RE: Report of The Committee on the Review of Revoked Titles of plot in the fct between 2004 AND 2007
To: Mallam Umaru Musa Yar'Adua, GCFR President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria State House Abuja Your Excellency, Sir
RE: REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE ON THE REVIEW OF REVOKED TITLES OF PLOTS IN THE FCT BETWEEN 2004 AND 2007 Background
My attention has been drawn to the forenamed report submitted to Mr. President the contents of which have been circulating in the media for sometime now. The report sought the approval of the President on various issues related to land administration for the period stated ? which is without any doubt my tenure as Minister of FCT from 16th July 2003 through to May 29, 2007. I wish to state that though the report contained serious allegations against my person and office, cast slight on actions I took and sought to represent me as an inconsistent and even hypocritical public officer, no documents were provided to show my irrationality, capriciousness or rejection of technical or professional advice by the public servants in FCT during the period.
It is also noteworthy that my successor in office, though a bosom friend for 27 years with complete access even to my bedroom, did not deem it fit to give me a right to fair hearing ? a basic requirement of the rule of law stance of your Administration. I am therefore compelled to write directly to you with my side of the story before I am crucified by the Nigerian public and media ? something that has already started with the so-called "revocation" by the Federal Executive Council of plots around Pendam Dam which I had all revoked between 2004 and 2007! Your Excellency, I wish to attach as Annex I, the executive summary of the report (pages i-ix) and conclusions (pages 53-55) to refresh Mr. President's memory and draw attention to the key points requiring my observations, explanations and suggestions. In the course of my explanation, I may make references to specific pages within the report where necessary. I do this Mr. President, with all sense of responsibility in order to prevent the creation of more serious problems for your Administration in attempts to demonize, smear and discredit a single individual or two. I love Abuja and gave nearly four years of my life to its restoration, orderliness and development. I owe a duty to all Nigerians, represented by you, our President, to preserve what is right while correcting what may be human errors on our part, our predecessors and indeed, even our successors-in-office. Nasir El-Rufai Page 27/7/2009
Challenges in the FCT in 2003
When I was assigned by President Olusegun Obasanjo GCFR to the then Ministry of FCT (MFCT), he gave me the mandate to clean up amongst other things, the FCT land administration system which he adjudged to be a major source of corruption and rent-seeking within the Federal Government. In the FCT, we found that the President's judgment was largely correct. For instance, we discovered that:
1. Many Nigerians, particularly the political and military elite had been allocated plots of land which had remained undeveloped for years. These plots of land were in every way developable and the title-holders persons of financial capacity evidenced by their generally expensive life styles! I can give you several examples if you need further convincing.
2. Notwithstanding the terms of grant requiring development within two years (unless there are practical physical or technical hindrances), these "big men and women" held on to Abuja plots which they were selling for tens and even hundreds of millions of Naira.
3. While these persons held on to these undeveloped plots, over 85,000 applicants for land (some as far back as 1980), remained in MFCT without any allocation. Indeed, we found that even staff of FCT had no plots of land allocated to them even though some have been in Abuja from its inception.
4. As a result, Abuja's physical development suffered, rental levels went even higher than Lagos and Port Harcourt, while a few connected people got rich. These land speculators did not even care to pay to the FCT, the annual ground rents of a few hundred or thousand naira - a condition for continued retention of their titles.
5. In addition to the Land Administration and Resettlement Department, every department in the FCT system from Engineering to Development Control, and agencies like AEPB and Water Board were all engaged in the 'allocation', sub-leasing or otherwise alienating land with the attendant confusion, record-keeping nightmares and total disregard of the provisions of the Constitution, the Federal Capital Territory Act and the Land Use Act which vest that delegated power by the President by statue, only in the Minister of FCT and no other person or authority.
6. Staff of the defunct Ministry of the Federal Capital Territory (MFCT), the FCDA and other FCT agencies all joined in the land speculation scams. Multiple applications for land by staff in various names with passport photos obtained from States' Pilgrims Boards were common. An example was when the EFCC discovered in the house search of a middle level staff of the MFCT, 132 land allocations in various names!
7. Diversion of people's allocations by MFCT staff, hiding of files to facilitate allocations of the same plot of land to more than one person (double allocation), and even the allocation of government-designated plots to individuals and companies were the order of the day. Federal civil servants Nasir El-Rufai Page 3 7/7/2009 lobbied and bribed to be posted to MFCT, and those posted returned the favor by facilitating allocations to those that posted them, and the cycle continued.
8. Such allocations are then laundered via a "stock market" within FCDA premises ? which by the way; also provide trading floors for MFCT/FCDA contracts and employment letters, amongst others. The use of Powers of Attorney and Deeds of Assignment to launder and transfer these fraudulent allocations were the order of the day.
We moved quickly to take immediate corrective measures with President Obasanjo's strong support at all times, while seeking sustainable, longer-term solutions. Amongst other steps:
We set up several committees consisting of outside and internal staff experts to study the problems observed above and make recommendations.
We sought the assistance of the Police, ICPC and EFCC in the investigation of all valid cases of corruption in land matters. The FCT is one of the first 'states' to have a resident EFCC branch to handle such matters.
We abolished all disparate departmental discretions in land matters and centralized all land allocation under the Minister's Office supported by all the relevant technical departments.
We established a Task Force to computerize the land register and all landrelated records, and while the project was on for about 10 months; suspended new land grants, except the most critical commercial or public building needs.
We ordered a review of development control regulations, ground rents, compensation rates and other land use charges which had remained unchanged since the early 1990s.
