Interview: Muhammad Musa Bello
What measures is the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) taking to increase foreign direct investment in Abuja?
MUHAMMAD MUSA BELLO: First and foremost, we have articulated investment opportunities in the city. We have also established strong institutional frameworks to help prospective investors. The Abuja Investments Company as well as the Abuja Infrastructure Investment Centre are charged with this mandate. These agencies have a mandate to canvas for and provide an enabling environment for both local and foreign investors. We are working daily to improve our ease of doing business standards, and this has yielded positive results, with Abuja recently ranked as the best city in Nigeria in terms of its ease of doing business. Furthermore, a report released earlier in 2018 by the National Bureau of Statistics stated that Abuja had become the preferred destination for foreign investment. There is no doubt that Abuja is a beneficiary of overall efforts by the federal government to improve its ease of doing business in the country, and we are also doing our best to complement these efforts.
How does the FCTA plan to better connect Abuja to the rest of Nigeria and the world?
BELLO: One of the great benefits of the new Federal Capital Territory of Abuja is its ease of access from all corners of the country, with most regions being equidistant in terms of travel time. The first phase of the Abuja Light Rail system was recently commissioned and completed, connecting the city centre to Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport. The transportation master plan for Abuja provides for connections to the rest of the country and the world by air, road and rail transport. The plan also made provisions for a second airport in Kwali, roughly a one-hour drive from the heart of the city. Regional roads were similarly designed in such a way as to connect to federal highways that lead to the north, east and west of the country. We have already realised more than 40% of these linkages. The Abuja Light Rail is connected with the national rail network through the three lines leading to the northern, western and eastern parts of the country. About 30% of this linkage has been achieved. It is important to note that though Abuja has no navigable body of water, there are plans to develop a dry port, which would be linked to the closest seaports to Abuja, namely the inland waterways in Lokoja and Baru.
What prospects are there for public-private partnerships (PPPs) in the development of the city?
BELLO: Abuja initially depended almost entirely on federal allocations to carry out its development projects. More than 40 years on, there is the feeling that the Federal Capital Territory has come of age and needs to be weaned off the federal purse. We are therefore tasked with carrying out infrastructure and utilities provision mostly through our own efforts, yet there is an urgent need to expand infrastructure and public utilities, as the city is bursting at its seams. It is important to note that the city’s demographic expansion has proceeded beyond the projected growth plan when the city was founded. According to the National Population Commission, Abuja is now the fourth-largest city in Nigeria and one of the fastest-growing cities in Africa. Currently, just 30-40% of infrastructure has been developed, and the deficit is a direct result of a lack of adequate funding, combined with the ever-growing population of the city. These factors put a tremendous strain on existing facilities. Consequently, the need to develop more districts has become imperative. To achieve this, the contribution of the private sector is paramount. The administration is, therefore, committed to PPPs to develop these new districts. The Abuja Infrastructure Investment Centre is the arm of the FCTA that handles the execution of PPPs alongside investors.
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