2023 Review: Key events in Nigeria’s capital

AS 2023 draws to a close, The ICIR looks at some of the key events in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) within the year.

The FCT was involved in the 2023 general elections held in February and March, which ushered in the current Federal Government led by President Bola Tinubu.

The Labour Party (LP) presidential candidate, Peter Obi, emerged as the poll winner in the FCT. But that was not enough for him to win the presidency. He secured 281,717 votes, followed by Tinubu, the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, who garnered 90,902 votes.

Other major contenders in the election were Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), who polled 74,194 and 4,517 votes, respectively.

Following his victory in the FCT, there was a nationwide debate on the legitimacy of Tinubu’s emergence as president, based on law provisions that say a candidate must secure 25 per cent of votes cast in the 36 states of the country and the FCT before he or she could be declared the winner.

However, the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) and Supreme Court put the debate to rest by declaring that the FCT had no special status and Tinubu did not need to secure 25 per cent of votes in the FCT to emerge as president of Nigeria.

Wike named FCT Minister

After Tinubu assumed office as President, he appointed former Rivers state governor Nyesom Wike as Minister of the FCT.

Although Wike is a PDP chieftain, he joined Tinubu’s cabinet on August 21. On his first day in office, he threatened to demolish illegal structures and revoke ownership of land not developed in the FCT.

About a month into his administration, Wike sacked heads of 21 FCT agencies, parastatals and companies.

He declared that land owners in Abuja must recertify their Certificates of Occupancy (C of O) to include the national identification number (NIN) for individuals and the bank verification number (BVN) for corporate bodies.

The recertification would cost at least N50,000 for individuals and about N100,000 for corporate bodies.

He also pegged the cost of obtaining a certificate of occupancy at N3.5 million.

FCT gets second female senator

Despite the declining female representation in the Nigerian government, the FCT produced a female senator, Ireti Kingibe, from the 2023 polls, the second female FCT senator since 1999.

Kingibe defeated Philip Aduda, who had represented the FCT at the Senate for 12 years.

Speaking on the low female representation in government, Kingibe vowed to bring in more women during her tenure. She said she would achieve this by involving more women in politics and encouraging them to occupy sensitive positions at the party level.

“If there are more women in the party, then it goes without saying that getting those councillors and chairmen will be much easier than when it is only men. So that is where I am going to start,” she said.

Although the elections were largely peaceful in the FCT, there were pockets of violence in parts of the Territory. One such incident resulted in the assault on The ICIR’s Executive Director Dayo Ayetan while covering the exercise in Gwagwalada.

Aiyetan was beaten up by hoodlums who tore his clothes and stole his phone, car key, purse and a pouch containing his debit cards, Nigeria and US driver’s licenses and other items were stolen.

Insecurity, one-chance robberies persist in FCT

Insecurity and criminal activities by gangs masquerading as commercial drivers, known as one-chance, have been one of the challenges confronting residents of the FCT over the years.

These challenges persisted in 2023, and on September 27, a viral video showed a resident of the city, Greatness Olufemi, by the roadside, where she was dumped after being pushed out of a vehicle by one-chance operators.

Olufemi died of wounds sustained during the attack, and this sparked outrage amongst Nigerians.

There were also several cases of kidnapping recorded in the FCT during the period.

On December 10, gunmen invaded the Dei-Dei area of the FCT and abducted at least 23 people.

The Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) also named three Area Councils, Kuje, Abaji and Bwari, as places with the highest records of kidnapping in the FCT.

Residents, small businesses struggle amid cash crunch, subsidy removal

Between January and March 2023, operators of small businesses and other residents of the nation’s capital struggled with hardship occasioned by the naira scarcity that confronted the country during the period.

The scarcity resulted from the naira redesign policy by former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Godwin Emefiele.

Emefiele had announced that the N200, N500, and N1,000 denominations of the old naira notes would cease to be legal tender by January 31, 2023, but as the deadline inched closer, both old and new notes were difficult to access.

The scarcity lingered until late March, after the elections. Nigerians, including FCT residents, paid exorbitant charges to access money at Point of Sales (POS) merchants because the notes were unavailable in banks. Several others besieged banks and slept at automated teller machines (ATMs) mounted at the banks to get the notes.

Small business owners, who mostly rely on cash to run their petty businesses, also experienced declining income due to the scarcity.

FCT residents witnessed a few months of respite as the naira found its way back into circulation but were plunged into another round of suffering upon the new administration’s inauguration in June.






     

     

    In his inaugural speech as President, Tinubu declared that fuel subsidy had become a thing of the past, throwing Nigerians in the FCT and across the country into panic.

    There was an immediate hike in the price of petrol, and many fuel stations closed their gates to buyers.

    Long queues surfaced in fuel stations across Abuja, and by the end of June, transport costs had increased by about 100 per cent in the FCT.

    As the year ends, Nigerians, including FCT residents, are again witnessing a shortage of cash in circulation, though no reason has been given for the crunch by the CBN.

    Ijeoma Opara is a journalist with The ICIR. Reach her via [email protected] or @ije_le on Twitter.

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