El Rufai: Witness says PHCN voluntarily gave up contentious plot

Nasir El Rufai

A witness in the ongoing trial of the former minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Nasir El-Rufai, says the controversial plot for which the EFCC is trying the former minister was given up by Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN).

The EFCC had arraigned Mr. El-Rufai on an eight-count charge of fraudulent allocation of land and abuse of public office. The EFCC says the former minister fraudulently took the property from PHCN and allocated it to members of his family.

“The PHCN gave up most of the Asokoro plot that was later reallocated,” the prosecution witness said in an Abuja High Court Wednesday. Mohammed Alhassan told the courts that the PHCN confirmed to the FCT authorities that it no longer needed a corridor for a 330kva line.

Under cross-examination by Akin Olujimi, counsel to Mr. El Rufai, the witness, the former Executive Secretary of the Federal Capital Development Authrity (FCDA), confirmed that he wrote Exhibits 5A and 5B dated 27 February 2006 and 28 May 2006, respectively to advise the minister on the PHCN matter.

Mr. Alhassan, who is the first Prosecution Witness (PW1), read Exhibit 5A wherein he wrote that PHCN had confirmed that it no longer required a 330kva corridor at the site.

Mr. Alhassan further said that based on this, he requested the minister to direct Abuja Geographic Information System (AGIS) to reverse the earlier decision to revoke affected plots and to restore the previous allocations to individuals.
Mr. Alhassan said he further confirmed to the minister what corridor width was required for the 132kva line that PHCN indicated it wanted. He read Exhibit 5b where he confirmed PHCN’s requirement for a minimum 30m corridor.



Adebayo Adelodun, for the prosecution, in his re-examination asked for Exhibit 4 which was admitted in evidence in December 2011., asking whose approval was conveyed in it. Mr. Alhassan said it conveyed the approval of the Department of Planning which purports to vest title to the said plot in the PHCN. Adding that letter was written in the interregnum between the erstwhile minister and the assumption of office of Mr. El Rufai.

PW1 also identified the land use plan for the affected area, and it was admitted as Exhibit 6.
The prosecution also called its second witness, Idowu Sunday, an inspector of police, who was formerly with the EFCC. Mr. Idowu said the matter began when a petition was forwarded to the EFCC by the office of the Attorney-General, and a team was assigned to investigate it. Messrs Sunday and Alhassan showed the team a memo where he advised against irregular conversion, based on a letter received from Julius Berger.
At AGIS, the team discovered the title deeds for the new allottees of Plot 1201, including the two wives of El Rufai. He told the court that allocation were also made to a company where a longstanding friend of El Rufai’s is a director and that one of the plots assigned to his wives was listed in El Rufai’s assets declaration form.
Mr. Agabi asked the second prosecution witness if he is aware that Nigerian law requires a public officer to declare assets owned by his wife and children under age 18. Mr Sunday said he was not sure.
Regarding the undated subpoena for the survey plan of Plot 415, Central Area District, Mr. Abari said a surveyor has been detailed to attend to it. The surveyor , Isaac Oyibo, told the court that the site plan cannot be produced because it the plot has been revoked from NEPA, a public utility; and the digital FCT system is programmed not to produce site plans for revoked plots. He however produced the manual site plan, and

Mr. Olujimi told him that is what the defence wants, and all he needs is for it to be certified. Mr. Abari agreed to take it back and certify it within three weeks. The court obliged the FCT three weeks to conclude the search for documents and certify the site plan.
The case was adjourned to 25 April 2012.

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