Thursday, April 17, 2014

Senators, Reps grab Abuja land as FCDA demolishes homes owned by ordinary Nigerians

Published:

At least 500 of the 2, 000 plots of land at the Minanuel Estates, Gosa, has been allocated to lawmakers

The Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Bala Mohammed, in a clandestine deal, approved the allocation of choice lands in Gosa, on Abuja airport road to lawmakers.

However, before Mr. Mohammed’s appointment as Abuja Minister, the Abuja Municipal Area Council, AMAC, had in 2004 sold the land to some Nigerians who were intent on developing residential estates for the thousands of residents of the Nigerian capital.

The AMAC is one of the six local councils in Abuja and covers the main city centre.

In other to ensure that the lawmakers, some former colleagues of Mr. Mohammed at the Senate, do not lose the land, something would have to give in. The present owners would have to be evacuated.

The Abuja administration told the present owners of hundreds of buildings in Gosa that they purchased their land from a wrong government.

The AMAC, which sold the land to them had no right to the land, the Federal Capital Development Authority, FCDA, told the estate developers. Neither would they be given the option of normalizing their land titles with the FCDA. They just have to leave.

The demolition

PREMIUM TIMES had reported how the FCDA, demolished over 300 houses at Minanuel Estates in Gosa. The houses, estimated at over N1billion were demolished on the orders of the Abuja Minister

Multiple sources had told PREMIUM TIMES that the estate was demolished so that the land would be given to their new owners, the lawmakers. The FCDA insisted that even if the owners of the demolished buildings bought the land from AMAC, the area council had no right to have sold the land to them.

“If the lands are genuine from FCT Departments of Lands, then I assure you that such an estate will not be affected,” Josephine Mudashiru, spokesperson for the Development Control Department of the FCDA, said.

Mrs. Mudashiru would not comment on who the lands were re- allocated to.

We own part of the land

The confirmation of the lawmakers’ ownership of the land was made by the man who should know, the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Abuja, Emmanuel Jime.

At an interactive session with officials of the FCDA, AMAC, and estate developers, the owners of Minanuel Estate complained of unfair treatment by the Abuja administration, since they did buy the land from a tier of government. Through their lawyer, Nwoke John-Kalu, the property owners asked for the lawmakers’ intervention.

Many of the lawmakers would have none of it, afterall they were going to become the new owners of the land.

“Since you (the owner of the estate) have told us that you did not get your papers from the Development Control Office, and AMAC has said that it did not have the authority to give approval for construction of estates, it means your documents are fake,” Smart Adeyemi, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Abuja, said.

The land owners insist that the receipts and other land documents they got from AMAC are genuine. They said the area council, which still sells some part of Abuja land, never told them it had no powers to sell the land.

The representative of the FCDA, Hamza Madaki, told the committee that the developer had been given several warnings to stop work on the site but ignored them and went ahead to build. Mr. Madaki said the developer was doing so on the grounds that when completed, the authority would not demolish the estate on sympathy grounds.

Mr. Jime, trying to absolve lawmakers of any complicity said they got less than 20 per cent of the land. Out of the 3,000 plots available on the estate, only 500 were allocated to members of the National Assembly, Mr. Jime said.

There are 469 lawmakers (109 senators and 360 representatives); many of them, including Mr. Adeyemi, had also gotten choice plots of land in Abuja previously.

But the lands at Gosa are not to be let go.

Mr. Adeyemi and Mr. Jime, like Mr. Mohammed, may belong to the same party, the Peoples Democratic Party, but the land was shared to virtually all the lawmakers including members of opposition parties.

The Chairman House Committee on Information, Zakari Mohammed, said the lawmakers were given the land after individual applications.

He denied that the lawmakers influenced their choice of land or were aware of the controversy over the Gosa lands before they were given.

“It is not our choice were we are given,” Mr. Mohammed, who admitted owning other lands in the Abuja, said.

Temper justice with mercy

One of the lawmakers at the meeting asked the FCDA to temper justice with mercy. Eyinnaya Abaribe (PDP-Abia) appealed to the committee to do all that was within its power to ensure that the victims of the demolished houses were given some kind of relief.

It is not yet clear if any relief would be given to the owners of the demolished estate. The owners however say they would approach the court.

But just as the lawmakers were justifying the demolition of the Minanuel estate in Gosa, they asked the FCDA to halt its planned demolition of 37 other estates.

Mr. Adeyemi said the lawmakers needed to consult widely with all the relevant stakeholders before reaching a conclusion on the matter of the 37 other estates.

However, Mr. Adeyemi has concluded on the Gosa land, part of which will now belong to lawmakers.

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