These efforts lead to far-reaching land reforms ? at the time, arguably the most advanced in Nigeria ? the fulcrum of which was the computerization of the Land Information System (LIS - the paper file records) and this was supplemented by satellite-supported Graphical Information System (GIS), the recertification exercise to sanitize the records, the updating of all pending land applications and the enactment of the legal framework to guide its design and implementation.
The Justification for the Committee and the Contradictions
The justification for setting up the Committee was captured in the Preamble of the Report. My successor in office had made public statements that he inherited over 600 court cases. He did not mention that some of the cases are as old as the FCT and most of them (nearly 400 if I remember the last briefing correctly) predated my tenure in FCT. It is also now clear that only about 300 of them are land-related, even if the dates of the actions were not stated to show which ones commenced after July 2003.
The current Minister blamed the number of court cases inherited on the revocation of titles of land and the Committee adopted this song stating that our actions " occasioned an avalanche of litigations and petitions against the Administration." The Committee went further to assert that: Nasir El-Rufai Page 4 7/7/2009
the FCT Administration was perceived as (having) no respect for guiding regulations and the rule of law ."
Mr. President, since when does the quantum of litigation confirm or deny the existence of the violation of guiding rules and regulations? Is it because of disrespect for rule of law that America's courts are the busiest in the world? Which rules and regulations were violated leading to the litigations? If the litigants believed that the FCT Administration under my leadership did not respect court orders and judgments as our detractors are trying to convince you (without a single example), why were people still going to court? Mr. President, the answer is simple - civilized people go to court. Those that do not believe in the judicial system settle disputes with machetes. We have been maligned for 'disobeying' court orders that have never existed, been issued or served on us as required by law. Posterity will determine the truth in the end and Allah will judge those who unfairly malign others.
Your Excellency, I want to state here without any fear of contradiction that there is no basis for the statement above. When our parasitic elite with their attitude of corrupt entitlement hold on to land for a day longer than two years, the Minister of FCT is authorized by law to revoke the title and grant to any other applicant. The Committee had admitted that we advertised a public notice in all Nigerian newspapers requiring people to develop their plots and nine months after, many had not.
After several field verification exercises undertaken by some of the signatories of the Committee's Report (See Annex IIa and IIb). We revoked the violating titles and reallocated the plots to other applicants. For those that felt aggrieved, we received and reviewed each case and reinstated several. Again, the review was undertaken and recommendation made to me by the relevant professional Departments. Please see Annex III and IV, Mr. President. The fact that such people cry out, petition or litigate does not make them right and the revocation wrong. If we did not do what we did, the pace of development that Abuja witnessed in the last four years with the attendant economic benefits would not have been realized. Save for a few errors that are inevitably human, we have no regrets.
Legal Basis for Land Administration Reforms
On 30th June 2004, almost a year after I was sworn in, I briefed President Obasanjo seeking his approval to recertify all titles to land in the FCT and related matters. Please see Annex V attached, Mr. President. These and other subsequent reforms in land administration and management led to the creation of the Abuja Geographic Information System and the gazetting of the FCT Land Use Regulations 2004.
See Annex VI ? Official Gazette No. 15, Vol. 94.
Everything we did that is now being referred to as "inconsistent" is based on well considered recommendations of some of the members of the Committee that purportedly authored the Report. Furthermore, Mr. President, each and every decision and action taken were guided by these laws, land use regulations, and development control guidelines pursuant thereto. Throughout my tenure in office, I have never either operated outside these guidelines or beyond the scope of my Nasir El-Rufai Page 5 7/7/2009
authority. With this background and in context, I now want to consider the Report in greater detail.
Existing Policy on Revocation Lawful Grounds for Revocation The legal grounds for revocation of title to land are listed in the Certificate of Occupancy which form is in the Sixth Schedule of the Land Use Regulations (please see page B111 to 113 of the Gazette ? Annex VII). Any of the contraventions listed below can lead to the exercise of discretion by the Minister to revoke the title: (1) non payment of annual ground rent or such other revised rent (2) non-payment of penal rents imposed by the Minister (3) non-payment of rates (including utilities) etc. (4) non-development within two years of grant The Committee seemed unaware of these and proceeded to make recommendations outside the laws and regulation guiding land administration in FCT since 2004! I will now take each and explain, Mr. President.
Districts without 'infrastructure'
The Committee adopted a view ? which I repeat, has no legal basis (see Gazette above) that the existence or lack of 'infrastructure' affects in any way the Ministerial discretion to revoke. This is incorrect for at least two reasons ? (i) infrastructure is not mentioned as a condition precedent for development in the C of O, or in the Regulations as fettering the Minister's power, and (ii) existence of infrastructure while an input in the decision to revoke or not is a matter of fact not desk-based speculation of general application.
As an example, Mr. President, the Committee stated that the Central Area, Gwarimpa and Mabushi Districts have no engineering infrastructure so no plots there may be revoked. However, the reality is that parts of these Districts, depending on location have infrastructure and if an allottee has a plot in those areas, he has no general excuse not to develop.
The FCT Minister's Official Residence is in Gwarimpa District. The Mabushi Ministerial Quarters and Federal Ministry of Works are located in Mabushi District and several buildings like the National Mosque, Federal Mortgage Bank and even the Federal Secretariats are in the Central Area. By the Committee's magisterial assertion, if a person has a plot near these facilities and fails to develop, he can hold on to the title forever. With respect, this position is wrong in law and in fact. As Annexes IIa, IIb, III and IV clearly shows, Mr. President, we were careful in revoking titles to land taking into consideration the surrounding facts, but fully applying the law. Though the regulations do not require this, we only revoked plots in Districts without infrastructure when ground rents of years have remained unpaid and the cases of "un-issued R of Os". See below for more detailed clarification.
