11 April 2008

Nigeria: 75,000 Houses Demolished in Abuja Under El-Rufai

Abuja — The general counsel of the Federal Capital Territory Authority (FCTA), Mal-lam Mohammed Alkali yesterday told the Senate Committee probing the sale of Federal Government houses and property in Abuja that the el-Rufai administration in the FCT destroyed over 75,000 houses and other public property.

The Committee also yesterday heard from the Executive Secretary of the Federal Capital Development Authority (FC-DA), Engineer Mohammed Al-Hassan that President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua halted a $10 million concessioning deal of the Nnamdi Azikiwe Interna-tional Airport to Abuja Gateway Consortium.

The concession process began under the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Alkali described the actions of the FCTA under Malam Nasir el-Rufai, the immediate past minister in charge of FCT as lawless and irresponsible.

Asked by the Committee to describe an administration that demolished about 75,000 houses in contravention of restraining court orders, he said, "when court orders are disobeyed, it is irresponsible and lawless."

In response to the question on demolition of houses that were certificated, he said, "It was wrong for houses to be demolished when those houses were duly certificated." He also said "it is unlawful to revoke plots that were said to have breached laid down standards and reallocate them to other people. It was lawless."

The FCDA executive secretary said the process to concession the management of the Azikiwe airport was stopped because the Ministry of Transportation objected to the conditions of the deal.

Had it fallen-through, the management of the airport would have moved into the hands of the Consortium for a minimum of 20 years, according to Al-Hassan.

According to Al-Hassan, "the concession of the Abuja airport was halted, although the BPE had concluded the sale after a bidder paid $10 million as bidding fee to the Agency."

"The concession was halted because the Ministry of Transportation raised observations that were sent to the former president which he endorsed and agreed. So, that stopped the final sale. After that, the Ministry (of Transport) still complained and went to President Umaru Yar'Adua who now directed the BPE to call all stakeholders in the concession."

Responding to questions from the Senate Committee on why the concession was deadlocked after it had been approved by former President Obasanjo, the FCDA scribe said "the successful bidder paid $10 million as down payment. But the Ministry raised objections that stalled the deal."

He continued that "although the concession processes including the payment of the sum of $10 million by the successful bidder had been concluded, the airport could not be handed over to the bidder because certain crucial areas were yet unresolved.

"One, the boundary of the concession conflicted with the actual concession and the position of staff wasn't clear. Their fate wasn't ironed out."

He explained that staff of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) would have been adversely affected by the concession if it had sailed through, adding that the concession would have also affected staff of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) and Nigerian Customs Service (NCS).

He also told the Senate Committee that he did not know anything about the proceeds from the sale of Sheraton Hotel and Towers and NICON Luxury (former Sofitel Hotel) which were handled by the BPE while the FCDA was just sent a representative to the Committee.

Upon cross examination, he disclosed that 11.8 million Euros was spent in 2003 to furnish Sofitel Hotel (now NICON Luxury).

He said the Eagle Square and the International Conference Centre (ICC) were given out on concession by the Abuja Property Development Agency to Integrated Facilities Management Services.

However, in a swift response to Alkali's deposition before the Committee, the former Chief of Staff to Malam el-Rufai when he was Minister, Balarabe Abbas Lawal said the administration did not violate a single court order.

In a one-page statement titled: "Court Orders-Facts Are Sacred", Lawal said, "while we do not want to join issues or review the proceedings of the Committee pending the time that Mallam el-Rufai will appear in person, we feel it is pertinent to set the records straight. Malam M. Alkali's testimony at the public hearing by the Senate Committee on FCT today (yesterday), 10th April, 2008, is misleading and false in every conceivable sense. It is true that people went to court as the records show, but there is no record that shows anywhere that the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) violated a single court order under Malam Nasir el-Rufai's administration."

The statement stated further that, "Alkali's oral testimony contradicts his written submission to the Committee as the official records in the FCTA as submitted by himself show that no such violation existed. "The el-Rufa'i administration is being maligned for disobeying non-existent court orders or those issued but improperly served on the administration as required by agents of the law.

"Alkali's oral testimony fits into a pattern of lies and contradictions. For the records, there are over 600 cases against the FCT in court, over 400 predated the el-Rufai era."

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