal your premises, sometimes we recommend to the Minister for the withdrawal of your title, and ultimately where we feel that what you are doing is injurious to the society we remove such a structure.
How many properties have you demolished?’
I cannot count, but it is beyond the range of 3,000.
Despite the 85% compliance that you mentioned?
Some of these are shanties, illegal structures, some are at excavation stage, at DPC. All the same, in case where you have the preponderance of land racketeers carving out plots on their own without recourse to the FCT Administration we go and remove such.
What about local chiefs who allocate plots illegally?
We do same, there is no exception. All lands in the FCT belong to the federal government of Nigeria so anyone that buys or sell land outside the confines of the authority is illegal and any structure put on such land is considered illegal so we must remove such structures.
Do you have adequate manpower to do the work?
Recently, they were some employments made, so now we are training such new officers, they include architects, town planners, and builders. Now, it is up to us to mentor them and train them on the job.
As a professional town planner, is the development of Abuja in strict compliance of the Master Plan?
Yes, firstly, the Abuja Master Plan is one of the most celebrated planning document in the world. And to a certain extent, the level of implementation, particularly in Phase 1, is commendable. But plans are subject to changes, the time the plan was prepared the economy of Nigeria was buoyant so some of the prescriptions of the plan now cannot be implemented due to paucity of funds. And certain techniques and technology were not available then so in certain areas it could not be utilized but now with technology you could do so many things.
And the prediction of population in the city, that it will accommodate 3.1 million, is in the past now with the realities on the ground, you can see socio-economic factors chasing people way and them coming to Abuja. So all these factors have direct or indirect influence on the Abuja Master Plan. Consequently, you have pressures on the FCT which is relatively a peaceful area in Nigeria, everyone wants to come to Abuja.
How do you then see Abuja in the next 20, 30 years in terms of physical development?
If we should have the kind of administrators that we have now, in subsequent years to come Abuja’s dream will be realized. Why do I say so? Because one, the administration insists on following the tenets of the Abuja Master Plan even as it admits that there could be changes, fundamental changes that are due to circumstances of the time. Master Plans by their nature are time bound, after it lapses, it is expected to be reviewed. And the Abuja Master Plan has made such provision adequately. There have been pockets of reviews. Some reviews are being made. But to have it celebrated that Abuja Master Plan is being reviewed, no. I remember that during the administration of Olusegun Obasanjo people were invited to come and participate, just preparatory towards the review, after that there were some reports that were made and were supposed to be incorporated. This administration is also working towards that, last year or early this year some efforts were made to get the stakeholders to sit down, look, and review it in view of the current realities.
What are the challenges being faced by your department?
Just like any other organization, there are challenges, they could be internal or external. Like the problem of influx of people, then the issue of indiscipline among Nigerians, these are challenges. Then the issue of non-resettlement of the indigenous communities, if that had been done, most of these problems we are seeing will not be there. Then we have challenge with even the implementation of the Master Plan, all of us are not saints, we are not perfect, but in every society there are the good and bad ones. So all these are challenges.