Un-issued Letters of Offer (R of O)
In the course of recertification, my attention was drawn to about 2,500 cases of missing files and un-issued letters of offer (or R of O in FCT parlance) ? See Annex VII, Mr. President. AGIS recommended that the cases and allocations be reviewed, Nasir El-Rufai Page 6 7/7/2009
temporary files created or existing files vetted and cleared or otherwise cancelled based on available information. We took the decision to cancel some of them because many had no subsisting applications for title in FCT, several were suspicious allocations, and the beneficiaries had no valid addresses. Most of these plots under un-issued R of O cases fall within the districts without infrastructure. The Committee included this large number of revocations to prove capriciousness on my part in revoking them. There was really no way many of the allocations can stand post-recertification and updating of all application records for land in FCT. The revoked plots were subsequently allocated to applicants with valid and subsisting applications. It is sad and absurd that the Committee is now recommending reinstatement of titles that were void in the first place ? to persons that either never applied for land, or never bothered to update their applications when required to do so!
Abandoned Buildings or 'Partly Developed' Plots
With regards to plots with "some form of development", the Committee was of the view that these titles were wrongly revoked. They are legally and practically wrong. The terms of grant require the grantee to:
"within two years .. erect and complete on the said land building(s) or other works specified in related plans approved .. (by the FCT)" - (please see Gazette; Schedule Six, Page B112, clause 4)
Mr. President, the legal position is not in doubt and the above condition of grant is clear. Unless a title holder erects and completes the buildings in his approved plans within two years of grant, the Minister can exercise his discretion to revoke title. The Committee is therefore legally wrong to assert otherwise.
In addition, Mr. President, the situation we met in FCT was the proliferation of abandoned, uncompleted buildings which the Police and the FCT Security Committee determined had become hiding places for criminals. The Commissioner of Police and Director Development Control went round the city to bring the list of such titles for revocation. We did so in the public interest, and the few that came forward and offered to complete their buildings were given forbearance and titles reinstated. As a practical matter, it was my duty as chair of the Security Committee to do what we did, which as stated above is also within the ambit of the law.
Failure to Recertify Titles
The Committee observed that about 5,604 titles were revoked due to failure to recertify. Mr. President, the logic behind recertification is similar to a nation changing the design, name or color of its currency, but not the face value. In your lifetime, Nigeria has gone through this more than once. It is necessarily a time bound exercise designed to expose for instance, staff of MFCT that have plots in fictitious names, senior public servants with land ownership not declared in their Asset Declaration Forms, 'big men' - money launderers and those hiding the proceeds of corruption, and so on. I have explained above; what led to the recertification exercise, Mr. President. I would like to respectfully refer again to President Obasanjo's approval (Annex V) and Annex VI - the Gazette pages B99 to B101 for the regulations guiding the programme. It was a time-bound Nasir El-Rufai Page 7 7/7/2009
exercise which was extended twice based on appeals from the general public and the forebearance of Mr. President.
Our conclusion at the end of the exercise was that most of those who failed to come forward had something to hide and largely fell amongst one of the suspicious classes mentioned above. There were genuine cases like lost Certificates, deaths of title holders and estate issues, delayed registration of assignments and powers of attorneys which were considered on a case by case basis after the expiration of the deadlines, and ONLY on the recommendations of AGIS.
Mr. President, reopening the recertification and making it 'a continuous exercise' as suggested by the Committee is not only an absurdity, but in violation of gazetted regulations and accordingly illegal. It will suit the corrupt and fraudulent titleholders amongst FCT staff and other elite just fine; as they will have a fresh opportunity to launder their fraudulent titles. It will create a fresh onslaught of litigation between the FCT and new allottees since many of the 5,604 revoked plots have been allocated to new allottees that now hold valid and subsisting titles over them. Surely, one can see that this is a self-serving recommendation that will attempt to legitimize years of land speculation in the FCT for the benefit of a few.
Corner shops and Neighborhood Centers
Your Excellency, I crave your indulgence to look at some pictures so that what is presented hereunder will have the appropriate perspective. Annex VIII are pictures showing examples of the "Corner shops" then littering the city of Abuja instead of the neighborhood centers envisaged by the Abuja Master Plan. We removed all of them and encouraged the occupants of the corner shops to form incorporated associations to redevelop the plots in accordance with Guidelines issued by the FCTA.
Abuja Investment Company Ltd., prepared Prototype Preliminary Designs for the Neighborhood Centers to guide the Associations and reduce the time taken for developing design briefs and schematic designs. The terms required the Associations to move to site and begin development within 6 months of offer. Thereafter, they were to proceed diligently with the works to the satisfaction of the Department of Development Control.
At the time, plots similar in size and location to those of these Centers were being alienated for at least N100 million each in the open market. We were interested in serious developers and took a decision to grant these titles in three steps ? a payment of N1 million for a license to develop, mobilizing to begin works within 6 months of initial offer, a firm letter of offer (called R of O in FCT parlance) when buildings reach a certain level, and a Certificate of Occupancy with a 99-year tenor upon achieving more substantial completion.
The terms and conditions were not stringent by any sensible commercial standard. As stated above, these plots of land of hectares in size each were worth hundred million Naira or more. Granting the licenses to develop amounts to freeing at least N100 million for investment in the construction of the Neighborhood Center itself. That is the logic behind the program. If the old staff of FCT and my successor-inoffice have difficulty grasping this rationale, it is fine with me ? but to pass Nasir El-Rufai Page 8 7/7/2009
judgment thereon without regard to the facts and realities on the ground is unfair, unjust and unreasonable.
