By Stanley Onyekwere
There is no doubt that the ongoing reinvigorated drive by the Department of Development Control, of the Abuja Metropolitan Management Council (AMMC) towards improving the nature of buildings and the general environment of neighbourhoods in the Federal Capital City (FCC), through the use of mobile courts, has started impacting positively on the aesthetics status of the City.
Checks on some neighbourhoods, particularly areas where the FCT administration’s Mobile court, handled offences bordering on nature of premises against cluster of occupants and owners of some houses.
Specifically, the areas are located within Wuse and Garki Districts, where defaulting residents were being charged weekly before the court, for allegedly failing to redecorate and beautiful their homes and environment, contrary to Section 35 (1e) of the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) Act of 1997, which is also punishable under sub- section 2 (b) of the same section of the Act.
According to the authorities, residents are expected to redecorate or renovate their buildings, at least once in four years, failure of which they may be forced to do so.
This is because, according to the Department within the said period, painting works, roof, plumbing and any other facilities of a given buildings would have been affected.
The Principal state counsel with the AEPB, Arome Tokula, said the Act, which stipulates that residents within the Federal Capital city (FCC) are required to keep their buildings within prescribed specific designs and condition as well as original plan, should be done in compliance with provisions of the regulations of the Development Control and the AEPB.
He said the punishment for failure to comply with the provisions of the relevant Act, could be sentenced for payment of not less than N500 fine, or imprisonment of six months or both fine and imprisonment, which is at the discretion of the Magistrate.
Interestingly, the enforcement of redecoration of buildings through the use of the Mobile courts appears to have started yielding very positive result as there are noticeable improvement on environment of neighbourhoods where the court had held its sittings.
Stressing the impact of the Mobile courts sitting so far, Head, Aesthetics and Amenities Division of the Development Control, Architect Dominic Odenigbo, who during a sitting at Mabolo street, in Wuse District, at the weekend, said the exercise has greatly changed the face of buildings, as people can actually see the difference in aesthetics status of buildings in the city.
“There is a lot of difference from what we have now compared to what we used to have before the coming of the mobile courts sittings, particularly areas where the mobile court had already sat to try offenders.
“It is a continuous thing (exercise), as every area where there is default in terms of decoration of building, definitely we will visit them,” he stressed.
On the challenges the officials have encountered while trying enforce redecoration of building order in the city, he said poor individual attitudes of people towards the directive is the major challenge the officials face while discharging their duties.
“Most of the times, when people ( alleged defaulters) appear before the court only to claim that they never had notices served on them, when of course there evidence that such notices were duly served them since last year, but apart from that, every other thing is being taken care of,” Odenigbo pointed out.
Expressing excitement over the unfolding impact of the enforcement exercise on the aesthetics status of the Territory, the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of Development Control, Kalu Emetu, said both the authorities and residents are very happy about the development.
“We are not the only ones that are supposed to be happy, but every Abuja is supposed to be happy about the impact it’s (the exercise) having on the aesthetics status of the city.
“Because when you live in good environment, the way you reason will be different, in fact you would be proud of telling the people that this is where I live.
“It is unfortunate that sometime the people expect government to come out and force them to put their houses to order- like what we are doing now, which is not supposed to be so.
“But I’m happy, and every Nigerian should be happy that through the enforcement drive of the authorities, the city is taking the kind of shape that we are seeing today.
On how the department is taking the issues of awareness creation among the residents about the need to always ensure the proper maintenance of their houses, the PRO noted that when reporters write stories about the exercise, people will read and know that the authorities are taking it serious.
“You must have to redecorate your house, put it in a good shape in such a way that you as the person occupying a given building would be happy; other residents would be happy; and our visitors would say yes that Abuja is truly the capital of Nigeria.
“So because all of will be happy when the beauty of the FCT is maintained, that’s why we will continue to do the much we can through intensified enlightenment of residents on the need to redecorate houses, in line with the Abuja master plan.
“Like in my office, we have a lot of programmes centered on educating Abuja residents and indeed Nigerians at large, for them to know the need to have a beautiful environment; for them to live in houses that would be certified fit and good for human beings to live in.
“That’s why when you complete your buildings in the FCC, we give you the certificate of building completion. What it means is that it (the building) has met certain set standards; and it is not supposed to down from that standard.
“And what we are doing (prosecution of defaulters) is part of the reinvigorated effort at ensuring that buildings in the Territory remain standard structures for human beings to in them.
Meanwhile, reiterating the need for property owners or occupants, as the case may to redecorate their buildings within the four years stipulated period, the Director of the Department of Development Control, Yahaya Yusuf, during one of the Mobile court sittings, recently in Area 1, Garki District, noted that presently there are so many buildings in the FCC that are at various levels of dilapidation.
“When we approved a building plan for anybody, what we are saying is that we want it to be in a particular stately appearance all through its lifespan
“But if for any reason that after four years that you did the last decoration work on your building, and we now observe anything that is faulty with that house, we will still come back at you, and ask you to rectify it.
“This is because, it is that individual decision that property owners take on every building that accumulates into what makes the city what it is,” he stressed.
He explains that: “the import of this, (enforcement of redecoration of buildings, is that we want any building that will be in the FCC, to measure up to what we want to see in that environment.
“We are not only using this tool (mobile court) to influence the people to take the right decisions on those buildings (dilapidated structures), but also we to sensitise others, to know that they stand the risk of being dragged before the mobile court, if they don’t also put their buildings right, just because they have initially spent some money on them.
“We have been moving from Wuse to Garki District, but the idea is to extend it to other districts like Gwarinpa, Asokoro and Maitama, as we discover concentration of buildings that are so unkempt, then we will make the mobile court sit there, to prosecute cluster of occupants and owners of those affected structures.”