Minister to NASS: We need legislation to develop Area Councils

By Gbenga Omokhunu, Abuja

Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Minister of State, Dr. Ramatu Aliyu, has called on relevant committees of the National Assembly charged with the responsibilities of carrying out oversight functions on the FCT Administration, to either come up with legislations or push for pending bills that could bring speedy development to the area councils in the territory.

Aliyu who made this call at the House of Representatives Committee on FCT Area Councils and Ancillary Matters, also maintained that some of the existing laws governing the territory are obsolete and not in conformity with 21st century developmental goals.

The minister said such moves have become necessary in view of the slow pace of development recorded in the territory for almost four decades, stressing that no capital city like Abuja could be developed with reliance on budgetary allocations.

“Honourable Committee members, it might interest you to note that out of 8,000sq kilometers of the territory, only 250sq kilometers have been fully developed for almost four decades of developing the city. The remaining 7,750sq kilometers are yet to be developed. This goes to show that we must think out of the box to fast-track development in satellite towns and the area councils. We can no longer rely on budgetary allocations to develop this capital city,” Aliyu noted.

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Speaking on the recent industrial action embarked upon by primary school teachers and the Nigerian Union of Local Government Employees, as a result of the non-payment/implementation of the approved national minimum wage, the minister informed committee members that though the strike has been called off by both parties, but stressed that the administration was working on the interim report with some important findings and recommendations that could bring lasting solution to the problem.

According to a statement issued on Tuesday by her Special Assistant Media, Austine Elemue, the minister said: “let me state that immediately after the two unions threatened strike, we engaged all stakeholders with a view to finding a solution to the problem. This led to the constitution of a multi-stakeholder ministerial committee on the implementation of the new national minimum wage in area councils and local education authorities of the six area councils.

“As at now, the cheering news is that the striking teachers and local government workers have agreed to call off the strike and allow for processes that will provide a permanent solution to the problem.”

The minister also used the occasion to speak on the impact of COVID-19 on residents of the territory, stressing that the lockdown and its resultant suspension of social and economic activities has had severe consequences too numerous to mention.

She noted that analysis by the Nigerian Living Standards Survey (NLSS), shows that the share of people engaged in economic activities was lower in June/July 2020 than before the COVID-19 crisis, especially in the FCT where the share of people working was down by around 14 percent, adding that food insecurity appears to be prevalent with about 72 percent of households in the FCT reported to have skipped meals since the start of the pandemic due to financial crunch.

Earlier in his remarks, Chairman House of Representatives Committee on FCT Area Councils and Ancillary Matters, Hon. Ahmed Yusuf Tijjani, assured the minister that the committee would continue to assist the administration in the areas of needs especially on issues that would lead to speedy development of the area councils.