Mr. President, the various Associations' physical progress on site at the dates of withdrawal (more than 12 months after initial offer) is pictorially presented in Annex IX for you to see yourself. We therefore withdrew the 'licenses to develop' for violating the terms of offer and invited other reputable business organizations to take over under even more stringent conditions (see Annex X). These reputable developers have already achieved substantial progress. Mr. President Sir, Annex XI is the tabular and pictorial status report of the development of the neighborhood centers under the more stringent conditions to buttress the point. How did these companies make greater progress under more stringent conditions than the Neighborhood Center Associations?
For us in the FCT Administration at the time, the lesson we learnt was that getting people to cooperate to execute such projects just does not work. Instead it is better to allocate land to individuals and organizations and hold them accountable for better results. Again, the Committee's conclusion that because 3 of the nearly dozen of the Associations have gone to court means they are right, and our decision was wrong, is not only sub-judice and absurd, but totally inverts logic and the realities on ground. These Associations had no legal title to land as a foundation to even sue ? they had a license revocable at will for contravention of terms. They contravened and we withdrew the license. (See Annex XII, Sir). We can only wish them luck in their right to litigate and no more, Mr. President.
Jabi Lake Resort Site
The Committee is for once correct on the Jabi Lake site ? the only large body of water within the city of Abuja. We had taken the decision to revoke titles immediately on the banks of the Lake on advice of the Director of Parks and Recreation, and directed AGIS to bring up alternative plots for the old allottees. The allocation of replacement plots is based on availability. Indeed, part of the reason we accelerated the Final Engineering Design of several Phase III and IV Districts was to facilitate the allocation of alternative plots to allottees like these and others who were victims of "double allocation". It is up to my successor-in-office to see that this is done. There is no issue for comment here, as developments have already commenced on at least two parcels of land granted for resort development in the area.
Kukwaba Recreational District
There is nothing significant in the Committee's comments on the revocations in Kukwaba except to imply that one plot No. 49 was exempted from revocation for some capricious reason. Mr. President, the objective of the observation is to give the impression that I unilaterally, unjustly or due to some sinister interest or motive, exempted the plot from revocation.
Your Excellency, please refer to Annex XIII which contains memos from the relevant official recommending the exemptions of Plot 49 and that of Kafak (the Wonderland Park, now completed adjacent to the National Stadium). Based on the recommendation and a visit to the District, I added the Housing Estate of Wilbahi which was under construction but was erroneously recommended for revocation. Why only one of the three exemptions is mentioned is a mystery to me and Nasir El-Rufai Page 9 7/7/2009
indicative of the Committee's capacity for mischief. Perhaps the intention is to imply that the plot is mine or something to that effect! At the time the recommendation was made, the official explained that the allottee of Plot 49 is a company owned by a well-known, UK-based Nigerian pop star ? the Lighthouse Family, that had the financial resources and clear plans to develop the plot. If the plot has not been developed, it is neither due to double standard or some motive that exempted it in the first place.
Kuruduma/Kpaduma/Apo Tafyi Layouts
The import of the Committee's comments on the above layouts ? created by my predecessors-in-office and the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) - disregarding the then Court of Appeal decision in Ona v. Atenda (which made land allocation in FCT by anyone other than the Minister illegal), was that allottees of these illegal allocations were neither 'formally' notified nor allocated alternative plots. What was not added was the fact that favored staffs of the FCTA and well-connected persons were the principal beneficiaries of that illegality and abuse of the green buffer zone around the city of Abuja.
Throughout my tenure as Minister, I with-held assent to alienate any of the plots in these layouts, filed them for study when submitted for recertification and requested AMAC to hand over details of their 'allocations' for a wholistic decision. Our plan was to inventory all the allocations and provide alternatives on the completion of the regularization of Area Council land 'titles'. Unfortunately, this was not completed up to the time I left office. There is nothing left for my successor other than take the necessary steps to complete what we started! Suggesting that failing to issue formal revocation without a comprehensive inventory of the allocations is fault on our part is simply ludicrous.
Pendam Dam Layout
This was referred to as "Master Plan Restoration" in the summary and has been the subject of a mischievous attempt to mislead the President and the Federal Executive Council to approve the revocation of 45 plots which had been revoked during my tenure as Minister of the FCT. This mischief, Mr. President is revealed in the titled paragraph on page 15 of the Report which I reproduce in full hereunder:
"5.10.2 Pendam Dam Layout
The Pendam Dam layout comprising 45 plots in Asokoro District was carved out of the flood plains of the dam. Because of the inherent dangers associated with the developments in dam basin coupled with the cost and difficulty in providing infrastructure, the layout was cancelled, titles over it revoked and recovered land reverted to the original land use. The details of the affected plots are in Appendix IX." (Emphasis mine, Mr. President)
The list of plots included several (Your Excellency's former plot included) which I had earlier revoked in 2004. The plots of Senator Daisy Danjuma, Gov Niyi Adebayo, R M Kwankwaso, Ahmed A Muazu, etc. were all revoked along with yours. A technical committee was set up by me to review the whole area due to petitions from Senator Kura Mohammed and Mrs. Titi Ajanaku. The result was recommendations made to me in March 2007 wherefrom effective 29th April 2007 I Nasir El-Rufai Page 10 7/7/2009
approved the revocation of the plots listed in Appendix IX of the Report. Mr. President, please peruse Annex XIV attached hereto from AGIS, and Appendix IX in the Report and you will see that the date of revocation tallies with the approval I granted to the Director AGIS on her memo of 12th March 2007.
