ABUJA PROPERTY TAX AND POLITCAL TERRORISM
Abuja is passing through the worst period of her political life since it assumed the status of the Federal Capital Territory with the movement from Lagos of all major Government offices, Diplomatic offices and other international bodies in 1992 under the former military President General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida. Abuja residents are currently buffetted by several man-made problems brought about by poor political administration by the Ministry of the Federal Capital Territory even with two ministers in place namely Senator Bala Mohammed and his minister of state- Miss. Olajumoke Akinjide, the daughter of the second Republic Federal Attorney General and Minister of Justice Chief Richard Akinjide,[SAN]. Miss. Akinjide spends more time in Ibadan, Oyo State playing local politics by distributing sewing machines and/or small loans to members of her Peoples Democratic Party[PDP] than doing her task in the nation's capital which explains why the satelite towns are collapsing by the day. Refuse dumps have all but taken over the area councils and the electd local authorities are busy moving around major hotels in Abuja having good times. The minister of Abuja Bala Mohammed is also engrossed with the local politics of Bauchi State thereby neglecting the bulk of his functions as the minister in-charge of Abuja.
In the last one year, Abuja has unfortunately assumed the notorious position as one of the major flashpoints of occasional terror-related violence and there is no clear cut pro-active strategy by the Federal Ministers in-chargeof the affairs of the Federal Capital to effectively galvanize the citizenry to check the spread of violence and terror-related attacks through community policing. The FCT ministry is not known to be engaged in any enlightenment activities/advocacy programes on vigilance and need for security consciousness among the residents making use of the numerous print and electronic media present in Abuja.
Only few weeks back, some persons of the terror underworld suspected to be members of the Islamic armed insurgents detonated powereful improvised explosive devices[IEDs] in the ThisDay newspaper office in Jabi and followed it up with two other explosions in Wuse two near the popular night club by Glo office and also near Barnex plaza although no life was reportedly lost but the police operatives only arrived some minutes after the dastardly acts of terrorism had happened. Worst still, days after, no single arrest has been made by the police but the police commissioner regaled the residents with the cock- and- bull stories of how the suspected terrorists threw the explosive devices under the car and another police version said the bomb was planted on top of a tree. By and large, the kind of security arrangement we have in Abuja is the same if not even worst than the version that is replicated virtually everywhere whereby the operatives of the security community are never proactive and totally deficient in sound intelligence gathering mechanism to stop terrorists in their tracks before they strike. There has been no transparent audit of the security infrastructure in Abuja even when several billions of tax payers fund are reportedly expended in the procurement of the so-called short circuit cameras and other sophisticated state of the art security facilities that would have been installed in strategic parts of the nation's capital.
The opaque nature of award of defence related contracts which most times fall short of the global best practices and the provisions enshrined in the Bureau For Public Procurement Act thereby making it impossible for non-state actors in the organized civil society community to gain access to information related to the procurement or otherwise of these vital facilities said to have been purchased by the Federal Government and the Federal capital Territory administration under the authority of the Federal minister Bala Mohammed and his counterpart, the minister of state Miss Olajumoke Akinjide. The National Assembly that lawfuly ought to act as the state Assembly for the administration of the nation's capital has spectacularly abandoned this constitutional obligation to introduce effective checks and balances that would ensure that security infrastructure meant for installment in Abuja and other security flashpoints are actually procured and installed.
Apart from the formidable presence in the media of the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory for the purposes of political propaganda, most Abuja residents are completely unaware of any innovative actions of the current Abuja administrators to up the ante of developmental process from where the last notable minister of Abuja Malam Nassir El'Ruffai left it since after the passage of the Chief Olusegun Obasanjo's administration. We now have an administration in Abuja that is so colourless,completely unconcerned about the improvement of the social well being of the residents of the nation's capital through the provision of basic social amenities to enhance meaningful livelihood. Take for instance, there is no where within the municipality whereby pedestrian bridges are built for the use of thousands of civil servants and other Abuja residents during the transaction of their legitimate economic, social and religious activities thereby exposing a lot of people to the hazards of being run over by hit-and-run automobiles especially the commercial vehicle operators who have indeed killed dozens of pedestrians while they [pedestrians] were attempting to cross over to the opposite sides of the major Highways in Garki Area three Junction, Wuye Junction and the Maitama-Mpape Road.
Talking about the issue of high insecurity and crime rate in Abuja, the administration has not thought it wise to set up effective security mechanism like the establishment of Neighbourhood Watch and the strenghtening of the community policing project to ensure that the threats posed by armed hoodlums are brought to minimal level and/or eradicated. If you doubt my assertion please move around the town from 12 am till the early morning from say Wuse two to the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport I can bet you that you would not be accosted by any security operatives to inquire about your movement in these unholy hours of the night and yet we beat our chest proudly and go about identifying Abuja as the nation's capital whereby everything works. We are indeed living in denial.
