Demolition of N10bn Abuja estate causes ripples

The demolition of a 500-unit housing estate built by a private developer in the Federal Capital Territory by government agents has stirred controversies, AKINPELU DADA and FRIDAY OLOKOR write

The demolition of a 500-unit housing estate in Abuja by the Development Control Department of the Federal Capital Development Administration is causing ripples and has pitted private developers against some government officials.

Officials of the FCTA and some members of the Senate Committee on the FCT allegedly stormed the Minanuel Estate, Lugbe Extension 1, along the Airport Road, to carry out the demolition allegedly under instructions from the Minister of the FCT, Senator Bala Mohammed.

The monumental loss to the developers and residents of the estate has set tongues wagging, with the Real Estate Developers Association of Nigeria and other stakeholders calling for the sacking of the minister and payment of adequate compensation to all those affected by the demolition.

The stakeholders on Wednesday expressed shock at the demolition of the estate, whose worth they put at about N10bn, while the developer is exploring the possibility of instituting a legal action against the FCDA.

The estate was developed by Minanuel Investment Limited for low income workers and other individuals in line with the National Housing Policy.

According to the firm, the land on which the demolished estate was built was acquired genuinely from the FCDA in 2010 and all documents related to the land and buildings were obtained from the appropriate agencies of government.

The company said, “As at the time of the absurd and unwholesome demolition of the 500 housing units, over 341 Nigerian workers and other low income earners have been allocated houses in the estate.

“Ironically, all the beneficiaries have their allocations approved and the buildings have reached advanced stages before this dastardly demolition exercise. The demolition started on Saturday, September 29, 2012 amid tight security provided by stern-looking mobile policemen. The operation, which lasted for three days, saw the entire estate brought to the ground.”

Giving a background to the demolition exercise, the spokesman for Minanuel Investment Limited, Mr. Chukwuma Ogbuagu, in a statement made available to one of our correspondents on Friday, said few days to the demolition, the Chairman, Senate Committee on FCT, Smart Adeyemi, allegedly accused the developer in a radio broadcast programme of trespassing into the land allocated to senators and called on the firm to liaise with the appropriate authorities.

“But surprisingly, the bulldozers came calling two days after Senator Adeyemi raised the issue of trespassing,” added Ogbuagu.

On Tuesday, October 2, 2012, after the demolition, the Director, Abuja Metropolitan Management Council, Mr. Yahaya Yusuf, reportedly said during a press conference that some estate developers built houses along the road with backdated allocation documents in spite of the notices issued to them.

“To put the record straight and evidently too, Minanuel Estate was not built along the road and its allocation documents not backdated. With the two contradicting statements from Senator Smart Adeyemi and Mr. Yahaya Yusuf of AMMC, one suspects a foul play in the demolition exercise,” Ogbuagu said.

He also faulted Yahaya’s claim that the demolition affected estates belonging to the Nigerian Prisons Service, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps and Liberty Estate, as no other estate apart from Minanuel Estate was touched.

He said, “At worst, the FCT minister was expected to have toed the path of caution, considering the huge investments in the neighbourhood of N10bn and the psychological effect of the demolition on Nigerians, who have acquired the houses and choose to dialogue or engage in consultation. But the minister threw to the winds all caution and the multiplier effects of his action.

“The estate developer also refutes the obnoxious claim of Yahaya that the Real Estate Developers Association of Nigeria was carried along on the demolition. Minanuel Limited, as a prominent member of REDAN, had no prior notice to the demolition exercise. As a law-abiding organisation, the company would not have gone ahead to develop an estate that cost over N10bn on an illegal land.”

The Chairperson, REDAN, FCT chapter, Mrs. Binta Ibrahim, who spoke with journalists at the site on Wednesday, described the demolition as an economic waste, stressing that it would not in any way help the transformation agenda of the present administration.

She said the demolished houses, which had reached over 80 per cent completion, were to be handed over to the beneficiaries by the end of this month.

Ibrahim wondered how the country could effectively address the issue of unemployment, youth restiveness and insecurity when people were being laid off through the demolition exercise.

She said, “This is total economic waste. We want to appeal to the government, particularly the Development Control of the FCDA, that the present executive in FCT REDAN is ready for discussion. We are supposed to be partners in progress. The level of waste we are witnessing here today will definitely not help the transformation agenda of Mr. President. You cannot achieve economic stability with this kind of wastage. The number of workers that will be laid off as a result of this demolition, I am sure, will be more than 1,000.

“We are talking about peace, about security. I want to advise my members today that they should step down every development anywhere in the FCT so that we will not go back to square one.

A consultant to Minanuel Investments, Mr. Festus Adebayo, said that the estate was dully acquired with valid documents.

He said, “The company set out and acquired the Minanuel Estate land from Messrs NCR & Associates in 2004. The papers and other documents to support the development are valid, free from all encumbrances before and after the company took possession of the land.

“It is sad and provocative that, without warning or notice to us, these houses built with contributors’ money and bank loans could be demolished in one swoop in a country with over 18 million housing deficit.”

The Head of Legal Department, Minanuel Investments, Mr. Nwoke Kalu, explained that there was no prior notice before the government decided to carry out the demolition.

“As we are gathering here today, I can categorically state that we were not issued any notice. If they are saying they do, we are asking them to come up with the notices,” he said.

Kalu deplored the haste at which the destruction was carried out; explaining that, by that singular action, the hope of owing befitting houses by some people had been dashed.

Condemning the demolition, the President, Association of Property Agents of Nigeria, Mr. K. M. Chile, described it as man’s inhumanity to fellow men and alleged ethnic undertone to the exercise.

“There were other options if there was any conflict in the ownership of the land; there is a tribunal set up for that purpose, the courts are also there and all these options were not exhausted before the callous destruction of an indigenous investment valued at over N10bn,” he said.

Officials of the FCDA declined to comment on the development when approached by one of our correspondents, while calls to Adeyemi’s telephone number were unanswered.

However, a member of the Senate Committee on the FCT, who spoke under the condition of anonymity, said if the developer could come up with evidences of legal acquisition of the land, adequate compensation should be paid by FCT Administration.

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