It was a waste of your time and that of the FEC to "revoke" plots I had already revoked. The grant and withdrawal of titles to land in the FCT are the statutory responsibility of the Minister of FCT and no other person or authority under the FCT Act and Land Use Act. Why the current Minister proceeded on these courses of actions, which have no precedence in the history of Abuja, are still a mystery to me. If the signed Report (see page 55) dated July 2007 admitted that the plots had been revoked, then, why were memos to the President and FEC necessary? If Mr. President still had title to the allocated Pendam Dam Layout plot until November 2007, why was it not listed in the President's Asset Declaration of May 2007? I was forced to issue a public statement on this matter when I noticed that a deliberate smear campaign in the media was being implemented ? something that was totally unnecessary if the correct facts were made available, ab initio!
ONEX Site Yards
Mr. President, ONEX refers to the Outer Northern Expressway ? the main road from Suleja-Kubwa coming into Abuja up to Maitama District. The plots adjoining this road were provided to Contractors doing work in Abuja as 'temporary site yards, renewable very five years' ? they were not meant to be permanent titles. No city worth its salt grants plots of land along the principal access thereto, to construction companies with their heavy equipment, ugly architecture, increased risks of accidents and pollution. The Department of Urban and Regional Planning drew my attention to this and recommended the withdrawal of all offending titles and the replanning of the whole corridor.
Further to the plots being provided only as temporary site yards, many of the allottees built without development permits and in contravention of the terms of their grant ? with the result that the area was littered with mixed use developments, factories, etc contrary to the "site yard" land use authorized by the FCT. The temporary allottees ? mostly FCDA contractors were actively assisted by staff of the Engineering Department to get away with this illegality. We therefore took the decision to revoke the titles and relocate those in gross contravention, while upholding those that were compliant with the land use for the corridor. Mr. President is invited to see Annex XV which contains the typical revocation notice sent to all those in violation and some of those granted alternative plots in Idu Industrial District to relocate. The uncompleted action is the relocation of those who are in violation of the Master Plan, (and as stated above, were assisted by FCDA Engineering Department to convert the temporary allocations to 99 year leaseholds,) should simply be concluded. Any reconsideration would be a disservice to the efforts to preserve the serenity of the main highway of entrance into our nation's capital.
Accelerated Development Programme (ADP)
The ADP was one of the initiatives approved by President Obasanjo to enable commercial developers of land have easier and cheaper access to land for development in Abuja. The programme seeks to ensure that land is allocated Nasir El-Rufai Page 11 7/7/2009
directly to the developer [eliminating the middleman syndrome] and the development is required to be conducted within a specified timeline. The terms and conditions for the grant which were the result of consultations and focus group sessions internally and with outside investors are summarized in President Obasanjo's approval Annex XVI attached. As explained in the case of Corner shops and Neighborhood Centers above, the conditions attached vis-à-vis the equivalent open market value of the plots on offer clearly confirms the program's attractiveness.
The conditions though strange to those used to discretionary allocation of commercial plots in Abuja, were therefore not stringent by any reasonable commercial standard. The program was initially marred by the misconduct of some of the officers charged with collating applications for the PPP Technical Committee to make recommendations for my approval. We undertook investigations and dismissed the erring staffs.
A revalidation exercise was subsequently conducted to ensure the validity of the title holders and ascertain any contravention of the terms of offer. Mr President was then dully notified of the revalidation exercise which was conducted for a period of 3 weeks. See Annex XVII. The Committee in its submission wrongly referred to the revalidation exercise as a meeting, failing to point out the purpose of the exercise and the intended benefits.
The status of programme implementation is presented in Annex XVIII ? ADP Status Report as at last month Mr. President. It shows that many of the plots ? nearly half are at advanced stages of being developed, and some even completed. Indeed, many of those not progressing include those affected by the current Minister's suspension of all building plans' approvals. Others not under construction include cases of inchoate allocations, which should be simply resolved to completion.
Central Area District (CAD)
The CAD generally starts from the National Assembly to the National Stadium, and bounded by two expressways ? B6 and B12 now named Constitution Avenue and Independence Avenue. The CAD contains not only the National Assembly Complex and Supreme Court, but the Government Zone which has as its boundaries, the Cultural Spine with the National Mosque and the National Christian Center as the buffer.
The non-governmental part of the CAD, sometimes referred to as the Central Business District (CBD) has in addition to Roads B6 and B12 two main and only slightly built expressways ? the ceremonial roads B8 and B10 which trisects the CBD up to the National Hospital. The Embassies, the CBN Headquarters, NNPC Towers, Ceddi Plaza, and several hotels ? Chelsea, Bolingo, Habib Bank (now Bank PHB and Bank of the North (now Unity Bank) Headquarters are all built in the CBD. The Committee said this part of Abuja 'lacks 90% infrastructure'. That statement is simply incorrect. While I concede that in an ideal world, Mr. President, every road, utility duct and pipe work should be in place before any building operations commence, we are not in an ideal world, and the firms engaged to do the Urban Design of the CAD ? Kenzo Tange & Urtec of Japan and AIM Consultants knew this. Nasir El-Rufai Page 12 7/7/2009
That is why every plot in the CAD has been provided key data from storey height to floor area ratios, with details of road levels, points of access and connection to services, etc. that enables buildings to be designed, and construction to commence even ahead of the full provision of infrastructure. If not so, how can the Committee explain the completion of all the buildings listed above in the CAD when the infrastructure therein is not 100% complete as their ideal world requires. It was our view then in the FCTA that most of the plots within the CBD should have been developed just like the ones mentioned above, and we acted accordingly to revoke those undeveloped and allocate them to those we were confident will develop.
