By Malachy Uzendu
With putting into effect Order No 1 of 2004, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) under the Ministry of Federal Capital Territory (MFCT), decentralised the pioneer structure of FCT administration to include the Abuja Geographic Information Systems (AGIS). The order bestowed on AGIS the responsibility for the generation, management and administration of geospatial and land-related matters. Relatedly, the FCT land Administration Department, which was de-merged from AGIS in 2008 was given the primary mandate to allocate land, issue Certificates of Occupancy, provide secretariat for the Land Use and Allocation Committee, among other ancillary duties.
A visit to the Area Eleven office complex of AGIS and the Department of Land Administration would reveal they are busy set of offices, with ‘customers’ carrying out transaction in their numbers. In terms of organisation, any first time visitor will observe the discipline, comportment and high level courtesy among the staff members. Their services are handled on the basis of first-come, first-served basis, as the procedure is fully automated with the ICT platforms announcing and displaying the customer number whose turn it is to proceed to the Front Desk area for business.
Even with the seeming seamless procedure, there is a snag somewhere which has elicited questions from several FCT residents. One of such is: How long does it take for land applications to be processed? And that is the big question!
From my findings, there are several applicants whose land applications have been gathering dust on the shelf, unattended to for upward of over 15 years. Aside from the initial acknowledgment such applicants received upon submission of the required documents attached to the land application, nothing more was heard from AGIS, Land Administration Department or the Minister of FCT regarding the issue. Conversely, there are privileged few who had received land allocation several times over, providing the tangible proof of the allegory in the “Animal Farm” written by George Orwell on 17th August, 1947 that “all animals are equal, but some are more equal than the others”.
Apart from the period Mallam Nasir el-Rufai took charge as the Minister of the FCT, when he cleared pending land allocation issues, signed all pending C-of-Os, conducted recertification of land titles and set up AGIS, everything about land allocation in FCT have reversed to depthless mess and are being treated as if it were securing the Presidential Villa or revealing the itinerary of a VIP. The processes have become so terribly basterdised so much so that applicants have no means of following up on their land applications, condescending some of such applications to remain on one spot for several years, whereas some other peoples’ applications move at the speed of lightening.
One good thing which el-Rufai did and which needs to be replicated was that he advertised every single land allocation, as well as every C-of-O that was signed, so as to enable the beneficiaries come forward and collect their documents. But, in the past six years, this has not been the case. I understand that the current Minister, Bala Mohammed, is so miserly when it comes to spending money that he hardly approves any expenditure, especially monies for advertisements and media related issues, because he always seems to find it difficult to appreciate why such expenses should be made! Mohammed equally finds it difficult to approve the release of money for bulk Short Messages (SMS), to be sent to beneficiaries of any land issue, expecting such people to be clairvoyant. And this has again fuelled land speculations, which seem to have died in FCT.
Another area of worry bothers on the fate of Nigerians who obtained land allocation from the Area Councils, especially from the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC). People who got land allocation at Kuruduma Layout, near Asokoro Extension from AMAC and had paid the mandatory N5.000 to AGIS for recertification of such allocation since 2005/2006, are yet to receive any further feedback from the agency.
Infact, it was gathered that the FCT Minister had re-allocated the land to presumed higher mortal Nigerians. The deprived persons had informed me that they were told upon enquiries at the FCT Land Administration Department that such allocations had been revoked, the only alternative left to them being to apply for re-allocation of land at another location; certainly not a location considered as choice as the Kuruduma Layout – a case of different strokes…!
It is disturbing that FCT administration took such decisions, to revoke land allocations, without even a modicum of the courtesy of informing such persons that they have lost their land. From my findings, every land allottee has his or her personal data and information stored in the data bank at AGIS, which could be accesses on the press of the finger.
So, why was it difficult for the FCT administration to even now inform such divested allottees, since government took that ungodly decision to retrieve somebody else’s land and hand over to another person considered to be a far greater animal than the original allottee. It seems the the nation’s jurisprudence which spelt out that government can only revoke somebody else’s land only and just in overriding public interest, do not apply in FCT; it seems FCT is a jungle where anything can happen or so it seems! Or does divesting someone of his residential plot for another person for same purpose, amount to doing so in overriding public interest? Those people who were later allocted the Kuruduma Layout plots, were they given such plots based on such public interest parameter?
While I do not intend to accuse the FCT Minister of slip-shod attitude on this issue, it is advised that he should have more than a passing interest in land use and allocation matters. I would recommend that he revisits the issue of Kuruduma Layout and similar allocations, particularly those made by the Area Councils.
If he is satisfied justice were served in the cancellation of such allocations, in preference for new allotees, then courtesy demands he should formally notify affected persons and compensate them appropriately without any further ado. Leaving such matters to wallow in perpetuity is corruption, which this administration frowns at. It violates the human rights of the victims and pricks equity and justice. It is immoral to do so, and I am convinced that the Bala Mohammed, I saw take certain critical actions when it mattered, will not allow this injustice remain in perpetuity.