2 December 2012

Nigeria: Church, Estate Firm Fight for Abuja Land

A prominent real estate firm in Abuja, EL-ROI Homes, is presently at loggerheads with the Mountain of Fire and Miracle Ministries (MFM) over what it termed the encroachment on its land in Gwagwalada area of the capital city. The land forms part of the 43.50 hectares of plots on which the church is expected to build its "Miracle" city.

Jonathan Aigboje, the chief executive of EL-ROI Homes, said he had tried to notify the church of its encroachment into his firm's land, but that his efforts have been unsuccessful. He said about 6.5 hectares of land that he was allocated by the Gwagwalada area council has been subsumed into the church's expansive land while a fence has been erected by the church over large swathes of his land to dissuade his firm from gaining access to the land.

"We were allocated the plot of land, No ED 998A, of about 6.5 hectares located at CKC Layout after a successful application in April 2001.

"Consequent upon the said conveyance of provisional approval, we made all the necessary payments and the certificate of occupancy was issued to us covering the entire land. But in August 2013 we suddenly found out that the church had encroached into the land claiming that the 6.5 hectares belonging to us was part of their allotted land via another conveyance of approval dated 14th December 2001 exactly 8 months after ours. We subsequently served a notice to them through our legal department asking them for a meeting where the issues of ownership of the land could be resolved," he said.

"We agreed to meet on the 17th of September to iron out issues. But suddenly the solicitor to the church told us that the meeting could not hold as the church building committee were involved in a series of meetings.

"Since then all efforts to see the church leadership especially the regional pastor who were told could help intervene has not been fruitful. We have written two different letters to them too both of which have not been responded to. As at now no one seems to be concerned about the issue. The church has continued to work on the land even as all efforts to resolve the issue amicably has been snubbed. Till date we have not seen the said papers allocating the land to them while we have made our own copies of papers available to them," he added.

In his reaction, the church's legal representative told Sunday Trust that the church was not encroaching on anyone's land as being speculated.

Barrister Olanipekun said: "All the issues being raised have been discussed extensively between a team comprising church officials and another raised by the complainants. At the meeting we showed them the documents in our possession and asked them to show us theirs. This they promised to do but are yet to do just that. We even gave them the benefit of the doubt by agreeing to fix another meeting for the first week in December where all the issues will be further deliberated on. But we are surprised that they have decided to embark on public show of eliciting public sympathy when all the issues are quite clear.

"For records purposes let me say categorically that the MFM is not encroaching on anyone's lands. The chief complainant, El Roi Homes, has their land situated on a section of Gwagalada known as CKC Layout. The church is building a camp on a portion known as CKC Layout 'Extension.' These two areas are not connected in any way at all so there is no need for any controversy over ownership. Our advice for the complainant is to allow for dialogue," he said.

An effort to speak with the head of survey department Gwagwalada area council, Sunday Salami, was unsuccessful as he did not pick his calls. But a source said the council was aware of the crisis and would soon wade into the matter.

"Since both concerned organisations have papers claiming ownership to the said portion of land, the only solution then would be to have a meeting where the issues will be extensively discussed and a solution proffered. But both sides have to agree to meet first," he said.

The senior regional pastor of the church was said to have travelled out of town when Sunday Trust visited the church regional office in Utako but an aide, Pastor Lawrence, declined comments on the issue.

However, the legal counsel to El Roi Homes, Barrister Agama, in an interview with Sunday Trust noted that the company may be forced to toe the legal path soon "if all entreaties to the church continues to be rebuffed."

The firm's chief executive, though, still expresses hope for a peaceful settlement.

"What I want is simple. Since it is a Christian project that the land is all about for them, let them have it but they need to do the right thing since Christian faith preaches peace and love. Let them compensate me for the land. I am willing to purchase another land with the money they pay for it so that all the parties involved will have a sense of fulfilment," Mr Aigboje said.

"I am not a trouble-maker by nature but I always decry any form of injustice whatsoever especially when it is directed towards me. I want to believe that the church will be willing to toe the path of fairness and justice which the faith represents," he added.

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