One of the intentions that preceded the creation of the Federal Capital Territory was that the new city would be fashioned out in a way that problems would not arise about city planning in the future. In the master plan, provisions were made for “green development” in order to boost environmental conservation and add to the aesthetic value of the Federal Capital. The green areas in the Abuja Master Plan include developable greens and undevelopable greens.
While developable greens are open spaces, recreational facilities, gardens, parks, fields, recreation grounds, golf courses, polo grounds and race courses, undevelopable greens are the green stretches along stream valleys, flood plains and river beds. The undevelopable green areas are meant to be left vacant and maintained by the government as part of the 33% green spaces provided in the master plan.
Street Journal’s findings have also shown that green developments have roles to play in the improvement of the quality of life and well being of the society and the people in it. Trees for instance generate oxygen and they also help to control air pollution and soil erosion.
Green areas in Abuja have however been affected by uninformed physical development. Most of the areas reserved as green lands in Abuja have become objects of competition for by developers for commercial and residential purposes. Some areas that were never meant to be built up according to the master plan are already residential areas.
Findings have shown that in the FCT, many buildings are situated on water ways, proposed transit roads and even in flood plains. Incidentally, most of the allocations were found to have been done by the Lands Department with political office holders and their cronies being the major beneficiaries. Not even the creation of the Park and Recreation Department could stop the loss of Abuja’s green areas. Some parks are believed to have been given pout on lease and the resultant effect is that some of the parks now harbour “drinking joints” with noise booming from loudspeakers while some are occupied by religious organisations, leaving residents of areas close by complaining of disturbance in various forms. One of the factors that has made people wary of visiting some of the places is that Indian Hemp is freely smoked in some of the recreational areas.
Street Journal’s findings also revealed that it might be difficult to reclaim some of the areas back due to the level of development on them.
Apart from the gross abuse of the green areas, visits to a number of places within the Federal Capital Territory have shown that there is another side to the kind of affluence seen in areas within the Central Areas like Wuse, Maitama and Garki.
In Gosa-Toje area near Lugbe, young women and men struggle to scoop sand from a stream in the area. The scooped sand is found useful in building construction. The sand gatherers operate with head pans and after several trips of bringing wet sand from the stream, a load of sand is formed. They wait patiently for tipper owners who usually come over to buy the gathered sand. At times as much as 25 head pans of sand would go for N 1,000. A trip into Gosa village would convince anyone that indeed, poverty exists in some parts of the FCT. Some of the residents live in dilapidated huts while most of the structures there are made of mud, some have no doors and windows, yet people live in them. Toilet facilities are rare; most of the residents make use of bushes around while some defecate on refuse dumps around the village under the cover of darkness. Bathrooms are made of four sticks stuck into the ground with big polythene papers wrapped around them to provide a level of privacy.
The story in Gwako, a village in Gwagwalada Area Council is almost similar. The community cannot boast of many facilities that are common in the Central Area of Abuja. The main source of water in Gwako is a stream which people trek long distances to fetch. Incidentally, Schistosomiasis (bilharzia) is a common ailment in the community, especially among the children most of who have traces of blood in their urine. The river is not reserved for the exclusive use of the villagers as cows also pass through the stream and drink from it as well.
Though the community has a borehole, the residents disclosed that it stopped working last year and they have not been able to contribute enough money to put it back in working order.
Driving through the Mobile Police Barracks in Kubwa, located on the Kuba-Dei Dei express road, one would hardly believe such roads exist in the Federal Capital Territory. Like most other police barracks in the country, neglect is evident. There is a stream in the barracks and to move from that point to the other part of the barracks, one would have to wade through the stream, The solar powered borehole that was commissioned for the use of the officers has been abandoned after it developed a technical fault. A well serves as the alternative source of water. Power supply too is below average. Almost all the quarters are powered by small generators, thus making noise and air pollution a normal part of the inhabitants’ lifestyle.
In Ijah, a community under Kwali Area Council, residents sometimes have to queue for as much as one hour to fetch water from the community’s single borehole. Those who cannot afford to wait often go to a stream some kilometres away to fetch water. In Checheyi too, which is another community in Kwali Area Council, the only hand-pump borehole that serves the community is always overstretched, this is evident in long queues of people waiting to get water.
In Kuje, especially around the Tipper Garage, boys are usually seen scavenging, looking for metals and other discarded items. Materials that might be useful are picked and thrown either into sacks or directly into the trucks they push around. The scraps are sold to agents who move them to the South Western part of the country where they are fabricated into aluminium products such as rods and zincs. Abdullahi, one of the boys disclosed to Street Journal that they make an average of N 1,000 per day if business is good.