Residents of Nigeria’s capital have suddenly discovered that major junctions of the city are sparkling with lights shortly after the declaration of Gen. Muhammadu Buhari as the president-elect by the Independent National Electoral Commission.
Our correspondent observed the rehabilitation of old traffic lights, which had stopped functioning for years, and the installation of new ones at road junctions that previously had no light.
Some of the new traffic lights are at Jabi, Utako, Kado, Gwarimpa, Garki, Maitama, Asokoro, Kubwa as well as in the satellite towns.
But many residents are quick to attribute the action of the Federal Capital Territory Administration to the impending change in government because the contract had been awarded a long time ago with the contractors fully mobilised.
Some of the residents, who spoke with our correspondent, said that the installation of the traffic lights was belated, arguing that the project would have taken another two to three years to actualise if the Peoples Democratic Party had won the election.
For instance, Mallam Kabiru Sani, a taxi driver, alleged that the FCTA was rushing the project so that it would be able to retire the money already voted in its 2014 budget.
He said, “The FCTA claimed that it had installed Closed Circuit Television in every nook and cranny of Abuja, yet there were bomb blasts all over the place without the police being able to arrest the perpetrators.
“The management of FCTA knows that the incoming administration will probe its extravagant spending. I am sure this explains why the contractors are rushing the projects.”
According to a journalist, Mr. Taiye Odewale, the project is a welcome development because it will bring about orderliness and sanity in vehicular traffic in the city.
He said, “Most times, the traffic wardens are not always at their duty posts, especially in the afternoon and during downpours, thereby causing commotion”
Also, Mr. John Okafor, a businessman, urged the FCTA to extend the facility to the Arab Road area of Kubwa, one of the new satellite areas where the Federal Government is currently constructing rail lines.
He said, “The extension of the traffic light to the area would help to prevent accidents whenever the trains begin operation.”
But Amina Mohammed, who lives in Kubwa, reasoned differently. She told our correspondent that the government decided to execute the project in order to leave a lasting legacy after May 29.
She cautioned Nigerians against condemning the project because it was possibly awarded a long time ago while the contractors decided to execute it when the items they needed arrived in the country.
In his reaction, the Acting Director, Public Transportation in the FCTA, Mr. Vincent Igberaese, attributed the delay in the execution of the project to budgetary constraints.
He said that 74 new traffic lights were installed in addition to already existing 88. According to him, Abuja now has 162 traffic lights in the various major junctions across the FCT.
But the leadership of the All Progressives Congress accused the Jonathan administration of engaging in a last-minute project execution ahead of the May 29 handover date.
The party’s Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed, in a statement, alleged that reports from the media as well as information gathered from reliable sources suggested that the outgoing administration was engaged in rushing award of contracts.
The party also alleged that the FCT Minister, Senator Bala Mohammed, had embarked on secret recruitment of about 500 fresh members of staff into the Federal Capital Development Authority.
The APC therefore asked Jonathan to caution his officials, lest they engage in actions that could later embarrass his administration.
Meanwhile, the minister has denied the APC allegation.
He said the installation of the lights was to drastically reduce traffic problems associated with those powered by conventional electricity supply.
Mohammed said the development would enhance traffic management and security of commuters within the FCT.
The minister said the Jonathan administration was doing everything possible to tackle all traffic problems in Abuja, noting that 20 additional new intersections had been earmarked for traffic light installation before the end of the year.
He also said that additional 1, 200 road traffic lights had been installed and were of various types and sizes.
He listed the new set of roads marked in the city to include the Tafawa Balewa Way; Lome Crescent Street; F.O.Williams Street; Babangida Aliyu Street; Nouchott Street; Kashim Ibrahim Way; Sabo Ago Way; Deji Omotade Street; Wada Aliyu Street and the Ahmadu Bello Way.
Muhammed described the reports that he was rushing the project as a campaign of calumny and mischief against the outgoing administration.
He said the project packaged by the National Planning Commission was conceptualised in 2012 between Nigeria and the government of China.
He added, “China is bearing the whole cost of the project – N780m – and as usual with such a partnership, it nominated the contractor, which is doing the work from China.
“The only thing we have done is to make sure that we provide the counterpart funding totalling about N81m as well as to supervise its execution.
“So, this is the project that we started a long time ago and we have reached a level where we start the implementation because we have had to get some waiver from Mr. President and the company. Poly Solar Technologies has started the implementation.
“The waiver was approved in January this year and we believe as a government we should continue to take projects and programmes to their logical conclusion.
“So it is deceptive and misleading for anybody to think that something that we are getting as a collaborative and multilateral assistance is something that we have conceptualised as a last-minute bid. It is a project the incoming administration, I believe, should cherish. The incoming administration will come and inherit a city that is witnessing transformation in all its ramifications.”
The minister added that the pedestrian bridges scattered across the city too were a multilateral assistance given to the country by the World Bank. He noted that their implementation was through the road sector-implementing agency recognised by the United Nations.tweet Follow @@metrolens1