FCT URP Tri­bunal – Un­tapped con­flict res­o­lu­tion av­enue

Daily Trust - - PROPERTY -

The Nige­rian Ur­ban and Re­gional Plan­ning Law De­cree No. 88 of 1992 pro­vides for the es­tab­lish­ment of Ur­ban and Re­gional Plan­ning Tri­bunals in all the 36 states of the fed­er­a­tion and the FCT. Its func­tion is ad­ju­di­ca­tion on mat­ters re­lat­ing to land own­er­ship, re­vo­ca­tions, mul­ti­ple al­lo­ca­tions, re­set­tle­ment mat­ters, con­tra­ven­tion charges, quit and de­mo­li­tion or­der among oth­ers. With all the plethora of prop­erty de­vel­op­ment re­lated con­flicts pre­dom­i­nant in Abuja, there is nowhere that the ful­fill­ment of this pro­posal by the URP Law be­comes highly im­per­a­tive than the FCT.

The ad­van­tages the tri­bunal has over the con­ven­tional le­gal in­sti­tu­tions is that in ad­di­tion to the pres­ence of a le­gal prac­ti­tioner who would pro­vide a guide from the point of law, the panel mem­bers in­clude pro­fes­sion­als in the built en­vi­ron­ment, like town plan­ners, ar­chi­tects, sur­vey­ors and en­gi­neers, who are more con­ver­sant with the tech­ni­cal­i­ties of prop­erty de­vel­op­ments. It is thus dif­fer­ent from hav­ing a sole ju­rist hear­ing and de­ter­min­ing the case in the law court. In­stances could arise when the whole panel or some mem­bers would un­der­take site vis­its for more clar­i­fi­ca­tion of mat­ters for ad­ju­di­ca­tion.

How­ever, ag­grieved par­ties can ap­peal at the High Court in the event of non sat­is­fac­tion with the de­ter­mi­na­tion of their case by the tri­bunal. Of ad­di­tional ad­van­tage is that, the ap­pel­late court on the other hand would be guided by the pro­fes­sion­al­ism of the mem­bers of the jury in the tri­bunal while de­ter­min­ing its cases, should there be any fur­ther ap­peal from the de­ci­sion of the tri­bunal.

For any com­plaint re­lated to the vi­o­la­tion of al­lo­ca­tion guide­lines prior to land al­lo­ca­tions, or vi­o­la­tion of plan­ning pro­ce­dures and de­vel­op­ment con­trol guide­lines and reg­u­la­tion, or land con­flicts as a re­sult of dou­ble or mul­ti­ple al­lo­ca­tions, the rep­utable town plan­ner of proven in­tegrity from the pri­vate prac­tice, who also has ex­pe­ri­ence in the pub­lic ser­vice, at the same time, a fel­low of the Town Plan­ning In­sti­tute is made the tri­bunal chair­man ac­cord­ing to the law. What­ever con­cerns on de­sign re­quire­ments that could make the Con­trol Depart­ment to re­ject grant­ing of de­vel­op­ment per­mit, the ar­chi­tect mem­ber who is reg­is­tered with the Ar­chi­tect Reg­is­tra­tion Coun­cil of Nige­ria and con­ver­sant with both pub­lic and pri­vate prac­tice is avail­able for the de­ter­mi­na­tion of the ve­rac­ity of the com­plaint or oth­er­wise. The tri­bunal shall thus hear mat­ters of dis­agree­ments be­tween de­vel­op­ers and the De­vel­op­ment Con­trol Depart­ment, in mat­ters con­cern­ing stop work, quit and de­mo­li­tions.

For mat­ters that usu­ally make the Con­trol Depart­ment to take hard stand on de­vel­op­ers whose de­vel­op­ments even­tu­ally col­lapse, or are sub­ject to col­lapse, a struc­tural engi­neer is avail­able to as­sist in de­ter­min­ing the truth or oth­er­wise. If the case both­ers on bound­ary en­croach­ments within and out­side the city, be­tween in­di­vid­ual plot own­ers and cor­po­rate or­ga­ni­za­tions that re­quire resur­vey­ing to as­cer­tain the real bound­aries of prop­er­ties. The ap­pro­pri­ate pro­fes­sional to de­ter­mine the bea­con po­si­tions is the land sur­veyor who is also made a mem­ber of the tri­bunal.

For the first time in Nige­ria we have a sit­u­a­tion where a vast in­hab­ited land as wide as 8,000km2 was de­clared as a no-man’s land, be­cause it is trans­formed to be owned by the en­tire cit­i­zens of the Fed­eral Cap­i­tal Ter­ri­tory. The ag­i­ta­tions of the orig­i­nal in­hab­i­tants that feel short­changed are now is­sues of ma­jor con­cern. More so that there are breaches in pro­gram for their re­set­tle­ments and com­pen­sa­tions, most at times th­ese be­come mat­ters for lit­i­ga­tion.

It is a com­mon knowl­edge that there are many peo­ple who have gen­uine al­lo­ca­tions from the FCT Ad­min­is­tra­tion or the area coun­cils, with Cer­tifi­cate of Oc­cu­pan­cies but whose lands were en­croached upon by mass hous­ing al­lo­ca­tions. The tri­bunal of­fers the best av­enue for the res­o­lu­tion of th­ese types of con­flicts, rather than out­right ap­proach­ing the con­ven­tional courts.

With the op­por­tu­ni­ties pro­vided by the es­tab­lish­ment of the tri­bunal in FCT, one would ex­pect it to now be over­whelmed with ac­tiv­i­ties. The FCT URP Tri­bunal is now about 18 years from es­tab­lish­ment. Un­for­tu­nately, it seems the greater ma­jor­ity of peo­ple who would find so­lu­tion to their prop­erty re­lated prob­lems are not even aware of its ex­is­tence.

Sec­tion 83, sub­sec­tion 3, stip­u­lates that an ag­grieved owner, oc­cu­pier or in­ter­ested party of a build­ing which is the sub­ject of a de­mo­li­tion or­der may ap­peal against the or­der to the plan­ning tri­bunal for de­ter­mi­na­tion, and a fur­ther ap­peal to the High Court of the state or of the Fed­eral Cap­i­tal Ter­ri­tory, Abuja as the case may be, when­ever the ap­pel­lant is not sat­is­fied with the de­ci­sion of the tri­bunal.

The tri­bunal is guided by the FCT Ur­ban and Re­gional Plan­ning Tri­bunal Pro­ce­dure in all its pro­ceed­ings. This was is­sued by the At­tor­ney Gen­eral and Min­is­ter of Jus­tice. The tri­bunal shall en­ter­tain such wit­nesses and re­ceive such doc­u­men­tary ev­i­dence which in its opin­ion shall as­sist it in ar­riv­ing at a just con­clu­sion. The tri­bunal has the right to pro­ceed to hear and de­ter­mine a case in the ab­sence of any party upon proof of ser­vice on such party.

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