PROP­ERTY Pro­ce­dure and guide to pre­sen­ta­tion to URP tri­bunal

Daily Trust - - PROPERTY -

Our last episode high­lighted the un­ex­ploited av­enue pro­vided for con­flict res­o­lu­tion by the tri­bunal due to lack of aware­ness by the pub­lic. As a re­sult of the re­sponses re­ceived, cou­pled with the cur­rent tri­bunal chair­man’s speech at the just con­cluded FCT NITP Plan­ning Week, it be­came nec­es­sary to high­light the tri­bunal’s pro­ce­dure and how to guide the pub­lic on how to make pre­sen­ta­tion to the FCT URP Tri­bunal.

As stated by Tpl. Mal­lam I. D. Suleiman, the im­me­di­ate past chair­man of the tri­bunal, “Abuja is one of the few ci­ties in the world and cer­tainly the only one in Nige­ria that is priv­i­leged to have a Master Plan and De­vel­op­ment Plans prior to its de­vel­op­ment. The pur­pose was es­sen­tially to guide the growth and de­vel­op­ment of the city and its re­gions in such a man­ner that it will be con­ducive for liv­ing, work­ing, recre­at­ing and trans­porta­tion”. The rapid ex­pan­sion of de­vel­op­ment ac­tiv­i­ties in the FCT and the con­comi­tant is­sues of land use ad­min­is­tra­tion and com­pli­ance with the Master Plan aris­ing from de­vel­op­ment ne­ces­si­tate the tri­bunal. The suc­cess of the in­sti­tu­tion re­quires the con­tri­bu­tion of le­gal prac­ti­tion­ers and pro­fes­sion­als in the build­ing industry, those with the in-depth knowl­edge of the re­quire­ments of the Abuja Master Plan.

For the pur­pose of set­tle­ment of dis­putes on landed prop­er­ties, each party to the dis­pute shall ap­pear in per­son or be rep­re­sented by a le­gal prac­ti­tioner or town plan­ner, nom­i­nated by the party in the dis­pute. It is ad­vis­able for the com­plainants to en­sure that their rep­re­sen­ta­tives are le­gal prac­ti­tion­ers with bias for land and ur­ban de­vel­op­ment or ur­ban plan­ners who are into ad­vo­cacy plan­ning with ad­e­quate knowl­edge of the pro­vi­sion of the Land Use Act, Ur­ban and Re­gional Plan­ning law, Abuja Master Plan and the Abuja De­vel­op­ment Con­trol Guide­lines and Reg­u­la­tions. It is im­por­tant to note that the tri­bunal also serves as a very po­tent and ver­i­ta­ble tool for the restoration of the Abuja Master Plan.

The tri­bunal is guided in its op­er­a­tional pro­ceed­ings by the FCT Ur­ban and Re­gional Plan­ning Tri­bunal (Pro­ce­dure) Rules as is­sued by the At­tor­ney Gen­eral and Min­is­ter of Jus­tice of the Fed­er­a­tion. De­spite the fact that the tri­bunal was es­tab­lished in 1996, the rules were not ap­proved and gazetted un­til in Au­gust, 2008. This sat­is­fied all the le­gal re­quire­ments nec­es­sary for its sit­ting in line with the Act.

De­vel­op­ers, the Con­trol Depart­ment and other in­ter­ested per­sons or their rep­re­sen­ta­tives for­ward their com­plaints to the tri­bunal’s sec­re­tary at the tri­bunal’s registry. In de­fend­ing a client at the tri­bunal, there must be col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween town plan­ners and the le­gal prac­ti­tion­ers. This is be­cause the pre­sen­ta­tion to the tri­bunal sec­re­tary con­tain­ing the com­plaint must be sup­ported by the rel­e­vant pro­vi­sions ac­cord­ing to the Land Use Act, the URP Law, the Abuja Master Plan and the De­vel­op­ment Con­trol Guide­lines and reg­u­la­tions. Th­ese are the rel­e­vant guides to land al­lo­ca­tions and re­vo­ca­tions, the pro­ce­dure for the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Abuja Master Plan and en­force­ments of De­vel­op­ment Con­trol. The town plan­ners have more knowl­edge of th­ese doc­u­ments and their ap­pli­ca­tions than any other pro­fes­sional. Hence, the wis­dom to have town plan­ners with the spec­i­fied ex­pe­ri­ence as pro­vided by the URP Law as chair­man and sec­re­tary of the tri­bunal.

Prob­lems arise from abuse or mis­ap­pli­ca­tion of th­ese Land and Plan­ning Laws by the author­i­ties, hence in­ci­dents like dou­ble or mul­ti­ple al­lo­ca­tions and wrong­ful re­vo­ca­tions from the Lands Depart­ment or wrong­ful de­mo­li­tion by the De­vel­op­ment Con­trol. Ide­ally, be­fore the Con­trol Depart­ment should em­bark on any de­mo­li­tion ex­er­cise it should chan­nel the mat­ter to the tri­bunal first for de­ter­mi­na­tion. The tri­bunal can stop the Con­trol Depart­ment from the de­mo­li­tion when it con­firms the ve­rac­ity of the com­plaint lodged by the ag­grieved de­vel­oper. On the other hand, many cases fail not be­cause of lack of cred­i­bil­ity, but due to the ab­sence of ref­er­ences to the rel­e­vant Land and Plan­ning laws in the pre­sen­ta­tion by le­gal prac­ti­tion­ers.

Other com­plaints en­ter­tained by the tri­bunal in­clude: the re­fusal of De­vel­op­ment Con­trol to grant build­ing per­mit af­ter three months or re­jected with­out sat­is­fac­tory rea­sons, amend­ments of con­di­tions at­tached to de­vel­op­ment per­mits, re­vo­ca­tion of de­vel­op­ment per­mit with­out sat­is­fac­tory rea­sons, en­croach­ment of prop­erty by neigh­bours or neigh­bours us­ing prop­erty for dif­fer­ent use from the of­fi­cial ap­proval caus­ing nui­sance, erec­tion of struc­tures on sewer lines, mis­use or con­ver­sion of open spa­ces or green ar­eas for non-con­form­ing uses and many oth­ers.

The sec­re­tary shall con­sider the com­plaints, draft a charge and pre­pare a re­port and for­ward same to the chair­man for con­sid­er­a­tion of the case. The tri­bunal shall hear wit­nesses and re­ceive such doc­u­men­tary ev­i­dence which will in its opin­ion as­sist it in ar­riv­ing at a just con­clu­sion. In or­der to en­cour­age am­i­ca­ble res­o­lu­tion of con­flict, there is a pro­vi­sion for pre­hear­ing in the pro­ceed­ings of the tri­bunal. Cases could be de­ter­mined by al­ter­na­tive dis­pute res­o­lu­tion af­ter the pre-trial. The pri­mary ac­tiv­i­ties of the tri­bunal are pre-hear­ing con­fer­ence for ac­cel­er­ated judg­ments and full hear­ing of cases in its court room.

Our next dis­cus­sion shall cen­ter on the tri­bunal’s achieve­ments and chal­lenges.

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