Leadership (Abuja)

12 February 2013

Nigeria: Probe Dirty Land Deals in FCT

editorial

Anyone who does not fully understand the involvement of civil servants in land racketeering in Abuja needs to hear the story of residents of Saraha Pro-form Estate. The estate comprising 200 completed and furnished duplexes at Plot 67, Kafe District, Gwarinpa, according to the owners, is worth N160 billion, yet the Department of Development Control (DDC) in the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) is plotting to demolish them. The DDC led by Yahaya Yusuf is said to be under pressure from Winning Clause Limited, a new company laying claim to the plot.

Between 2009 and 2012 when the residents bought their property, Pro-Form West Africa Limited was the rightful owner of the plot. It was not until November 2012 that "Winning Clause" emerged! Though it is suspected that the actual promoters of Winning Clause are top civil servants, their fronts were the ones that went to paste quit notices on buildings in the estate. The only thing that could save the houses from being demolished was for every house owner to agree to pay N15 million to Winning Clause Limited, the residents were told.

Is it possible for the Land Department in the FCTA to revoke a plot of land housing 200 duplexes and reallocate it to another firm? The Mass Housing Department - the highest regulating unit on mass housing estates in the FCT -- has said that the new group laying claim to the plot neither applied nor got land for mass housing estate. How did the name of Winning Clause emerge on the computers of the Abuja Geographic Information Systems (AGIS) as the new owner, even though the company did not submit an application for mass housing land at the Mass Housing Department of the FCT?

Yusuf of the DDC has claimed that Pro-Form West Africa Limited did not get building plan approval before the residents started building houses. But the frustration of developers in Abuja is known to all. Bribes are freely sought in the DDC, just as in AGIS, and many developers have waited for three to five years without getting approval of their building plans. Files are often missing or being altered. When some DDC officials make marks like "STOP WORK" or "DEMOLISH" on buildings under construction, it is usually to attract more bribes.

FCT minister Bala Mohammed and the anti-corruption agencies should investigate the dirty deals going on in the FCTA. The DDC should stop its consistent illegalities in Abuja. The stench from land allocations in Abuja is becoming unbearable. Just a few months ago, 500 housing units in Minanuel Estate were demolished by the DDC; the place has now been reallocated to senators, members of the House of Representatives and senior staff members of the presidency. Abuja is not reserved for senior government officials and some privileged members of the society alone. This nonsense must stop.

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