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EL-RUFAI MUST HEAR THIS

By NBF News
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Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), would pass for a beautiful city. The city has good road network, functional infrastructure and security. This makes it a place many Nigerians dream to live.

However, despite the modernity of Abuja, there is still something wrong with it. It was Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, who, as minister of the FCT Administration, brought to the consciousness of Nigerians the distortion of the original master-plan of the federal capital city. He had said that green areas were allocated to people to build houses, while sewage lines were blocked with buildings.

El-Rufai also, told Nigerians that structures had been built in undesignated places, with the Wuse Market as a case in point. The market is located on a land originally earmarked for a school.

To correct this anomaly, as it were, El-Rufai had set out to pull down structures erected where they should not. In his 'operation restore Abuja master-plan,' churches were destroyed as well as private buildings. Also, hotels and other sundry buildings were pulled down. With that, some green areas were restored, sewage lines were freed and Abuja started having a breathe of fresh air, especially with the planting of gardens across the city.

However, it seems that with the exit of El-Rufai from the FCT Administration, Abuja is gradually returning to the old era, where the master plan is ignored. In the last three years, green areas and sewage lines appear to be giving way, again, to buildings. Indeed, structures are beginning to emerge in green areas. Mostly affected are private operators of gardens, who use the green areas, on the approval of the FCT administration, for recreational purpose.

The case of Queensfield Fountain Gardens on Imo Crescent, Area 1, Garki District, Abuja, is one among many others in the FCT. It was gathered that the garden on which Queensfield Fountain Garden is located has been reallocated to a private developer to erect buildings. Owing to this, the owner of the garden was evicted, with her property destroyed.

According to Mrs. Chinyere Kalu Okoro, proprietress of Queensfield Fountain Gardens, who has petitioned the Permanent Secretary, FCTA, the land on which her garden is located was, in the last couple of months, marked for building purpose by the administration of Senator Adamu Aliero, immediate past FCT minister.

She said that the garden, identified as Park 1484 A01, Garki District, was allocated to her in 2001 by the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB), as a green area, for the purpose of recreational park and garden, and was recertified in 2007. Ever since, she said, she has been paying her dues.

To fully develop the garden, to a standard recreational centre, Mrs. Okoro said she invested huge sums of money. With the investment, she developed the garden to a picnic and children's park.

The proprietress said that to restore the green area, the El-Rufai administration had destroyed all the residential buildings on all adjoining land to her garden. And on allocation of the land to her, she was given a mandate to develop it for recreational purposes, she revealed.

However, with the exit of El-Rufai, Queensfield Fountain Garden, and other gardens, are now under threat. Officials of the FCT have reallocated the garden for other purposes other than recreation.

Mrs. Okoro said: 'Queensfield Fountain Gardens has not been allowed to enjoy quiet possession of the plot by the FCT Administration, particularly the Park and Recreation Department as well as Development Control, after El-Rufai left office.

'Unfortunately, C of Os have been reissued by the Aliero administration, despite the alerts to various authorities concerning the dangers of blocking sewer lines and other facilities on the ground.

'The Aliero administration has allotted the plot and issued a certificate of occupancy (C of O) to some persons who brought bulldozers to the premises and destroyed my properties and asked Queensfield Fountain Gardens to vacate the premises for buildings.'

The embattled woman said that the new allottees recently pounced on her and destroyed her property, expressing worry that the Abuja master plan is being distorted.

'I wish to say that it is not merely the issue of eviction of my business and destruction of my properties, but the improper attempts at the distortion of the Abuja master plan because of some persons' personal gain,' she said.

Mrs. Okoro, therefore pleads with the FCT Permanent Secretary to use his good office 'to urgently look into this petition, with a view to addressing the abnormality and instituting justice for the underdog.'

With a feeling of injustice, she has also taken her complaint to the National Assembly, Presidency, FCT minister's office, human rights associations, while expressing disappointment at the actions of the Development Control Unit, which, she said, 'rudely told me that all my documents are as useless as the toilet papers, while the Garki Police Station DPO said he could not do anything about my case.'

However, an official of the FCT Park and Recreation Department said none of the garden operators could lay claim of ownership to any garden, green land or park, as, according to him, 'there is no provision for ownership but for operational occupation, and that can be revoked any time.

'We at the Parks and Recreation have the responsibility to ensure beautification of FCT by providing the right plants to the right places and only ensure that gardens are maintained by having the permit to operate them. We neither construct nor demolish any structure, either within or outside any garden,' he said.

He, however, could not explain the allocation of the garden for building purposes, as alleged by Mrs. Okoro.

Saturday Sun gathered that the Development Control Unit in the FCT Administration destroyed Queensfield Fountain Gardens. But director of the unit, Mr. Yahaya, would not comment when contacted.