The unfortunate bomb explosions that shook the nation's foundation like the attacks at the United Nations House and the Nigeria Police Force Headquerters in Abuja have all but already forgotten and the political authorities of the nation's capital have not learnt any lesson on how to keep these dangerous terrorists away from the nation's capital. The other day, the operatives of the Nigerian Civil Defence that recently secured the approval of the National Assembly publicly embarked upon the hypocritical prayer and fasting project to ask God to intercede and save Nigeria from terrorists. How can the security of the nation's capital and the Country at large be run only on divine intervention even when several billions are budgeted and released as security votes? Why is the authority of the Federal Capital Territory gambling with the lives of the citizens of the Federal Capital Territory by paying lip service to the all-important issue of security? Why are the ministers silent on the reason why the security sanctity of Abuja was violated by armed hoodlumds on several counts since last year? Why for instance has the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria not reprimanded the federal minister of Abuja for the spectacular failure of security in the nation's capital which has resulted in the several bomb attacks and other heinous terror-related attacks that have successfully taken place here? The only places that receive maximum security protection through manual processes are the highbrow areas where the elite live, the Five star hotels and selected Federal Government offices and the State House but the rest of us who are neither Government top officials or rich enough to pay for five star accomodation can perish for all that the Government of Abuja under the ministry of Federal capital Administration cares. Did the President of the Federal Republic not delegate the responsibility and duty of administering Abuja to the holder of the office of the minister of the Federal Capital Territory administration? Why was it reported that the minister allegedly spent over N300 Million to renovate a Mosque in Bauchi State and the President who told us that he cares about the effects of corruption and economic crime is not publicly known to have reprimanded the minister for the alleged abuse of public office or where else did the minister get the huge cash that he allegedly spent to renovate a Mosque in his home state of Bauchi and if the story is mere fabrication why has the Minister of the Federal Capital not deemed it necessary to refute it since even some amorphous political mushroom groups have reportedly backed him for allegedly spending this massive amount of cash that even the richest living black businessman Alhaji Aliko Dangote can not spend in one fell swoop? What is Abuja becoming with all the dirts littered around major streets and the entire place stinks? Do we really have a serving minister who is sincerely commited to doing what is right and just to run Abuja in a transparent and open manner without resorting to the use of mushroom groups to attack constructive critics who brave the odds to point out the missing links in the developmental process of Abuja?
Now to the new kind of political terrorism which the ministry of the Federal capital Territory Administration has introduced with the active connivance of the Senator David Mark-led Senate whereby Abuja residents would be compelled to cough out more rents because the landlords will henceforth pay property tax. Can he, the Senate President please reply to the widespread alegation that his daughter was made one of the high ranking officers of the current Abuja political administration the moment his former colleague Senator Bala Mohammed was named a minister after he [David Mark] alongside the Senators passed the widely accalimed DOCTRINE OF NECESSITY which necessitated the emergence of the current head of state as Acting President in the prolonged absence of the now deceased President Umaru Musa Yar'adua? If it is true that Senate President's Daughter allegedly benefitted in the sharing of political spoil of offices by the current minister of the Federal Capital Territory, is it possible that this may be one of the grounds that soften the position of the Senate in approving the obnoxious property tax even when it is on record that the previous sessions of the Senate rejected this very bill when the previous ministers repeatedly presented it to the upper chamber of the National Assembly? Is it true that almost all the Senators are big time landlords in Abuja who owned chain of commercial estates and choice buildings rented by Government offices and therefore will benefit from the introduction of the so-called property tax since that would open the dare-devil avenue for them to review upward the current astronomic house rent regime in the nation's capital?
This property tax is the worst political terrorism and banditry which must be discontinued and it is hoped that President Jonathan would caution his minister of Abuja to desist from imposing obnoxious tax regimes on the poor inhabitants of the Federal Capital who are already facing adverse hardship from the satanic demolition exercise whereby the administration officials of Abuja under the directive of the minister Bala Mohammed are removing houses of the poorest of the poor in such places like Mpape, Karimo, Duruimi so that the rich Senators and other members of the elite can grab these landed assets and erect structures to exploit the poor further. Why is the administration of the nation's capital not thinking of social welfare schemes such as building low cost houses to be sold to real poor persons who dominate the civil service and the informal sector in the nation's capital but is hurrying to destroy the structures set up by these poor and neglected citizens of Nigeria? Can organized civil society group publish a list of property and laded assets belonging to the members of the National Assembly so that Nigerians can see that the property tax is selfish and self serving?
This property tax that has just been introduced in Abuja defies all logic because it is targeted at further impoverishing the poor and if Government complains that it is not getting enough from taxation what has happened with the valued added tax paid regularly by consumers on goods and social services? Is Government of the Federal Capital administration so insensitive that it now wants to impose this added hardship on the poor without the faintest plan to introduce a scheme that would benefit the poorest of the poor?
Daniel Goleman in his book on Social Intelligence wrote that; "Virtually from birth, when babies see or hear another baby crying in distress, they start crying as though they too are distressed...."
If even babies can hear the cry of other babies why is the authority of the Federal Capital administration so insensitive that it has embarked on the current satanic venture of imposing property tax on the poor which is similar to introducing political terrorism to Abuja?
+Emmanuel Onwubiko, Head, Human Rights Writers' Association of Nigeria, writes from www.huriwa.blogspot.com.