Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Nigeria: "I'm not a nice guy."

The capital of Nigeria was moved from Lagos to Abuja because the former had become dirty and crowded. Abuja was supposed to be the anti-Lagos, a "planned city". But over the past few years, things haven't gone exactly as planned. Now the city is beginning to demolish squatter settlements and other unapproved structures.

The following is from a Q&A with Dr. Nasir El-Rufai, Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (basically, the guy in charge of Abuja).
Q: It must be a job [demolishing] that’s going to make you unpopular...

A: I’m not a nice guy. I’ve never been involved in a popularity contest. We are going to take down many buildings in this town.

We are going to demolish many churches and many mosques and adherents of both religions are going to be very critical of what we are doing. But they are illegal structures. Some of them endanger public health, because they are built on sewer lines or water cines and we are going to take them out. It’s not a popular job and this is why I’ll not want to do it twice. But it’s a job that’s got to be done by someone... I think the rich will suffer more in this exercise, because the buildings we are taking down now are the buildings of the rich. We haven’t gone to the squatter settlements yet, because I want to make the point that the problem of Abuja is not the poor. The poor live in those (squatter) settlements because they have no option, but the rich that feel they are above the law. So, that’s what we’re focussing on. All the buildings we’re taking down are the buildings of very rich and powerful people. If you build where you are not supposed to, whether you are rich or poor, we’ll take it down. (link)
Dr. Nasir El-Rufai was last in the news when he publically accused two senators of asking him to pay thousands of dollars to confirm his appointment as Minister of the Federal Capital Territory.

Here is an interesting story about Lagos ...