30 October 2012

Nigeria: Abuja Lands, Housing - FG Should Step in


One month ago, the development control department of the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) bulldozed hundreds of housing units belonging to estate developers Minanuel Investments Limited and others at Lugbe Extension 1, Kyami District, along the Airport Road. Condemnation of the action has come from people and organisations from all walks of life. Only the FCDA and its development control (DC) have justified the action by citing a nebulous law. Not stopping there, the DC has announced that 37 other estates in the FCT would be demolished because they are "illegal structures".

It's not the first time the FCDA and its agents have violated the conscience of the world in this way. Right from the days of Nasir el-Rufai as FCT minister, public condemnations have always trailed the demolitions of people's residences in a nation that has no housing policy or social safety net for the impoverished. But after each round of mass displacement and dislocation, the FCDA has been allowed to carry on as if nothing happened.

Now is the time for the federal government to step into the matter. Any enquiry into land and housing administration in the FCT would reveal that there are no clear rules. Minanuel Estate, for example, was demolished because the FCDA claims the land had been re-allocated to National Assembly members. Is land in Abuja reserved for government officials alone?

There is clear proof that dirty deals take place constantly in the Abuja Geographic Information Systems (AGIS), FCDA's development control and in the entire FCT Administration. It is believed that Minanuel Estate was demolished because the developers failed to give houses to top officials of the FCDA, and that's why some other estates in the same area have been spared. AGIS officials do clone land title documents. Land allocations are revoked at the whim and caprice of FCDA officials. Many land owners in the FCT cannot build houses on their plots because the DC department rarely approves building plans. It is no accident that some of the richest civil servants in the country today are officials of the FCDA.

Demolition of people's homes without providing an alternative violates all known conventions on people's right to life and to housing. Besides, the corrupt FCDA officials apply double standard in determining "illegal structures" even in areas they have not provided infrastructure. It is known, for instance, that the seat of the federal government, Aso Villa, is an illegal structure, as are the Federal Secretariat Complex, Eagle Square and the ECOWAS building. Why has FCDA not thought of demolishing these structures? Its practice of revoking lands and re-allocating them to the powerful is a crime against humanity.

The FCT Administration should be stopped from doing further damage. Until a court orders the demolition of any structure, it has no right to roll out the bulldozers. In view of the monumental crimes already committed by the FCDA and its officials, a thorough cleansing of the government agency is imperative. In the meantime, the federal government should pay compensations to all those who lost their homes in Minanuel Estate as well as in other places where the FCDA has violated the people's right to housing. Laws are made for human beings, not the other way round; in the FCT nobody even knows the law.

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