Subdivision of Plots with Existing Titles
I have already explained above under Partly Developed or Abandoned Buildings the rationale behind the revocation of these plots. I have also respectfully referred Mr. President to the terms of grant contained in the current FCT Certificate of Occupancy which requires the full development of the approved building plans for any plot within two years. What the Committee is referring to as 'under-developed' is actually a violation of the terms of grant as contained in the C of O. Had the Committee bothered to study the FCT Land Use Regulations, there would have been no basis for the illegal and tendentious view that the terms of grant should be disregarded.
Apart from the foregoing, the only subdivisions of plots with existing partial or nondevelopment
were the ones affected by the Federal Government policy on monetization. Some of the plots have been left vacant or partially developed for more than 10 years in Maitama, Jabi, Asokoro, Utako, Wuse II, etc, areas where billions of Naira were spent providing infrastructure. We accordingly subdivided them and allocated to applicants many of which have already developed the plots.
Revoked Titles to Farmlands
As far as I can recall, the revocation of the titles to farmlands was based on the need to expand the satellite town of Kubwa and the planning of Dobi satellite town. The plots were revoked for overriding public interest. In the case of Kubwa, the organic and unplanned expansion of Kubwa had already consumed most of the farms revoked ? those of former Ministers Hamza Abdullahi and Gado Nasko, and other very important persons. The titles were accordingly revoked, land use changed from agricultural to residential estate and allocations limited to not more than 50 hectares. In the case of Dobi, the farmlands were allocated nearly 20 years ago to the allottees that not once planted anything!
If the current FCT Administration wishes to give these persons replacement farms, it is free to do so. We decided not to offer replacements because the lands were either never used for farming, or allottee were granted estate land titles, and the allottees never paid annual ground rents to the FCT ? one of the conditions of grant, the violation of which entitles the Minister to revoke in the first place!
Revoked Titles of Federal Government Ministries and Agencies
As explained earlier, arising from the Government policy of Monetization, we revoked titles to residential plots, subdivided and allocated them to various applicants for land. Many MDAs rushed to subdivide and allocate the plots to their Nasir El-Rufai Page 13 7/7/2009
senior officers, while others sought to transfer the vacant, undeveloped plots to their pension funds. The more criminally-minded agencies joined the land speculation business by attempting to go into 'joint ventures' with private organizations to develop the land, often outside their core mandates and enabling statutes.
We took the decision to reject all these attempts and comply with the letter and spirit of monetization ? that government agencies should not directly or by proxy develop land other than what they needed for their administration which will be funded via Appropriation Acts and no other way.
Absence of Land Use and Allocation Committee
The Committee correctly observed that the FCT did not have a standing Land Use and Allocation Committee (LUAC) to advice the Minister on matters connected with land management and resettlement and resolve disputes on compensation. The LUAC is one of the provisions of the Land Use Act, Mr. President, that as a former State Governor you know, is not only overdue for repeal but has caused more problems than intended. On assumption of duties in FCT, I considered setting up the LUAC but was advised by all the then heads of land-related departments not to do so. On consulting my boss, President Obasanjo was also concerned that members of the LUAC may trade these appointments in Abuja to gullible applicants for land.
Furthermore, a quick check revealed that virtually all state governments in the country had no LUAC. In the particular case of the FCT, the provisions of the Constitution and two other applicable legislations make the LUAC virtually redundant - the Constitution vests land absolutely in the Federal Government and compensation paid to the states from which FCT was excised since 1978. The FCT Act details how compensation to entitled individuals is calculated, and the Nigerian Urban and Regional Planning Act establishes a Tribunal to adjudicate over such related disputes. These provisions are more efficacious than the LUAC, and I am surprised that this is even an issue for the Committee!
Ineffective Coordination between Departments
The Committee observed correctly the inadequacy of coordination between relevant departments. This situation has been in MFCT/FCDA from inception and those that have been there will admit that the level of coordination had improved during my tenure. Our medium term plan was to have all land-related departments under AGIS, and the decision to transfer the Surveying and Mapping Department from FCDA was to enhance the movement thereto.
I hope my successor-in-office will conclude this by (i) accelerating the computerization and networking of all land-related departments and placing them under AGIS, (ii) linking up all other service departments (e.g. Development Control) with AGIS via a seamless data network to facilitate exchange of information in real time, and (iii) making available all land information on the web affording full transparency of geographic information about FCT. The Committee then went to observe that an 'Ad-Hoc Unit' in the Minister's Office was performing all land functions ? alleging that the unit revoked and allocated land, subdividing plots, etc. This is an unfair and false assertion. It is true that I Nasir El-Rufai Page 14 7/7/2009
established a Public-Private Partnership Unit to be the recipient of applications for Accelerated Development, Neighborhood Centers, etc. This unit submitted all its findings to the PPP Technical Committee headed at various times by the Directors of Urban & Regional Planning (URP) and AGIS. Mr. President, please peruse Annex XIX which are the minutes f the 4th meeting of one of several such coordination meetings I held to enable this. The PPPTC also met separately and regularly, and reported to me, and the minutes circulated to all relevant departments. Everything this Unit recommended to me was sent to AGIS for review and final recommendations. I am surprised that the Unit is being credited with revocation or allocation of land. It is only the Minister that revokes or allocates land in FCT. All subdivisions even when initiated in my office, were done by the staffs of the Department of URP and AGIS, approved by me, before being recognized in our computerized geographic information system. Only those ignorant of how the system worked can make such a ludicrous claim! An example of a typical memo is provided here in Annex XX ? redesign and sub-division of plots to give lie to the above assertion that the Unit does 'subdivisions'!
