In Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory (FCT) as with other parts of the country, the new year will be characterised by political activities due to the general elections to start from February 25, 2023. But beyond political issues, certain other factors are bound to shape the year for residents.
WITH the general elections less than two months away, Nigerians living in the FCT, eager to participate in the voting process, have been trooping in and out of designated collection centres to obtain their permanent voter cards (PVCs).
Residents, mostly youths, can be spotted in clusters at the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) collection centres, wanting to obtain their cards.
Across Nigeria, young people make up over 71 per cent of the nine million new registrants recorded by the INEC. This is reflected in the large number of youths found at PVC collection centres within the FCT, where over 183,000 valid registrations were completed.
A resident of the Jabi area of the city, Amaka Okoye, recounted, in an interview with The ICIR, her experience at the collection centre.
“It did not take me too much trouble to get my PVC, although I think adequate information was not given concerning collection centres. I had to visit the INEC office in Karu first, before I was redirected to the one in Area 10. But once I got there, getting the card was not too difficult, just that the place was crowded,” Amaka said.
As the January 22 deadline for the distribution of PVCs draws closer, crowds at INEC collection centres have continued to increase, making the process more cumbersome for other registrants.
While this may suggest a massive turn-out of voters during the elections, some residents have experienced difficulty with the process as their cards were unavailable at the time of collection.
Another resident of the FCT, Abosede Korede, confirmed that she had attempted to get her PVC from the INEC office on two occasions without success.
“I went to the INEC office at Area 10 to collect my PVC, but they told me my card was not available. I don’t know why they couldn’t find it. They just asked me to write my name and phone number in a paper and check back in two weeks,” Abosede said.
She expressed concern over a possible disenfranchisement ahead of the forthcoming elections.
Beyond the PVC card challenge, other residents have also expressed concern over likely cases of violence during the election. This fear stems from cases of the insecurity recorded within the FCT in 2022.
The cases include the invasion by terrorists of the Kuje Medium Security Custodial Centre, and attack on the Presidential Guards Brigade in July.
Some FCT residents like Tolu Oyelade have, however, vowed they would not be deterred by the insecurity threats from participating in the voting exercise.
“Attacks at the polling units are my biggest fear concerning these elections, but it is not a limitation for me,” Oyelade said.
Women participation in politics
Women in the FCT are also determined to continue the struggle for equal representation in political issues in the new year.
In March 2022, women across the FCT spent days at the National Assembly gate, protesting against the rejection of five gender-inclusive bills, including one which would allow women occupy 35 per cent of all appointive positions in government.
The National Assembly rejected the bills during a constitutional amendment vote held in 2022, and this attracted a lot of criticism from women groups nationwide.
The protests had ravaged the FCT for days until it was suspended after three of the bills were recommitted for reconsideration by the legislators.
Although not much has been heard of the bills since then, Angel Ugben, who represented women with disabilities during the protests in March, told The ICIR that the struggle for representation was still on.
“There has not been much done on the issue, but we are still lobbying. The 35 per cent affirmative action is something that will foster democracy and we want that bill passed,” she said.
Also speaking on the issue, the president, Women in Politics Forum, Ebere Ifendu, said the women were determined to see the bills reconsidered, even after the elections.
“This is an election year, and they have not had time to reconvene and look at the bills, but we are hoping that even after the elections they will address this. We are planning on re-presenting the bill in the new year,” Ifendu said.
More residents of the FCT are expected to lose their homes and businesses to demolition, as removal of structures deemed illegal by the authorities is set to continue in 2023.
In his new year message to residents, the FCT Minister Muhammad Musa Bello made this known, while urging residents to cooperate with the authorities to achieve restoration of the Abuja master plan.
“It must be understood that these corrective measures are absolutely essential if truly our city is to evolve into one of the most aesthetically pleasing and functional cities in the world. The presence of illegal settlements and shanties will only draw us further away from attaining this goal,” Bello noted.
Demolition exercises have become commonplace in the FCT, with hundreds of residents losing businesses and property to the development in 2022.
Economic and political activities have led to an influx of Nigerians into the FCT, worsening housing challenges in the city and leading to illegal purchase and construction of buildings by residents.
The ICIR reported that this has led to an increase in shanty towns and structures that distort the original plan of the city, resulting in regular demolition exercises.
While many residents purchase land from local chiefs, the FCT Administration has warned that the Abuja Geographic Information System (AGIS) retains the sole responsibility to allocate land in the city.