30 January 2013

Nigeria: Checking Demolition of Houses in FCT

The reason usually adduced by the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) for the houses' demolition is that the property owners failed to follow the due process while putting up the structures.

Two major demolitions that took place in 2012 are those of Mpape and Minanuel Estate on Airport Road.

Although the planned demolition of Mpape was put on hold because of some court injunctions, over 500 housing units were, however, demolished at Minanuel Estate.

The demolition of houses at the Minanuel Estate is also facing litigation, as the property developer, Mr Emmanuel Mbaka, and some persons dragged the FCT Administration (FCTA) to court over the matter.

One of the litigants, Mr Festus Adebayo, said that several people had bought houses in the estate, adding that they were expected to occupy their houses before the end of 2012.

He said that before the demolition, the affected property owners "appeared before the National Assembly, together with development control officials and other stakeholders to deliberate on the issue."

Adebayo argued that the due process was not followed in the demolition of the houses.

However, Dr Yahaya Yusuf, the Director of FCTA's Department of Development Control, insisted said that the estate was demolished because the houses were built on illegal plots.

He stressed that the developer's document was Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) allocation document, which was supposed to have elapsed in 2006.

"In 2004, Malam Nasir el-Rufai, the former Minister of FCT, stopped AMAC from allocating land to people.

"Two years' grace was given to those with AMAC documents to erect structures on their plots or else their allocation would be revoked.

"But some private developers are going about with AMAC title documents and building plans backdated to 2004," Yusuf said.

Speaking on the demolitions, FCT Minister Bala Mohammed said that more than 124,000 houses had been demolished across the territory since his assumption of office in 2010.

He noted that that previous FCT administrations also demolished about 30,000 houses, adding: "We are doing this to get the Abuja Master Plan correctly, we are demolishing and we will continue to demolish illegal structures.

"The demolition of illegal structures has become imperative in order to maintain sanity in the city and restore the original master plan of the nation's capital," Mohammed added.

Those who made part payments for houses at the demolished Minanuel Estate are still bemoaning their misfortune.

One of them, Mr Jimoh Abubakar, said that the news of the houses' demolition came as a great shock to him, adding that it caused him sleepless nights and made him to develop high blood pressure.

Abubakar, a civil servant, said that he had already paid 30 per cent of the N15 million-price of a three-bedroom bungalow, as required in the conditions given by the estate developer when the houses were advertised.

"I was surprised to hear in the news after paying such huge amount, that the houses were built on illegal plots," he moaned.

Sharing similar sentiments, Mrs Janet Adewale, a business woman, stressed that the FCTA ought to have warned people about the official status of the estate on time so as to prevent them from buying houses there.

Adewale said that she obtained a loan of N12 million to pay for a bungalow in the estate.

"What will I do now to recoup my money? I am still paying back the loan I received from a cooperative society to buy the house and the developer is nowhere to be found," she whimpered.

Traditional rulers in Isuikwuato Local Government in Abia have appealed to President Goodluck Jonathan to intervene in the Minanuel Estate issue.

The appeal is contained in a letter signed by 25 traditional rulers from the area.

"Your government has not hidden its commitment to partner with the private sector in the quest to provide affordable houses for our people.

"It therefore, boggles the mind to comprehend a situation where an agency of government should be working at cross purposes with the policy of the government.

"All available records show that the developers applied for and obtained all necessary approval after due payment before it embarked on this project worth over N3 billion," the traditional rulers said in the letter.

Besides, members of Association of Building Artisans of Nigeria (ABAN) said that the demolition of the Minanuel Estate had impacted negatively on the families that paid for houses in the estate.

Mr Jimmy Oshinubi, the National President of ABAN, called on the government to resettle those affected by the demolition, while compensating the estate developer.

He also urged President Jonathan to strengthen the people's confidence in his administration by restructuring land administration in the FCT.

"All over the world, housing is used as a tool for poverty alleviation and economic empowerment.

"Every responsible government provides housing for its people; however, the situation in Nigeria today appears somehow different," Oshinubi said.

In spite of such comments, FCT residents urge the FCTA to ensure that all the property development processes within the territory strictly follow the Abuja Master Plan.

They, nonetheless, advise the administration to do all within its powers to check potential aberrations in the property development processes which may result in the demolition of structures which are already erected. (NAN)

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