A witness brought in by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in the on-going case against Nasir El-Rufai, the former minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), appears to have weakened the prosecutor’s case by inadvertently admitting that the former minister had the powers to revoke and allocate land in the FCT.
The EFCC had brought up an eight-count charge against Mr. El-Rufai for land allocation and revocation.
Mohammed Alhassan, the former Executive Secretary of the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA), told an Abuja High Court that the power to allocate and revoke land in the FCT is vested in the minister. He also told the court that the controversial Plot 1201, Asokoro, Abuja, was allocated to the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), but conceded that he had not seen the document vesting the PHCN with the title to the plot.
Mr. Alhassan also strengthened the case for the defense when he admitted that his daughter also received a piece of the controversial plot even though the EFCC has charged Mr. El-Rufai to court for allegedly allocating portions of the plot to members of his family. He confirmed that his daughter was allocated a plot within the now contentious Plot 1201, Asokoro, but said she followed the procedures for applying for land, and that these procedures apply to all Nigerians who are entitled to land in Abuja, including the accused persons and their relations.
A press statement by Mr. El-Rufai’s media advisor, Muyiwa Adekeye, made available to the press in Abbuja also stated that, Mr. Alhassan, under cross examination, admitted conveying the allocation of the plot to the PHCN via a letter in July 2003 which did not have a date. He also told the court he did not have the power to allocate land, and was unable to show any approval by any minister allocating the plot to PHCN.
Mr. Alhassan told the court that he received a letter from Julius Berger about the change in the use of the plot in January 2007, which he forwarded to the minister at the time (Mr. El-Rufai), but that the minister queried him through a memo. Asked if it was the first time that an FCT administration had changed the use of a plot of land, and if anybody had ever faced trial for that, he answered in the negative.
Counsel to the third accused, Kanu Agabi, (SAN) also questioned the witness on the terms of allocation of land in the FCT. Mr. Alhassan responded by saying that all titles have to be registered and that plots allocated to public agencies must not only be registered in compliance with the Land Registration Act, but cannot be left unused indefinitely.
Akin Olujimi, SAN, counsel to Mr. El-Rufai, also cross examined Mr. Alhassan after which he addressed the court by stating that the criteria approved by the Federal Executive Council for the allocation of land in Abuja included among others, 20 percent discretion for the minister of the FCT.
Mr. Olujimi further reminded the court that the current minister of the FCT has not complied with the subpoena to produce certified copies of some official documents.
The case was adjourned to February 15, 2012, for the FCT minister to comply and produce certified true copies of some memos written to Mr. El-Rufai by Mr. Alhassan which the defence intends to tender as exhibits.