Even though we made progress in reducing the incidence of cases multiple allocations, they continued to occur largely due to plot renumbering in GIS which is not always known to other land-related departments and sometimes, even the Minister's office. It is totally false to suggest allocations of parking lots and utility corridors were made due to the existence of a Unit in my office. Such allocations if they exist (and I am not aware of any, and the Committee did not list one!) would occur only because the professionals in AGIS failed to live up to their responsibilities of advising the Minister properly before any allocations are signed off.
The vicious attack on a Unit, whose staff are largely still in the employment of the current FCT Administration and available to explain what they did is a result of the unfortunate aversion of civil servants to outside experts and advisers for political office holders. The Unit was set up to advice me on a range of issues but recommendations for each and every allocation, revocation or subdivision of land came from the relevant departments, and I have hundreds of memos ? some of which have been referred to in this letter and appropriately annexed ? to prove this. The Committee's desire for a return to anarchy in which each department wants to allocate land, and the land-related departments have exclusive information, discretion and power to decide on allocation of land may be the principal reason for this vicious and unwarranted attack.
Land Related Court Cases
I have commented earlier on this and will only respond to the specific issues raised in page 30 -31 of the Report because they sought to place blame where it does not belong. Mr. President, for the avoidance of doubt, I take responsibility for all allocation and revocation of land during my tenure. However, once I approve revocation, it is the duty of AGIS to convey this to allottees in accordance with the provisions of the Land Use Act.
I have found instances where AGIS staffs have intentionally 'traded' on this information ? with-holding conveyance while advising the revoked allottee to file a case in court. We have also had cases in which Legal Department staffs have Nasir El-Rufai Page 15 7/7/2009
similarly 'traded' their positions by failing to appear in court to defend suits we could have won if they did. In some cases, AGIS staffs have 'lost' files thus disabling our lawyers, when willing, to defend cases against us.
I had advised my successor-in-office against being scared of lawsuits ? an inevitable fact of modern life today. I believe the 'administrative settlement' is unsustainable because in such zero-sum situations, those that ultimately lose out will still go to court in the end. This approach is also complicated by the various vested interests of those advising on and implementing, the process. Having said this, Mr. President, I have nothing to add but wish the FCTA the best of luck in its proposed courses of action. What I will vigorously protest is an attempt to smear my name just because an aggrieved person takes the FCT to court in response to any decision or action I have taken as Minister!
Idu Industrial District
Idu District is one of the two industrial districts in the Abuja Master Plan meant to cater for light, 'clean' industries. The Committee had alleged that my Administration revoked titles to land therein though the district had no infrastructure. This claim has already been debunked in my earlier explanation, but I want to go a little further with respect to Idu for two reasons ? firstly, it is the only hope of Abuja attracting industries, jobs and investment in sectors other than real estate and recreation, and second, the recommendation on Idu shows that the Committee does not allow facts to disturb its premeditated conclusions.
Mr. President, please refer to Annex XXI which contains the following: (i) minutes of meeting of 6th July 2005 on the issue of undeveloped plots in Idu District and the lines of action proposed, (ii) the result of a field verification exercise, particularly the columns on 'infrastructure' and 'status' with respect to each plot, and (iii) some pictures to show the status of infrastructure in some parts of Idu.
In addition to these documents, it is a fact that there are several furniture, prefabricated building, soft drinks and food processing industries operating in Idu since 2005! All these realities did not stop the Committee from suggesting that the revocations, which were recommended by the relevant technical departments after field verification, were inconsistent, unwarranted and capricious and should accordingly be reversed due to 'absence of infrastructure'. This is unfortunate, to say the least.
Comments on 'Recommendations'
The Committee's Report, I am certain, must have sought the approval of Mr. President to implement the recommendations therein. It is my view, Mr. President that many of the recommendations will not only create new problems, but will multiply the number of court cases against the FCT, which the current Administration has said, it wants to avoid. Furthermore, the litigations (and indeed even the administrative settlements proposed) will retard the physical development of Abuja and hurt job opportunities the real estate, building and construction sectors ? the largest single employer of labor in the FCT.
It is important to note, Your Excellency, that the titles I granted while in office are proper and subsisting titles. The title-holders have every right to challenge any revocation not pursuant to any contravention of the terms of grant. Most of the Nasir El-Rufai Page 16 7/7/2009
allocations are less than 2 years old and many have advanced in the plans to develop their plots. Mr. President, restoring public confidence requires sustaining good policies and decisions of previous Administrations. Changing the rules of the game, or non-adherence to existing regulations in a wave of irrational populism destroys public and investor confidence in government. With this as background, I will now take the omnibus recommendations requiring comment.
Uphold revocation of plots in districts with infrastructure with the proviso that those with applications at Development Control Department or pending court cases and other administrative processes before revocation are exempted
Comment ? this recommendation is belated in the sense that the FCT Administration during my tenure had undertaken a similar exercise and reinstated all such affected plots. Thus, approving this recommendation would only permit reintroduction of cases that did not merit reinstatement but would result in excessive discretionary actions by staffs of the FCT and attendant corruption. It would also open the FCT Administration to fresh legal actions by new allottees that have obtained titles, have taken active steps to develop and in some cases have already alienated titles or mortgaged to banks, with the consent and approval of the Minister.
Reinstatement of plots revoked in districts 'without infrastructure'
Comment ?I have explained the legal position on this above, which makes the reinstatement a violation of the conditions of grant embedded in the C of O. Moreover, all plots revoked in districts without infrastructure were for one or more of the following reasons: a) Un-issued R of Os, b) plots not recertified c) plots which title holders have not been paying ground rents to FCT, and d) plots falling on road corridors and right of way.
