The Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Senator Bala Mohammed, yesterday insisted that an additional 31 illegally built estates in Abuja would be demolished.
Mohammed, who made this declaration to the Senate Committee on the FCT during the 2013 budget defence, said the ministry had the backing of the nation's laws to demolish the illegal estates.
He said the move was aimed at putting a stop to the impunity of developers in the in the capital territory. The FCT authorities had demolished over 500 housing units in September amidst loud protests by those affected.
Nevertheless, but the minister has insisted that Mpape town, a sprawling Abuja suburb where construction firms had their quarries, would be demolished and the quarries relocated. He warned that the National Assembly would remain unsafe if the area was not demolished.
But the chairman of the committee, Senator Smart Adeyemi, warned that the demolition of the estates, without proper alternative measures, could pose a security threat in the FCT. He also wondered why the Development Control Unit did not stop the construction of the buildings until they reached roof level.
Smart asked: "What kind of alternative arrangement can you make possible for the people? The estate that was demolished along the airport, we discovered that some civil servants contributed to the construction of these buildings. It is not their making that those buildings were demolished. They were made to believe that the developer was handling the bank documents for the construction. Because while the building was on, your staff left them (the developers) and they almost got to roof level, now if you demolish the remaining 31 estates, how do you accommodate the poor people who would have lost everything."
In his response, the minister blamed the current situation on the gullible nature of Nigerians to estate developers and reiterated that his administration would not condone for the laws to be taken for granted.
According to him, "We cannot allow a situation or exercise of impunity or lawless. We are not going to condone this for any reason. You are putting a lot of sentiments as a politician. I am a civil servant; I work according to the law. These people have been told not to do it. Nigerians are gullible.
"Coming back to the 31 estate, unfortunately, when the FCT development programme was put in place, there was no guideline. We were supposed to have a timeline for delivery - for infrastructure and prototype, for people to know that this is what we are going to get within certain periods."
When questioned over the law guiding demolition, he retorted: "Which law? Which law are you asking? We have the responsibility to enforce the master plan. The Federal capital development Authority (FCDA) has a law and the Abuja master plan is not to be compromised.
"I have a law on demolishing. The law I said I don't have is the one the chairman asked on the issue of parking. But for demolition, I have the law and I don't even have to interfere with Development Control Law under the Land Use Act."
He, however, assured that "on affordable housing, we are coming with American investors as well as our own Abuja Property Development Company. We are going to build 1,000 hectares, so that we will bring housing for Nigerians who cannot afford them in high brow areas. We want to build structural and affordable houses. Those whose buildings will be demolished, we will make sure that there are alternatives for them."
The minister also stated that there is no law on illegal parking in the FCT, adding that the decision was taken administratively.
In his budget presentation, the minister put the total budget for the ministry in the 2013 at about N50 billion, with N2 billion earmarked to complete the vice president's residence at Aso Drive.
He added that the designing and construction of houses for the presiding officers in National Assembly would gulp N300 million. Furthermore, N5.6 billion was budgeted for water facilities and N500million for procurement of furnishing materials in the 2013 budget.
He gave the budget performance of the ministry as 99 percent, adding that the total payments made till date was about N31.7 billion while the balance N496 million was underway.
He said that N46 billion was appropriated for the FCT in the 2012 budget and that the FCT had received first, second , third and fourth quarter warrants, bringing the total amount released to N37 billion. He, however, said the FCT was still awaiting cash backing of the fourth quarter warrant.
Police, NEMA dispel Abuja Bomb Scare
Both the Nigeria Police Force and the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) yesterday dismissed rumours of a bomb explosion at a shopping complex in Lokogoma, a settlement in the Federal Capital Territory.
The Force Public Relations Officer, CSP Frank Mba, dismissed the rumour during an interaction with newsmen in Abuja, described the incident as false alarm. He said that no case of bomb explosion was reported in or around the FCT, but that investigations by security operatives had indicated that the incident was a mere fire outbreak.
According to Mba, "It is unfortunate that some people have gone to town to report that it was an explosion; it was a mere fire outbreak at a shopping complex in Lokogoma. Reports reaching us showed that the fire, triggered by an electrical fault, started from a laundry shop at the shopping complex.
"It was also said that part of the building was razed by the fire and the explosion. The big sound that caused the false alarm came from the compressor of the air conditioning system at the shop.
The police image maker further stated that no lives were lost in the incident, just as he urged residents of the territory to disregard the rumour and move on with their legitimate businesses, assuring them of the force's readiness to protect them and their property.
The police spokesman, however, advised property owners to always provide safety equipment in their buildings and to ensure strict adherence to safety precautions in order to avoid similar occurrences in future.
On its part, NEMA, through its spokes person, Yushau A. Shuaib, confirmed that no bomb went off in the capital territory yesterday, but that its attention was only drawn to a shop in Lokogoma area where a shop caught fire due to the mishandling of electric appliances.
He said rescue and security officers were at the scene immediately after the incident.