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Wednesday, 25 July 2012


Abuja is a conundrum wrapped carefully in indescribable mystery. Abuja land is even more complex to understand which explains why many people are in the race of their lives for a piece of the action. Abuja landed assets are as valuable as diamonds.

From 1975 when the then General Muritallah Mohammed-led military Junta mooted the innovative idea that Nigeria’s political capital has to be centralized and the team of wise men led by Justice Akintola Aguda recommended Abuja as the most centralized seat of power, right until the dictator General Ibrahim Badamasi political cum military contraption known as Armed Forces Ruling Council (AFRC) transferred Nigeria’s seat of power in 1992, Abuja land was not hot cakes.
But soon after the relocation that was ordered by the General Babangida’s-led military Junta in 1992, an unrelenting regime of land grabs, land speculations and the primitive acquisition of Abuja land became the cynosure of all eyes by the political and business elite who have consistently used their connection to the powers-that-be to grab as much landed assets in Abuja as the human mind can imagine.
The contest of who grabs the biggest Abuja land and the near-satanic disposition of rich clients to pay outrageous fees for these landed assets in Abuja is the underlying reason that the race for the position of minister of Federal Capital Territory has become a race for life, a do-or-die affair and has indeed become the exclusive preserve of a section of the country.
Land in Abuja is intricately and inherently linked with the office of the minister of the Federal Capital Territory so much so that whoever becomes the minister of Abuja usually transmute into an emperor overnight who does the bidding of his/her appointing authority-the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Section 302 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) provides that; “The President may, in exercise of the powers conferred upon him by section 147 of this constitution, appoint for the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja a minister who shall exercise such powers and perform such functions as may be delegated to him by the President, from time to time”.

Conversely, section 297 subsection (2) provides that; “The ownership of all lands comprised in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja shall vest in the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”.
This provision perhaps became imperative since Abuja does not operate as a state within the federating units of Nigeria and therefore not covered by the general provisions of the land use Act of 1978.

Section 2 (a) and (b) of the Land Use Act provide that; “all land shall, subject to this Act, be under the control and management of the Governor of each State” and (b) “all other land shall, subject to the Act, be under the control and management of the local Government within the area of jurisdiction of which the land is situated”.
In discussing matters related to land ownership, Abuja is a very interesting case study in that the authority to allocate landed assets lies with the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria who is like the ‘Governor’ of the Federal Capital Territory but the president delegates this awesome power to his handpicked choice cabinet member clothed with the power and office of the minister of the Federal Capital Territory.

But what has always happened is that whoever is the minister of the Federal Capital Territory often embarks on the adventurous journeys of appeasement and patronage through generous allocation of choice landed assets to wives of political office holders beginning with the wife of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria who [the President of Nigeria] in the first place is the appointing authority of the minister of the Federal Capital Territory.
The race for choice landed assets by wives of political office holders in Abuja is what further complicates the intrigues and machinations that characterize the administration of land and has therefore made the process to be totally lacking in transparency, accountability and zero-tolerance to corruption. Land allocation regime in Abuja has become criminally opaque.

During the Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration, the then minister of the Federal Capital Territory Malam Nassir El’Ruffai claimed that he was concerned about restructuring and reforming the process of land administration in Abuja began the process of digitalizing land ownership under the office of the Abuja Geographical Information System (AGIS). But this bold land reform which in paper was aimed at institutionalizing efficient land markets and effective land use management was seemingly deformed by the operators who also feasted on the insatiable quest for primitive acquisition of choice landed assets by wives of political office holders, their cronies and patrons.
Soon After the then Abuja minister left office, he (El’Ruffai) was indicted by the Senate of the Federal Republic for alleged land-related racketeering and fraudulent allocation to even his two year-old son and was banned from holding public office for ten years. He has instituted a litigation to challenge this far- reaching decision of the National Assembly.

