17 April 2008

Nigeria: Atiku Ordered Demolition of My House - Kashim Imam

As the ongoing probe of the Senate Committee on Federal Capital Territory entered day six yesterday, more revelations have emerged, former principal liaison officer to the former president, Malam Kashim Ibrahim Imam, yesterday told the committee that the former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar ordered for the demolition of his private residence due to his loyalty to former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.

In a sharp response, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar denied ever ordering the demolition of the residence of Alhaji Kashim Ibrahim, describing it as cheap blackmail.

In another response, the former FCT minister, Malam Nasir el-Rufai has also dismissed the submission of Malam Imam as blatant lies.

The former liaison officer to the former president also told the panel that the former FCT minister Malam Nasir el-Rufai did not demolish his house, rather the present Niger State governor, Dr. Babangida Aliyu carried out the instruction as permanent secretary in the Federal Capital Territory.

According to Alhaji Kashim, "my house was to be the most beautiful house in Abuja with five living rooms, six bedrooms."

He continued, "We were in the midst of that when the development control people came and they demolished the property. I want to be fair to say that this was not done by Nasir el-Rufai, it was done before he was appointed minister, and Mohammed Abba Gana had just left office."

Kashim, explained to the panel that he was merely a victim of power play between the former president Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and former vice- president Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, and also stated that after the damage was done, the permanent secretary came to apologise to him.

Speaking through his media consultant Malam Shehu Garba, the former vice president could not have ordered for the demolition of Kashim, since he was not either the president or minister of the FCT.

"The permanent secretary came and was full of apologies and said that even if he didn't know me that, this was a waste…I became a victim of the power play between the President and the then Vice-President. For reasons of my loyalty to the then President…."

The former presidential aide said further that Dr. Babangida Aliyu revealed to him that it was Atiku who ordered for the demolition of his house.

He said, "The former permanent secretary of the FCT said to me that what he was doing was very wrong but said that he was instructed to demolish the project. I became a victim of the power play between the then president and the then vice-president.

"The residence behind that project was one of the houses being built for permanent secretaries by the Federal Government. It was then used as a guest house by the then vice-president.

"The house incidentally was subsequently used by Malam Nasir el-Rufai himself and is living in that property now."

He said further: "For reasons of my loyalty to the then president, it was ordered that that property be demolished, there was no other reason, and it was purely political.

"The then permanent secretary who is now governor of Niger State, I read one of the letters that he wrote after that house was demolished, he said that a memo should be done to the then vice president informing him that his instruction has been carried out. I want to crave the indulgence of this committee to kindly direct that the land should be returned to me."

Responding to Malam Imam's submission Malam Nasir el-Rufai described it as tales that have no substance.

Speaking through his media aide, Malam Nasir Dambatta, the former FCT minister said, "Malam Kashim Imam's tales are hardly deserving of a response but because the sanctity of public records need to be safeguarded from Malam Imam and his ilk, we would like to state as follows.

"Previous administrations had granted five-year tenancy for the development of neighbourhood centre.

Except for the centre in Area I, all were in violation of the master-plan and the five-year tenancy had expired.

A ministerial committee recommended the removal of the corner shops. It was agreed that the original owners should form associations to develop the neighbourhood centres.

"How did Kashim Imam come in? In cahoots with the public official in charge, he got a company incorporated, applied and got awarded a neighbourhood centre development.

The FCT later discovered that Malam Imam had obtained the approval under false pretences as his company did not consist of the owners of the corner shops in that location.

Given this, and his non-development of the centre within the allotted timeframe, the approval was withdrawn.

"Also in the Bakassi Market case, Malam Imam was invited to a joint venture with the Abuja Investment and Property Development Company. A problem arose from Malam Imam's insistence on his company handling the construction without tender and without the completion of designs.

These constituted clear violations of the terms of the joint venture. Julius Berger was only invited for the site preparation.

"As for the demolition of his property, it is true that it happened before Nasir el-Rufai's appointment as minister of the FCT. Imam brought the matter to el-Rufai's attention, but subsequent investigation by the FCT authorities revealed that the demolition was properly executed and would still have been done by the el-Rufai administration if his predecessor had not done it. The demolition had nothing to do with Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as Imam is flagrantly alleging."

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