Globally, urban renewal has been embarked upon by public officials and private institutions to improve cities’ structures and to enhance their economic, cultural and social qualities.
After the Great Depression of the 1930s, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in trying to address the immediate economic crisis of America, came up with the urban-centered New Deal Programme, which used public-works jobs to reduce unemployment, stimulate local economies, and subsidise state and local relief for the unemployable poor while bringing some changes in the structure and design of the cities.
In 19th Century England, rapid industrialisation of cities brought about cramped and unsanitary living conditions for the urban poor. Therefore, the concept of urban renewal emerged as a method for social reform with the belief that better housing conditions in a city would increase the capacity to reform its residents morally and economically.
According to Business Dictionary, Urban Renewal is defined as ‘the process where an urban neighbourhood or area is improved and rehabilitated. The renewal process can include demolishing old or run-down buildings, constructing new, up-to-date housing’.
In Nigeria, two places that come in mind, in terms of infrastructural development are Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, and Lagos State. In evidence in these cities, are expansive road networks, modernised building structures, availability of relaxation spots, quality schools, advanced and accessible healthcare facilities and tourist attractions.
With all its reputation as the political centre of the north, Kaduna has lacked such infrastructures. Yet, the state’s population is currently approaching 10 million, with an estimated 4 million of them living in the Kaduna urban area.
It is projected that by 2050, the population will rise 12.96 million based on a 3.18 per cent growth rate, with about 7-8 million people living in the state’s urban settlements. This underscores the urgent need for a coordinated and sustainable Urban Renewal Project.
In his remarks at the launch of the project in June 2019, Governor Nasir El-Rufai said:-
“The Kaduna Urban Renewal Project responds to the accelerated urbanisation of Kaduna City. Our state capital now straddles four local government areas: Kaduna North, Kaduna South, Chikun and Igabi. This metropolitan area is projected to be home to more than half of the state’s population by 2050. Kaduna Renewal seeks to make Kaduna a friendly home to its residents, a safe place to live in, equipped to support and promote the livelihoods of our citizens.”
The first phase of the Urban renewal is targeted at Kaduna metropolis, and focuses on road expansion/maintenance, housing and improved land use, mass transit, parks and recreational centres, market and neighborhood centres. Its execution adheres strictly to the 1967 Max Locke Master Plan of Kaduna. The Urban renewal project will subsequently be extended to Kafachan and Zaria, the two other major cities in the state.
To start with, 7 new roads totalling 23.7km have been identified that will significantly have multiplier effect on housing, businesses, unity and social development. One of such new roads that stands out is, the Kabala Costain Aliyu Makama road in Barnawa.
The 1.4km road, which will pick up from Independence Way, will cut through Kabala Costain; cross over River Kaduna with a bridge of 230mm; and link up with Aliyu Makama road in Barnawa. The project will significantly reduce traffic across the historical Stadium roundabout – Station Market Bridge.
Over the years, residents of Kaduna have had to bear with the constant time-consuming traffic on the historic River Kaduna Bridge, especially during rush hours as people move to and fro their places of work. The completion of this new road and bridge will provide an alternative route for residents, reducing time travel and the traffic burden on the former bridge.
Another project that will greatly improve traffic in the State when completed is the road from Rabah by Arewa House to the Rigasa Train Station. This road will pick up from the Arewa House junction and pass through Unguwan Kanawa, to burst out on Nnamdi Azikiwe Express Way, and continue through Eye Centre resettlement layout to connect with Rigasa Train Station. Linking Eastern to Western bypass, the road will feature a flyover and underpass for maximum efficiency.
The flyover will pick up from the Rabah road across the Arewa House junction and over the rail line running parallel to the road, to descending at Unguwan Kanawa. While the Underpass will pick up at the edge of the NDA old site golf course, go beneath Nnamdi Azikiwe Express Way linking to the other side of the road in Eye Centre.
Governor El-Rufa’i has shown commitment to ensuring that train commuters in Kaduna encounter as little hurdles as possible. Apart from the dualisation of Rigasa road from Nnamdi Azikiwe Expressway to the train station, which was completed early 2019, he also initiated and completed the construction of a link road from the train station, to the roundabout leading to the Airport, reducing travel time and serving as an alternative route for commuters.
Similarly, a new road linking Millennium City to Yakowa Way has been highlighted for construction. This road, to be called Urban Shelter Road, will save commuters the trouble of having to return to Unguwan Rimi before going to and from the two roads. It will be a direct link for residents of Kamazo, Karji, Jan Ruwa and Unguwan Maigero to Millennium city.
Apart from the new roads being constructed, some existing roads have been penciled for dualisation or other appropriate forms of improvement due to the strategic role they play to residents. A couple of them, including Katuru Road that links Isa Kaita to Rabah and Alkali roads, from Ali Akilu way to Race Course, are almost at completion stage and have been open to road users.
Worthy of mention also, is the commencement of the conversion of the Kawo flyover bridge to a double three-lane flyover bridge with three rotaries (roundabouts) underneath.
The bridge will also be extended in length to begin from Hayin Banki and end at 1 Div gate while the three rotaries will serve commuters from Hayin-Banki, Kawo and Mando each. The creation of alternate roads has already begun, to ease traffic when work begins in earnest.
Beyond road construction, other components of the urban renewal programme have been going on simultaneously. The historical Gen Hassan Usman Katsina Park is undergoing total reconstruction to give it the befitting status it deserves. The park will house a movie theatre, a sports arcade and the zoological garden, which will be stocked with more animals. There will also be a Go-Kart track as well as three different water parks, one of which has been completed and open to the public.
The Centenary Park, named in honour of Kaduna marking 100 years, is far gone in construction and was the venue for the first ever Kaduna New year Countdown celebration, which has been termed by many as successful in enhancing unity in the State. Upon completion, the park will house a Go-Kart track, two football 5-aside pitches, an event centre and an amusement park for kids.
Construction of the Galaxy Mall, a standard shopping mall located on Waff Road, has been progressing steadily and has already attracted investors like Shoprite and leading cinema operators like Silverbird. It is to be completed in December 2020.
Through the Kaduna Markets Development Company, regular markets are also being constructed and rehabilitated across the state. One of such is the Kasuwan Magani Market in Kajuru LGA. The over-crowded Sabon-Gari market in Zaria is to be demolished and reconstructed into a modern market capable of answering the needs of the people and ensuring their safety.
Ultimately the benefits of these urban renewal projects to the people of Kaduna is immeasurable, and include job opportunities and overall economic growth, in terms of increase in the value of property and increased IGR.
In the first four years of El-Rufai’s administration, he focused on creating institutions to support the urban renewal efforts. The Kaduna Investment Promotion Agency KADIPA was established to attract and create an investor -friendly environment in the State.
Also established is the Kaduna Internal Revenue Service, which since its establishment has exponentially increased the state’s IGR from N800 million before the El-Rufai led administration to 44 billion in 2019.
The task of turning Kaduna State from its static and outdated self to a progressive modernised place is no small feat, and Malam Nasir El-Rufa’i seems to have held the bull by the horn.
A few years from now, Kaduna State will look nothing like its old self as the few projects mentioned here are said to be just a tip of the iceberg. Full-blown, they will result in a Kaduna of which great countrymen like Sardauna will certainly be proud of.
Nabilah wrote from Sir Kashim Ibrahim House, Kaduna.