Other ministers of Abuja after Malam Nassir El’Ruffai did not fare well as they quickly settled down into the business –as- usual rush for Abuja landed assets. The minister of Abuja under the late President Umaru Musa Yar’adua, Senator Adamu Aliero will go down in history as one man who distributed Abuja choice landed assets allegedly to his cronies and the then first lady Mrs. Turai Umaru Musa Yar’adua who is now engrossed in a celebrated land-ownership litigation with the current wife of the President Mrs. Patience Goodluck Jonathan.
Mrs. Jonathan was said to have benefitted from a land allocation by the current minister of Abuja Senator Bala Mohammed but this time around the minister allegedly appropriated the land already allocated to the former first lady so as to allegedly appease the current first lady.

The current Abuja minister reportedly revoked a choice landed asset hitherto awarded by his predecessor to the former first lady Mrs. Yar’adua and re-awarded same to the wife of the current President. But Mrs. Turai rushed to the court for judicial remedy.
On Tuesday July 24th 2012 when hearing in the land litigation came up at the Abuja High Court presided over by Justice Peter Affen, the Federal Government stepped into the personal land litigation involving the former and current first ladies and informed the court that Government would waste tax payers’ money to resolve the matter out of court.

Media report of the pending litigation over Abuja land by the two amazons showed that the dispute arose when the land duly allocated to Mrs. Turai by the then Abuja minister under her late husband for the purposes of running her non-governmental organization-Women and Youth Empowerment Foundation (WAYE) was revoked and re-awarded to the wife of the current President by the Abuja minister who is a handpicked cabinet member of her husband- the President.                          
From the above scenario, one is left with no choice but to conclude that Abuja land grab has become a festering sore.

In May of this year, media report quoted the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt practices and other related offences (ICPC) as saying that the process of land administration in Abuja is full of corrupt practices and that both anti-graft bodies would probe Abuja land administration process.
The Chairman of the EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde, and his ICPC counterpart, Mr. Ekpo Nta, said the probe had become necessary following the dubious sale of land in the Federal Capital Territory.

Lamorde said the fraud in land acquisition in Abuja was such that people laying claim to a parcel of land would produce two original Certificates of Occupancy for the same land.
A statement by the EFCC’s acting Head of Media and Public Relations, Mr. Wilson Uwujanren, quoted Lamorde as saying this while speaking at the public presentation of a report entitled ‘Systems Study on the Federal Capital Territory Land Administration and Documentary on Grassroots Involvement with Budget Process in Abuja.

The report was sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme.
He said, “If there are areas that have become interesting to visit and where fraud is being perpetuated, it is land administration in the FCT.

“It is in the FCT that people brandish supposed originals of the Certificate of Occupancy of plots of land and other people still come and contest it with the original certificate.”
The ICPC chairman in his own presentation stated thus; “Land plays a very critical role in our private lives and national development.  High propensity for corrupt practices in land administration if left unchecked can lead to frustrations, demolitions, civil strife and deaths”.

The unbridled quest for land ownership in Abuja can be located in the well considered report published in which says that the value of land is elastic and significantly unquantifiable.
The study revealed that; “A landowner is also a person with labor power. He or she can earn income like any worker. Landownership gives income above that, which gives discretionary spending or waiting power. In contrast with capital, land has the greater waiting power because over time capital depreciates, while land appreciates…”

There are many interesting proverbs in Igbo language that demonstrate the symbolism of land but two are apt and they are; “Agbara aka n’azo ana onye ji ji ana akonye” (If you embark on land tussle without financial muscle, he who has the cash would win); “Achowa ihe gbasara ana ajuo Okenye” (the best repository of land wisdom is the elder).
As can be seen, land is indeed a big deal but the criminality, greed, and official indiscretion that surround land administration in Abuja must be checked so that the poor citizens are not always the victims since they would be incapacitated and unable to ever acquire Abuja land legitimately.

Government and the National Assembly must take up the historic challenge of amending the Land Use Act of 1978 to collaterise land ownership in the rural areas so that local farmers can use such land titles to benefit from financial lifelines and credit lines available in the Banking institutions to expand their economic activities.
This festering sore of corrupt land allocation in Abuja must be confronted frontally and defeated.

*   Emmanuel Onwubiko, Head, HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS’ ASSOCIATION OF    NIGERIA blogs at 



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