ABUJA: ONE CITY, TWO CLASSES OF RESIDENTS
In 1991 Abuja was made the new capital of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Since then, various administrations have made efforts towards giving the capital territory the outlook of a modern city. Populations always grow with urbanization. In the case of Abuja, population growth has been curbed through several decisions taken by government. Some of these decisions include: ban of the use of motor cycle as a means of transportation, ban of private buses as a means of transportations, demolition of illegal structures, and payment for parking space in Abuja central area and so on. Most of these decisions of government have always left the poor people in Abuja angry and miserable. In this report however, we will take a look at the frustrations of Abuja inhabitants, more especially the frustrations of people living in the outskirts of the central area, who shuttle in and out of Abuja on daily basis to make ends meet.
When asked the question “where do you live?” people always proudly respond “I live in Abuja”, whether they live in the central area or at the suburbs of Abuja, the response is the same: Abuja. To someone who has never been to Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria is a beautiful place where business booms and “money flows”. The prestige associated with residing in Abuja even makes people who live around Abuja, in places such as Suleja, Madalla (Niger state), Mararaba, Karu, Masaka, (Nasarawa state)to often claim to be Abuja residents as well. Taking into consideration all the prestige and pride that go with Abuja as a city, it is worthwhile to understand what it means to be an Abuja resident.
In Abuja, there seem to be 2 categories of inhabitants. First, there are those who have enough money to afford the high cost of accommodation either within the central area of Abuja or its immediate environs; or better still, those who have their own houses in such areas. People who belong to this category enjoy water and electricity to a great extent.
The second category is made up of people who live in the far away Area council (such as Kwali and Abaji) that when going to the Central Area of Abuja, they inadvertently say “I am going to Abuja”, forgetting that they are within the Capital Territory already. In those places, basic amenities such as water and electricity are almost nonexistent. In fact, in this category, people can’t claim to enjoy life more than an average inhabitant of some state capitals in Nigeria. Also, in this category, we can include those living in slums found around central Area of Abuja. These people always live in fear of having their houses demolished at any time, but they find joy only in their proximity to Abuja Central area. Most people who engage in petty businesses such as, hawking of cold water and soft drinks, news vendors, selling recharge cards and food vendors, are part of those who can only afford to live in places that are threatened by demolition. Every decision made by the Federal Capital Territory Administration seems to be targeted at them.
When the government decided to ban the use of motor cycles and the green buses as means of transportation in the Central Area, it is only this second category of Abuja residents who shuttle in and out of the central area that suffer it most.
In the face of all this hardship, it should be noted that only those who are strong minded and resilient, those who can pay the price for daring to live and earn a living in Abuja that can survive. From every indication, it appears that this second category of Abuja residents is not wanted within the Central Area.