Let the Poor Breathe in Abuja
By Obiaruko Christie Ndukwe
The primary concerns for Nigerians right now are security and food. It is essential to avoid any actions that could further escalate the already tense atmosphere and adversely affect the poor and vulnerable population in Abuja.
Unfortunately, numerous displaced communities from states ravaged by banditry are being relocated to Abuja without sufficient shelter and food. These individuals often gather near road junctions, seeking alms, and later retreat to makeshift shelters.
Tragically, young girls and even married women are exposed to criminals who exploit them as sex slaves in exchange for basic necessities like food, shelter, and clothing.
Moreover, there is a significant presence of motorcycle riders, commonly known as “Okada,” in Abuja. Many of them have fallen victim to banditry and kidnapping or have managed to escape from Boko Haram. They utilize motorcycles to provide transportation services to residents in the outskirts where proper road infrastructure is lacking.
The number of individuals using motorcycles, such as Okada, on a daily basis surpasses the number of car owners. Additionally, due to the rising fuel prices, more car owners are opting for public transportation, including Okada and Keke.
The immediate challenge faced by residents of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) is not the distortion of the Abuja Master Plan but rather the lack of essential infrastructure, such as access to clean water, electricity, and well-maintained roads. These issues should be the top priority for the newly appointed Minister of the FCT.
Abuja’s peace is fragile, particularly due to its proximity to Niger State, which is grappling with the threat of terrorists and bandits. Recently, a train travelling from Abuja to Kaduna, a neighbouring state, was brutally attacked, resulting in several months of kidnappings and deaths.
There have also been incidents where prisons were attacked, leading to the escape of numerous dangerous members of Boko Haram who remain at large. Local areas such as Kuje, Gwagwalada, Kubwa, Karu, Nyanya, and Wuse 11 have all experienced their fair share of deadly attacks.
As we anticipate improvements in road networks, electricity supply, affordable housing, and access to clean drinking water, it is crucial for the Minister to prioritize addressing the major issues over the minor ones. It is unacceptable for any individual, such as Wike, to be scapegoated and demolish houses belonging to suspected opposition party members or the businesses of the poor.
The contributions made by these impoverished traders, artisans, and riders in Abuja are invaluable, and alternative solutions must be provided before taking any drastic action.
In line with the teachings of the Bible, it is evident that there will always be impoverished individuals among us. Therefore, it is our responsibility to ensure that their rights and livelihoods are protected as we strive for progress and development.
Let the poor also breathe!
Obiaruko Christie Ndukwe is a socio-political commentator, analyst and columnist