Abuja Land Scams And Clarion Calls On Buhari Government
Some land investors in the Federal Capital Territory are optimistic that the incoming administration of General Mohammed Buhari, retd, will have a lot to do in correcting what they call 'the heavy decay' in land administration in the FCT. According to them, the outgoing Jonathan administration had no pass mark in this regard as many investors in land business in the FCT were swindled, and exploited by the personnel of Abuja Geographical Information System and other allied agencies.
Nze Kanayo Chukwumezie, an industrialist and president of African Arts and Cultural Heritage Association, is among the victims of the land scam in the FCT. His efforts to replicate his tourism potentialities (which spanned over twenty-years in Belgium) in the FCT have been thwarted through land maladministration.
According to him, “Most investors regret venturing into land matters in the FCT. Some of us that invested in land are not finding it funny because those in government are using their positions to exploit and extort us. I have been a victim of this several times.”
He singled out AGIS as the soul of land scam in the FCT, and re-called some of the malpractices he had encountered. He said, “I have been saying this since 2011, and I won't stop because it is even getting worse. There is a case of Park 106 in Durumi District in the FCT. I did apply to the FCT minister, and it was recommended because I was invited by Parks and Recreation to defend my application. They set up a panel of five. They called me to defend my proposal. I met their requirements. After two years, I got the allocation. I was made to pay the required fees, which ran into a million plus. I finished paying, and the next thing was when they called for verification. I did mine. They asked me to get the site plan from AGIS. The story changed there. It was at AGIS that I was informed that the land had been given out to somebody else. I was shocked.”
Since then, he had resorted to court. He said before going to court, he wrote the minister of the FCT after his personal investigation revealed that the place was given to somebody to build a commercial estate, although it was until then allocated to him as a green area.
He also cited another land malpractice involving him: “There is a land I bought from an air vice marshal in Durumi District of Abuja. The seller later grew to be a director in the Air force. He told me the land was for military and paramilitary personnel. I did the search – AGIS told me that there were no encumbrances but it was not yet registered in their system. But they assured me there was no problem. I paid millions of naira. When I went to AGIS again to register for the power of attorney; that was where the story changed. They dribbled me severally before telling me that the file of my land was missing. I wrote a petition to the minister. I got the acknowledgement from the FCT minister. A few weeks later, my name was removed again. I learnt that my name was removed because it was not the 'big' men they allegedly programmed for the land. I have been in court since then. I investigated and found out that a director in AGIS is the one allocating the land to himself.”
The mastermind of these sharp practices, according to him, is AGIS. Ironically, AGIS was set up to correct land maladministration in the FCT. Nze Kanayo said, “Instead of correcting the anomalies, AGIS is compounding them. You can imagine where AGIS has in its system a commercial estate when it was meant for a green area. When I wrote the minister to reverse it, he did not. But when I went to the press, he went on air to announce that all green areas had been reversed by fiat. I ran to the same AGIS to check if mine was reversed and behold it was reversed, but was not given back to me. As I am talking to you now, somebody is developing that place. The land has been in fallow since 2011 when I went to court. But currently it is being developed despite that we are in court.”
It is against this backdrop that he is calling for probe of AGIS. In his words, “Buhari's slogan has been 'change', and I have always been an advocate of positive change. We want things to get better. I personally call for a thorough investigation of AGIS, and other similar agencies. These agencies should be subjected to a forensic test. The decay is too much, and I am just one out of the million victims. Thousands of Nigerians cannot sustain the cases I do. It is high time we told the incoming administration that investigating AGIS and land administration in the FCT is one of the directions it has to embark upon to correct the anomalies.”
Nze Chukwumezie berated the Jonathan administration for paying lip service to land administration throughout its tenure. He said, “I have written President Goodluck Jonathan on this matter many a time, and nothing came forth. For your information, there are thousands of people in Abuja being deprived of their lands by the officials of AGIS currently. Abuja land case is messy. I call on the Buhari administration to effect a change in AGIS immediately to save genuine investors.”
He said tourism is one area that government can earn foreign exchange if it is well managed: “I am the president of one of tourism associations in Africa. Culture and tourism are the bedrock of Nigeria's economy, aside oil. Government is not helping matters if this trend is not checkmated. Most Nigerians do not know anything about vacation. They only know green areas for vacation. So government should not gamble into converting green areas into commercial areas.”
Nze Chukwumezie said he lived overseas for over two decades, and had returned to Nigeria to invest. He expressed mixed feelings about what he met: “I am disappointed with what is happening, but I will not say that I regret coming back because the little things we do help in changing the system; thank God 'change' is coming up again through the incoming administration. These little efforts we make may look minute, but they correct certain things. I am happy to reveal these because there are many other Nigerians facing the same problems.”
He has a message for Nigerians in this regard: “I won't tell people not to do land business but they should be very careful. I also urge them to stand by their right. These officials use their positions to steal. In my case, the structures in my plot were demolished and evacuated the same day. When we fight for our right, definitely the miscreants in government will be checkmated.”
Written by Chinedu Aroh.