Revocation and Allocation of Plot 1201 Asokoro District (so-called "PHCN Plot")
Plot 1201, Asokoro District, Area D
This plot of about 2.5 hectares in size was earmarked for the construction of 330/132/33kV substation to serve Area D of Asokoro District, as well as connect Abuja to the national grid to Nassarawa State and Eastern Nigeria through a 330kV high tension (HT) line through Asokoro District. This plot and others were set aside in the Abuja Master Plan and granted to the FCDA in 1990 vide letter reference MFCT/LA/90/FG.780/12 dated 23rd November 1990. (See Attachment I). It is clear from this attachment that:
(1) It was FCDA not NEPA or PHCN that applied for the plots as it was FCDA's responsibility to erect these facilities and hand them over to NEPA then.
(2) The plot - 1201/A04 had a file number FG.827 in favour of FCDA, and this file is still in the custody of AGIS and FCDA to prove that no grant was ever made to NEPA.
(3) When the seat of government moved to Abuja from about 1991, FCDA restricted its electrification activities to the construction of 33/11kV injection substations while 132kV stations and higher were transferred to NEPA, often sharing the same plot.
Pursuant to this understanding, the FCDA as the bona fide title holder to the plots, wrote to NEPA vide letter reference FCDA/DES.15/S.1637/Vol.I/54 dated sometime in July 2003 inviting them to take steps to fence the plots while informing NEPA that FCDA had begun procurement of their own aspects of the substations development. FDCA purported to allocate the plots to NEPA, without the approval of the Minister, which they had no legal authority to do so. (see Attachment II).
In addition to the foregoing, the right of way for the passage of the 330kV high tension line needed to be preserved. The situation was reviewed and it was found that several plots infringed on the right of way (See memo of Director of Urban and Regional Planning dated 23rd December, 2004 – Attachment III).
Some months later when our cadastral computerization project had done substantial work in the area, with available satellite imagery, I instructed that a further review of the encroachments be made as some of the earlier plots numbers were found to be wrong. The result was the memo of 7th April, 2005 making far reaching recommendations affecting about 135 plots – some of them already fully built up and occupied (see Attachment IV). Nevertheless we proceeded to issue revocation notices for the affected plots and assessed the compensation payable (see Attachment V). The amount payable was in excess of N2 billion, which the FCT Administration had not budgeted for.
We therefore decided to cross check with NEPA whether the 330kV HT line would be constructed and what time frame. Engr. Joe Makoju, the MD then, confirmed that NEPA had changed its plans and will NOT construct a 330kV HT line in the area in question. This was later confirmed in writing, and the letter inserted in all the files of the 135 plots earlier revoked. All but one or two of the plots were accordingly reinstated (see Attachment VI). With this development, the setting aside of over 25,000 square metres for a combined 330/132/33kV substations was not required. A smaller piece of land for a 132/33kV substation was what was needed. Plot 1201 was accordingly re-designed into 10 plots (Plots 3375-3384), setting aside 3,923.38 square meters for FCDA to built the injection substation, and the residential plots, I recall, were allocated to valid and subsisting applicants. Two of the beneficiaries are my spouses.
Issues Raised and Responses
Was the Plot Revoked?
The plot was never ever allocated to NEPA and neither NEPA nor PHCN has any document of title (like an R of O signed by the Director of AGIS or Director of Lands, or C of O duly signed by any Minister of FCT). The plot was granted for FCDA's use and it is not usual to issue any revocation as it was unnecessary. NEPA had no title capable of being revoked. What was done was to withdraw and amend the size of plot the FCDA needed for the smaller substation based on the recommendations of Urban and Regional Planning Department.
Was any revocation communicated to NEPA?
There was no revocation to be communication to NEPA/PHCN but FCDA had a duty to inform them of the consequential actions taken as a result of the decision not to proceed with the construction of the 330kV HT line initially in the Master Plan. The files with FCDA and AGIS would establish how and when that was done or otherwise. I subsequently received a complaint on the matter from the then Minister of Power and Steel, which I think were referred to AGIS and FCDA to brief me in detail. I cannot now recall if any contrary recommendation was made to review the actions taken.
Was an alternative plot allocated?
The plot was redesigned and a smaller size earmarked for the substation, so the needed 'alternative' (if so named) has been provided. I cannot recall any point, which either FCDA or PHCN complained of the size or requested for an alternative plot.
Did Allocation to Beneficiaries follow 'due process'?
The allocation and revocation of plots of land are exclusively the responsibility of the Minister of FCT exercising delegated powers of the President. The Federal Capital Territory Act, ss.5 and 28 of the Land Use Act give the Minister the statutory power to do so. In addition, the Federal Executive Council had approved guidelines for allocation of residential land in FCT based on equality of states (60%), population (10%), public servants resident in Abuja (10%) and Ministerial Discretion (20%). Allocation is approved by the Minister of FCT upon recommendations made, checked, cross checked and endorsed by the Director of AGIS. The Minister counter-signs and dates the 'approval sheet' and the grant of Right of Occupancy takes effect from date of Ministerial Approval. This was strictly followed in all allocations of residential land in FCT. (See Attachment VII – Council Conclusions on Land Reforms in FCT)
For non-residential land, the Minister like all State Governors has 100% discretion to approve allocations of land to any qualified applicant under the Land Use Act.
Was Revocation and Allocation a Management decision?
The Constitution, Land Use Act and Federal Capital Territory Act place the sole responsibility of allocation and revocation on the Minister and no-one else. Indeed, the Court of Appeal had ruled in the case of Ona v. Atenda that only the Minister of FCT (not even Minister of State) exercises the delegated powers of allocation and revocation, no one else. The Minister is of course usually guided by the views and recommendations of the technical departments and other officials, but allocations and revocations are NEVER agenda items in FCT Management Committee or even Executive Committee meetings.
Any Other Information
The Federal Capital Territory Administration initially issued a stop-work order to all the grantees of the so-called 'PHCN plot' and after an internal review of all the issues in the matter cleared some of them (including my wife) to proceed with the construction of the buildings thereon. (See Attachment VIII).
For me, what is incredulous is how the approval of allocation of a plot of land to a Nigerian adult above the age 18, who applied for a plot since 2001 can be a crime simply because the applicant is my wife. By this logic, the Minister of Interior must ensure that his wife does not get issued a Nigerian passport! The application and allocation of a plot of land in Abuja is the right of every Nigerian. Out of over 27,000 plots I allocated to Nigerians during my tenure, and out OF 9 plots in this particular area, what was recommended to me by relevant officials and I approved has been singled out for sensationalization, accusation and criminalization. Posterity will judge all of us, while we rest our case to God.
Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai, OFR
Minister of FCT (July 16, 2003 to May 29, 2007)