Opinion: Gains of Kaduna State’s Urban Renewal Programme – By SUNDAY EZE
Those who are familiar with Kaduna will concede to the indisputable fact that the capital of former Northern Region has never had it so good in terms of infrastructural revolution and development since its creation on May 27, 1967. Thanks to the avowed commitment of the Governor Mallam Nasir el-Rufai to frontally address the yawning gap in infrastructural all over the state. It was his resolve and determination to turn the state into an investment hub and make life better for citizens. To this end the governor has awarded contracts for several road projects under the Kaduna Urban Renewal Programme. Despite the challenges faced by the state as a result of the global pandemic and other hash economic realities, government has taken a deliberate step at investing in the urban renewal project because no state could function well without opening the space with good roads. At the moment Kaduna has become a construction site. Many dilapidated roads are currently expanded or duallised making Kaduna one of the most beautiful and organised state capitals in Nigeria. The programme is not only limited to Kaduna city centre alone, work is also ongoing in other satellite towns of Zaria and Kafanchan. The phase one project which consists of twenty one roads and bridges criss-crossing all the nooks and crannies of the three zones of the state are at completion and or at advanced stages. The urban renewal initiative has no doubt opened up the state to a more meaningful and delightful transportation and vehicular movement experience.
With the programme delivery, Kaduna public will heave a sigh of relief with the incessant nightmarish driving experience occasioned by congestion within and outside the metropolis. This has given the people of the state another opportunity to relish on the pleasure of easy and comfortable movement of people, goods and services. Accordingly, commendations from residents have trailed the good intention of the state government for initiating the laudable urban renewal programme. “Before now, the traffic gridlock snailing through most of the major roads in Kaduna is terrible but today things are gradually changing. One can now drive without any problem. The roads are also of quality standard too,” said Musa Adamu a bus driver.
Apart from the roads under construction, the building of a new Kaduna Galaxy Mall which is adjudged to be sitting on 11, 000 square meters is also ongoing. The mall is elaborately designed to house two major economic players in various fast moving consumables goods and other business chains: SPAR and Shoprite in addition to 48 line shops. The mall according to the Managing Director of the Kaduna Market Development and Management Company, Mohammed Bayero, is a Public-Private Partnership (PPP). By implication Kaduna has opened its doors to both public and private organisations to invest significantly into property and infrastructure. The move offers real opportunity for investors to capitalise on the opportunity to develop and expand their businesses in Kaduna State.
As cities expand and population grows, the essence of redesigning and redevelopment of cities has become more imperative than ever. As a result, this growing trend presents myriads of benefits for the people and once in a life time opportunity for investors to capitalise on. According to research, “over half of the global population live in urban areas. And by 2045, the world’s population living in cities will increase by 1.5 times, to 6 billion. This means that roughly two-thirds of all people on the planet will be living in cities.”
However, while urban growth is an important driver for the stability and of development of any economy, managing it is a very different story. Leaders have to move in quickly to address the challenges thrown up by providing basic services, infrastructure, and even affordable housing for the expanding populations. Why is it important to embark on Kaduna Urban Renewal one may ask? According to Mohammed Magaji, the Managing Director of Kaduna State Road Agency (KADRA) “the essence of this urban renewal project is to open up areas to connect communities and link major roads. Once you have all these incorporated security challenges will be tackled, investors will come in to invest, our local business people – even during construction of the roads – there are economic activities already, these massive projects will create job opportunities for our youths. Travel time will be reduced because the roads will minimise traffic gridlock. So, the social economic activities of the state will improve and Kaduna state will be great again. Because of the development that is usually associated with road construction, we expect that Kaduna State soon experience higher GDP.”
Among other gains of Kaduna Urban Renewal Programme include the following. First, creation of job opportunities and empowerment of locals. From available statistics presented by KADRA, over 1700 local direct workers have been engaged in the programme. Second, it makes the state liveable. Urban renewal recreates neighbourhoods and communities left behind due to demographic and economic change, by bringing back character and a sense of place. Third, areas hitherto forgotten can be reinvigorated through the opportunities created by the project as building and infrastructural developments which allow cities to further their growth begin to spring up.
Fourth, investment in transport system by both government and individuals geared towards improving mobility of residents and in turn reduce time wastage, improvement air quality and reducing the rate of sedentary lifestyle are encouraged.
Fifth, under-utilised areas further attracts development and expansion which further address the challenge of cost of housing. Corner shops are also erected for businesses which increases the state’s internally generated revenue.
Sixth, urban renewal programmes also galvernises growth in geographical green infrastructure and green spaces. By so doing, art and creative industries grow with skilled workers in the industry taking advantage of the environment for their projects and grow their businesses.
Seventh, urban renewal comes with historical, and ecological factors such as water systems, edifices and fountains that are part of the urban environment. All of these factors can help to improve the liveability of a city, the vibrancy of communities and economic growth.
Nigeria lacks maintenance culture. Therefore one vital component of the urban renewal programme which should be taken seriously is the maintenance. The roads will be useful even in centuries to come and serve the state better if it is properly managed and maintained. Therefore, KADRA should engage or designate staff or people who should be charged with keeping the roads clean. With the rehabilitation, expansion and building of these roads in the state, the administration of Nasir el-Rufai has done what can unarguably be described as one of the most ambitious urban renewal programmes northern Nigeria and the country has had in recent times. Kaduna is on the desired pedestal of change. It is now a pleasurable experience to drive within the Kaduna metropolis.