In addition, who will be the beneficiary of this reinstatement? Is it the immediate past allotee of the plot or is it the very first allotee granted title to the plot at the point of creation of the plot? The report does not indicate whom the reinstatement will be granted to bearing in mind that the creation of the plots dates back to the creation of the districts. Mr. President, with the exception of plots in Asokoro Extension and Katampe Extension, virtually all plots in Phases I & II Districts had been allocated by 1993! Most applicants that get allocated a plot thereafter were beneficiaries of an allocation revoked from someone else ? so who gets the plot? The allottee of 1993 who violated the terms of grant or one of the subsequent violating ex-allottees between 1993 and 2007?
Revoked plots with some form of development should be reinstated subject to payment of levy
Comment ? This recommendation is fraught with danger in view of the clear violation of the express term of grant incorporated in the Certificate of Occupancy and the vagueness of the definition of "some form of development" which might be taken to mean fence, boys' quarters, etc. Furthermore, note that the terms of the C of O require 'full development of all plans' within 2 years. Reinstating revoked plots with such 'developments' would encourage allottees to further delay or defer Nasir El-Rufai Page 17 7/7/2009
full development of plots which I have mentioned posed security risks as such plots with 'some form of development' became havens of miscreants and thieves in the FCT.
Reinstatement of revoked titles on grounds of non-recertification
Comment ? This recommendation is contrary to regulations on the Recertification Exercise as in the Gazette (pages B99 to B101) and would legitimize years of land speculation in the FCT.
Reinstatement of titles and payment of compensation to allottees of revoked plots that commenced developments after revocation Comment ? Several old allottees went to their old plots after revocation and without obtaining building plan approvals, therefore contravening section 7 of the FCT Act. Reinstatement of titles would reward illegal behavior, and may give rise to legal actions by the new allottees. This recommendation is fraught with multiple moral hazards that will destroy certainty in land management in the FCT.
I have made other comments and suggestions in the course of this long letter which should be read along with the foregoing. In conclusion, Mr. President, my intention as mentioned in the beginning is to put the records straight and to explain some of the actions I took as FCT Minister. Had the current FCT Minister respected the basic rule of natural justice even if he had no access to me, this letter would not have been necessary. I have made my successor understand that I am always willing and available to shed light on my stewardship as the Minister of FCT, but he has not utilized the opportunity except on one or two trivial matters. This letter has therefore been copied to him to provide the opportunity to contradict with facts and documents any claims I have made here which are not true.
Our principal goal as FCT Administration was to accelerate the orderly development of Abuja by eliminating land racketeering, reducing rent-seeking and land speculation and giving genuine developers easier access to land. This we did by ensuring that virtually over 20,000 out of 25,000 verified and valid applicants were allocated land during my tenure. We revoked the titles of persons who considered themselves sacred cows. We did not care about how they felt because the public interest of Abuja and Nigeria overrides that of a few greedy and self-seeking individuals. We know that they will neither forgive us nor forget until they extract their pound of flesh. We have no defense against their wealth, power and capacity for mischief except the truth. We are ready to face them any time with facts, figures and documents. We have nothing to hide and no one to fear. We shall face Almighty Allah with the same confidence as we tried our best to live up to our oath of office. As human beings, we must have made mistakes. But to suggest that anything we did was driven by any motive other public interest is patent injustice to us. Those that attribute any such motives to us should do so with facts, figures and documents not innuendo, rumor and repetitive character assassination. Mr. President, please carefully review the table below to see the relative efficacy of our decisions and actions. Between 1980 and 2005, nearly 19,000 plots were allocated to private individuals and organizations in FCT. Slightly over 11,000 were Nasir El-Rufai Page 18 7/7/2009
developed by 2005 - an average of about 500 plots developed per annum. In comparison, during the second half of my tenure, when our land reforms began to take full effect, over 2,000 plots were undergoing development within less than 2 years. This created a construction boom in Abuja with jobs and economic opportunities for many more than the few greedy land speculators of the past. This is how we measured the efficacy of our policies, decisions and actions.
TABLE: PLOTS DEVELOPMENT IN FCT
S/NO DISTRICT PLOT
COMPLETED UNDER CONSTRUCTION FENCE WORK ONLY
1 CBD 720 192 29 86 15
2 GARKI 1328 1240 30 21 9
3 WUSE 2671 2660 15 6 3
4 GARKI II 940 735 81 51 6
5 ASOKORO 2769 1900 192 88 25
6 MAITAMA 2260 1998 113 107 15
7 WUSE II 1598 1460 65 44 11
8 GUDU 750 450 39 23 15
9 DURUMI 850 10 37 32 6
10 WUYE 866 185 15 14 4
11 JABI 620 185 116 145 50
12 UTAKO 750 210 86 113 30
13 MABUSHI 850 28 16 35 13
14 KATAMPE 1100 10 10 6 11
15 SECTOR CENTRE C 70 nil 2 3 2
16 SECTOR CENTRE B 77 7 2 4 4
17 SECTOR CENTRE A 140 nil nil 2 8
18 SECTOR CENTER D 158 5 6 15 20
19 IDU - INDUSTRIAL 440 33 5 35 10
CENTRES 21 corner-shops 2 6 1
TOTAL 18,978 11,308 1059 1036 558
The foregoing explanation is for Mr. President's information. I thank you, Sir for your continued graciousness and courtesies to me in spite of what I know to be incessant efforts to smear my person by friends and foes alike, sometime for reasons that I am yet to understand. May Allah Guide you and Give you more wisdom in the discharge of your duties as our President. Respectfully submitted,
Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai, OFR
CC: Dr. Aliyu Modibbo Umar, Minister of FCT
Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Ex-President of Nigeria
2005 - 2007
Nasir El-Rufai Page 19 7/7/2009