Why Abuja is Not Sustainable:

The Illusion of an inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable Human Settlement By 2030

By Adile Iroajugh

Goal 11 of the Sustainable Development Goals is clear about the global shared vision to make citties and human settlement inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. The projection is that by 2050, 70% of the World population will live in cities. This makes cities critical in achieving a sustainable future for the world. It further mandated businesses, together with government at various levels, and civil society organisations and citizens to collectively engage each other in pursuing ambitious objectives to make cities more competitive, safe, resource-efficient, resilient and inclusive.

The current reality of Abuja city does not support the overall optimization of urban systems to create inclusive, safe, sustainable and disaster resilient city. The increasing number of slums and emerging ghettos across the city is worrisome. But more troubling is the insensitivity of government to providing basic infrastructures to this backside slums. And yet, this slums and emerging ghettos are resident to over 60% of the city’s populations. The increasing numbers of slums transforming to ghettos across the city, simply, suggest that government is yet to bring on board strategy for achieving the first implementation target of the 2030 Global Agenda for Sustainable Development and Sustainable Development Goal 11. This target stated and I quote, ‘By 2030, ensure access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services, and upgrade slums.’

George’s first impression and later true experience of the Abuja city is one he keeps recounting at every slightest opportunity. George moved to Abuja in 2017, the first impression of the city to him compare to Lagos, where he had lived the last 10 years, was a city with easy access to adequate, safe and affordable housing. He based his judgement on two assumptions; first, the number of houses put up ‘To Let’ or ‘For Sale’ at the same time across the city; and secondly, the simple economic principle of the ‘Higher the Supply, the Lower the Price’. Based on these two assumptions, George was very confident of securing a safe and affordable housing very quickly in a choice location in the city. That impression was short lived, according to him, ‘he found out that most house owners in the city prefer to keep their houses unoccupied than let it out at a rate average Nigerians can afford’. George bitter experience in securing a decent accommodation in the city; is the simply reason average Nigerians cannot afford the cost of so many unoccupied and beautiful houses and estates in the city. Its also answered the, ‘Why’, increasing number of slums and emerging ghettos across the city.

Having established why slums and emerging ghettos are on the increase across Abuja city, my next concern was ‘why one would invest his money, build a house and estate and left it unoccupied for the last three to some running to 10 years, without worrying of the invested sum. Just some weeks back the true picture seems to be revealed and I challenge to be proved wrong. In a taxi coming from a visit to Kuje, a woman was sharing the husband (a Director in one of Government Agencies) experience with an elder in his church who he engaged to managed over 34 units of houses he built in different locations across the city. According to her, the husband just finds out that the man gave out 18 of the houses at a far lower price from what the husband wanted it rented in the last four years, but  keep posting the husband (who is afraid of been identified as the owner of the houses) that the houses are unoccupied. The other told her that his younger brother manage the husband houses and she rather the houses remain occupied for her children than to let it out at a lower rate.

Listening to the conversation of these women, I now know why there are so many finished and furnished but unoccupied houses and estates in Abuja. The reality is that majority of these houses are own by government employees, who just diverted government funds to acquire personal properties. Funny, most these multiple properties owners are still occupying government quarters, why the houses and estate are left unoccupied awaiting for their children in either Nursery, primary, secondary to grow and own it. And so long these children are not grown no one is entitled to live in those houses, so they put the prices at such a high rate; wasting public funds for routine maintenance and renovation. Ever imagine the huge negative economic, social and environmental impact of this unoccupied houses in the city; when you do you will understand why I said Abuja is not sustainable.

To make Abuja sustainable we need strong collaborations of businesses and government. On one hand, government need to navigate these challenges through strong property audit regulations.  On another hand, business can play a vital role not only in providing specific infrastructure, technology, services and financing solutions, but also in contributing to the strategy that will support the overall optimization of urban systems to create inclusive, safe, sustainable and disaster resilient city. The emphasis on more government and business collaborations is to restore citizen’s confidence and trust and facilitate attainment of SGD specific target for the city; including provision of access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all, improving road safety, notably by expanding public transportation. Enhancing inclusive and sustainable urbanization and capacities for participatory, integrated and sustainable human settlement planning and management. And reducing the adverse per capita environmental impact on the city, including by paying special attention to air quality; increasing slums and emerging ghettos; unoccupied houses and estates, municipal and other waste management

I hope the government and other development partners will take it up from here and continue the dialogue on how to make not only Abuja but all cities and communities in Nigeria; Jointly develop and/or participate in a sustainable community that brings together relevant stakeholders through a common and neutral platform to jointly analyze, discuss and act on urban functionality, resilience and sustainable development.

ensuring practical processes for multi-stakeholder engagement in all stages of urban development that build consensus, inclusion, resilience and sustainability.

Leave a reply