President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday, June 24 preformed the groundbreaking of the Abuja Centenary City which was conceived as a “smart city’’ and a legacy of Nigeria’s 100 years as a nation.
In Urban and Regional Planning, a smart city is a city that attracts investments in human capital; has an efficient transport system, Information Communication Technology, sustainable economic development, environmental sustainability, among others.
A smart city promotes leisure, tourism, commerce, sports and provides a certain level of residential accommodation with high-rise apartments, single family houses, and semi detached houses.
Other features of a smart city are exquisite office towers, exotic hotels, magnificent shopping malls, imposing event centre, cosy theatres and cinemas.
Notable smart cities in the world are Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Monaco, France; Shenzhen, China; Songodo, South Korea; Seattle, US; Montreal, Canada, among others.
The Abuja Centenary City is expected to be the second but largest “private city’’ development in history, after Songodo.
The city is located on 1,300 acres on Airport Road; it is a private-sector driven city project, with Eagle Hills of United Arab Emirates, a construction consortium, as lead investor.
Speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony , Jonathan said that the city promised to set a unique and innovative global standard in real estate creativity.
“I am very pleased that our Centenary City has been designed by a reputable world class design team with emphasis on modernity and Nigeria’s distinctive cultural heritage.
“It integrates contemporary demands and future expectations with a working scheme that will allow the city to develop in a sustainable and socially responsible manner.
“It is important that the outcome will be a modern city where natural beauty and architectural ingenuity will merge to create a live and productive environment.’’
The president added that the city would feature various symbols of Nigeria’s unity and strength including a presidential archive that would house the history of the country’s political development.
Jonathan advised that the architectural design of the presidential archive should be such that would take up to 50 storeys to accommodate records of the role of future leaders in national development.
According to him, the city project will be a revolutionary approach to urbanisation in Africa and will promote the participation of the private sector in projects of significant magnitude.
“It is my determination to make the Centenary City a sustainable and viable economic project providing not just the basic infrastructure and facilities but also an example in urban management and security,’’ he said.
On his part, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Sen. Anyim Pius Anyim, said that the city would create over 50,000 construction jobs and 5,000 permanent well-paying jobs.
“The centenary is being promoted by the Centenary City Plc, a company composed of investors from Nigeria and abroad.
“I am delighted to say that Eagle Hills of the United Arab Emirates is the lead investor in this development.
“By this arrangement, Eagle Hills shall have the overall responsibility of developing the city at no cost to the Federal Government,’’ he said.
Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar, the Chairman of the Centenary City Plc, said that they had completed work on the first phase of the project.
According to him, the first phase entails the feasibility study of the project and signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with Eagle Hills for its development and financing.
“We have also completed a master plan for the project which has undergone four intensive clarification workshops with the FCDA with a final engineering plan,’’ he said.
The Chief Executive Officer of Eagle Hills, the official developer of the city, Mohammed Al-Abbar, said it would gulp 18 billion dollars (N2.8 trillion) and to be completed within 10 years.
Al-Abbar said that the city would be technology driven, with 50 per cent as green area, a golf course, amusement park, shopping malls which will be a blend of tradition malls with e-commerce, amongst others
According to him, no fewer than 100,000 persons will reside in the city while 500,000 persons are expected to visit daily.
It should be recalled that Anyim, had at an investigative hearing organised by the House of Representatives Ad hoc Committee on Land Racketeering and Allocation in the FCT, said that all issues bordering on compensation would appropriately be sorted out.
“There won’t be any development on the land until the issues of compensation were resolved,’’ he told the committee.
He said the proposed city was not an alternative to the city of Abuja, but complementary.
Anyim, who said that government would not spend a kobo on the project as it would be private sector-driven, however, said that it would maximise profits from it.
“Everything about the project is private sector-driven, this is why you did not see anything about it in the budget,’’ he said.
In line with the promises of the SGF, the Federal Government had taken a bold step towards settling the compensation entitlements of the landowners.
The Federal Government recently released N319 million for the payment of compensation to the residents of Baruwa Community, whose farms would be used for the development of the Centenary City.
Mr Okechukwu Francis, Director, Resettlement and Compensation in the FCT, who spoke at an official ceremony for the payment, said it would cover crops and economic trees to be affected.
“For this compensation, what we have done is just pay them for the crops and economic trees that will be affected in the development.
“I want to assure residents that compensation would be paid to all those who will be affected in the area. I want to emphasise that we have been fair and just to the community; nobody has been short-changed.
“We engaged the services of registered professionals who are empowered to do the evaluation for the compensation and this was in accordance with the laws of the FCT.
“For this compensation, what we have just paid is for their crops and economic trees. Further discussions are ongoing for the houses that will be affected,’’ he said.
However, Mr Monday Kogi, the traditional chief of Baruwa , said that the money given to the community as compensation was not enough.
Kogi, who received N132, 000 as compensation, said he expected to be paid not less than N1.5 million.
Observers say that the project is visionary and worthy in a fast growing world; however, they say that the landowners should be adequately compensated.
They also want the government to ensure the project was not hijacked by politicians and shylock businessmen.