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Nigeria: Imperatives of Niger-FCT-Nasarawa Railway Corridor

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Published in Infrastructure
Tuesday, 24 November 2015 13:48

One of the major reasons for the transfer of the Federal Capital City (FCC) to Abuja was the intractable transportation problems associated with Lagos. Hence, transportation is the dominant structural element of the new FCC plan. All the relevant categories of transportation services are proposed in the transportation plan to ensure viable and efficient national capital for Nigeria.

Presently what bothers Abuja residents and workers is the ever increasing traffic congestion, specifically on the major entry routes of Abuja from the FCT neighbouring settlements in Niger and Nasarawa States. These are along the ONEX, Kubwa-Zuba-Suleja axis, towards Niger State and the Nyanya-Mararraba-Keffi axis, towards Nasarawa State. This has the capability of sending wrong signals that the urban transportation problems of FCC experienced in Lagos cannot after all be prevented in Abuja.

It is necessary to emphasize that majority of Abuja workers cannot afford accommodation within the city or FCT in general. Thus, they resort to living in the FCT neighbouring towns in Niger and Nasarawa States. This is not unusual. Abuja's plan to some extent, specifically the city size was modeled after Washington DC, where many of the workers live across the neighbouring states of Maryland and Virginia. Thus, rather than restricting the city management to its political boundary Washington assumes a metropolitan approach by encompassing areas of the neighbouring states.

In general, the dynamics of spontaneous urban growth respond to transportation (accessibility) and economics. Characteristically, urban management tends to ignore political boundaries, as is readily apparent in almost all modern metropolitan areas throughout the world. Such is the situation, even where land development is highly controlled by public policy and unified regulation codes like what we have in Abuja, or where a relaxation of policy enforcement has resulted in unplanned growth.

In the Regional Development Plan of Abuja, this phenomenon was envisaged, hence, the IPA made provision for the FCT-States Joint Planning District in the master plan. As envisaged by the IPA, when the plan for the city and the whole territory begin to take form and outlines of issues relating to the development of the surrounding regions also begin to assume shape, one of the major issues is how to control unwanted urbanization. This is the prevailing situation, both within the FCT and in the peripheral states adjoining it. The Joint Planning District proposal of the Master Plan is yet to be implemented almost 40 years from the FCT creation.

On the other hand, despite the fact that there is a proposal to connect Abuja to the national rail system in the Abuja Master Plan, its prioritization was deemed as economically unfeasible. This is part of the shortcomings of the master plan.

As a very important component of modern urban transportation system, it is only the metro that has the capacity for safe and fast transportation of large number of urban commuters than any mode of transportation.The emerging reality has now shown that the city is paying dearly for the utter relegation of the importance of the metro service. Nevertheless, a suitable corridor for the location of rail alignment and its maintenance in the event that rail service to the FCT is found to be feasible in the future has been preserved. Human imperfections aside, the system as planned is very adequate to alleviate the occurrence of chaotic urban transportation problems being experienced in the city.

The 2014 Abuja Housing Show could have come and gone, but the memory of Professor Pedro Ortiz's presentation as the Guest Speaker during the opening ceremony still lingers. In a paper entitled Housing/Urban Policy Integration, Prof. Ortiz ingenously developed a Mega Abuja Metro-Matrixon an East-West alignment traversing from Minna through Suleja, Abuja city, Keffi to Lafia. Rather than North-South, the population movement within the subregion dictated by the movement of commuters who are largely workers on their daily routine of home to work and vice versa and the delivery of goods and services to Abuja the FCC is much more active along the East-West alignment. Unfortunately, as observed by Prof. Ortiz, the emphases of the railway corridor is North-South, which is the Kaduna-Abuja railway corridor now being implemented.

Although FCT is very large, the fact is that conditions already existed right from the early period when the Abuja Master Plan was being prepared in both the FCT and the adjourning states inducing development to occur in ways not likely to be specified in the plan. The plan thus recommends that those areas in the FCT adjoining highways, particularly highways linking areas outside the territory shall require great attention. Apart from being a very essential transportation corridor for the entire sub-region, the East-West metrol ine from Minna to Lafia, traversing the heart of Abuja is additionally a potential economic corridor; its establishment is too long overdue.

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