PROP­ERTY In­side the ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties of FCT Land Swap

Daily Trust - - PROPERTY -

The im­me­di­ate past min­is­ter of the Fed­eral Cap­i­tal Ter­ri­tory (FCT), Bala Mo­hammed’s Land Swap pol­icy was the sub­ject of a re­cent probe by the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Com­mit­tee on the FCT. Our cor­re­spon­dent looks at the al­leged mas­sive ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties of the pro­gramme.

The Land Swap pol­icy was a pro­gramme in the FCT in which green land or districts were ear­marked for var­i­ous in­vestors that would de­velop them and pro­vide both pri­mary and sec­ondary in­fra­struc­ture and re­set­tle the in­hab­i­tants of the af­fected ar­eas in ex­change for the grant of par­tic­u­lar per­cent­age of the build­able plots in the districts.

The­p­ol­icy,which­was­ba­si­cally a land-for-in­fra­struc­ture swap agree­ment, took off in 2012 and was co­or­di­nated and mon­i­tored by one of the agen­cies of the FCT Ad­min­is­tra­tion, the Abuja In­fra­struc­ture In­vest­ment Cen­tre (AIIC). Twenty five in­vestors were se­lected and al­lo­cated districts to de­velop, and the pro­gramme was to be im­ple­mented in a to­tal land area of about 7,600 hectares sit­u­ated in 15 greenfield districts of the FCT.

How­ever, the pol­icy has been a sub­ject of con­tro­versy right from its in­tro­duc­tion ow­ing to al­le­ga­tions of ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties. Thus, in Oc­to­ber last year, the House passed a res­o­lu­tion man­dat­ing its com­mit­tee on FCT chaired by Rep Her­man Hembe to probe the mat­ter.

Be­fore the tak­ing off of the pro­gramme, the FCTA set out some guide­lines known as the Ba­sic Terms of Re­la­tion­ship, which it said must be ful­filled by ev­ery in­vestor, oth­er­wise the en­tire en­gage­ment of an in­vestor would be vi­ti­ated. There were also mem­o­ran­dum of un­der­stand (MoU) and the Com­pre­hen­sive District De­vel­op­ment Agree­ment (CDDA), which were other con­di­tions that came up as the pro­gramme pro­gressed.

The first ba­sic term of re­la­tion­ship set out by the FCTA, which it said must be ful­filled within 30 days of re­ceipt of en­gage­ment let­ter, was that ev­ery in­vestor must open an ac­count with the sum of N350 mil­lion, which would be ded­i­cated to the pro­ject. The amount was to serve as a com­mit­ment fee to be used in fund­ing phys­i­cal plan, pre­lim­i­nary de­sign, sur­vey plan, fea­si­bil­ity study, en­gi­neer­ing de­sign and prepa­ra­tion of agree­ments.

Again, ev­ery in­vestor was to pro­cure de­tailed de­signs and pro­vide in­fra­struc­ture in the districts within 48 months. Such de­signs must be based on the Fed­eral Cap­i­tal De­vel­op­ment Author­ity (FCDA) and Ur­ban and Re­gional Plan­ning Depart­ment guide­lines.

The FCTA was to re­tain at least 40 per­cent of the build­able plots in the districts and that 15 per­cent of Right of Oc­cu­pancy was to be re­leased to the in­vestor upon ev­i­dence of a trans­fer of 15 per­cent of the to­tal pro­ject cost to the pro­ject ac­count. These, among sev­eral other con­di­tions, were to be met by the in­vestors.

How­ever, dur­ing a 5-day pub­lic hear­ing of the House com­mit­tee, our cor­re­spon­dent ob­served that most of the com­pa­nies en­gaged did not meet the first con­di­tion of open­ing a ded­i­cated ac­count with the sum of N350 mil­lion. The chair­man of the com­mit­tee, Hembe, told the House dur­ing the con­sid­er­a­tion of his com­mit­tee’s re­port that only about three of the 25 com­pa­nies en­gaged opened the ac­count with the said amount.

The com­mit­tee stated that the en­tire Land Swap pro­gramme was in breach of the Land Use Act, 1978, the Pub­lic Pro­cure­ment Act, 2007 and the In­fra­struc­ture Con­ces­sion Reg­u­la­tory Com­mis­sion Act, 2005.

How­ever, the for­mer min­is­ter, Mo­hammed, in­sisted that the pol­icy, as far as they were con­cerned, was not a con­tract but a pro­gramme de­vel­oped to pro­vide mas­sive in­fra­struc­ture for the FCT in view of its deficit.

Mr Faruq Sani, the co­or­di­na­tor of the Land Swap pro­gramme, how­ever, ar­gued be­fore the com­mit­tee that it was ”pri­vate sec­tor col­lab­o­ra­tion, a model of Pub­lic-Pri­vate Part­ner­ship” to which the Na­tional Pol­icy on Pub­lic Pri­vate Part­ner­ships, the Pub­lic Pro­cure­ment and the In­fra­struc­ture Con­ces­sion Reg­u­la­tory Com­mis­sion Acts do not ap­ply.

Con­se­quently, the com­mit­tee said Sani con­sti­tuted him­self into a court for the pur­pose of giv­ing mean­ing to Sec­tion 8 of the Land Use Act by con­tend­ing that since the pro­gramme in­volved the grant of land, all other ex­tant laws of the land in such mat­ters were not valid.

The min­is­ter there­fore re­lied on the “above mis­guided” in­ter­pre­ta­tion of Sec­tion 8 of the Land Use Act and “dis­re­garded the all im­por­tant reg­u­la­tions of due process in award of in­fra­struc­ture pro­vi­sion works at the to­tal cost of over N960 bil­lion,” said the com­mit­tee in its 82-page re­port.

Also, the com­mit­tee dis­cov­ered that some of the com­pa­nies en­gaged were ac­tu­ally reg­is­tered with the Cor­po­rate Af­fairs Com­mis­sion (CAC) af­ter their en­gage­ment for the pro­gramme. The com­mit­tee said that based on its find­ings, none of the com­pa­nies en­gaged should con­tinue with the pro­ject be­cause they all breached the ma­jor guide­lines in one way or the other.

Ad­di­tion­ally, the com­mit­tee said the process of se­lect­ing the com­pa­nies was shrouded in se­crecy since it was not ad­ver­tised, thereby deny­ing other qual­i­fied and ca­pa­ble Nige­ri­ans the op­por­tu­nity to par­tic­i­pate in the pro­gramme.

But the for­mer min­is­ter told the com­mit­tee at the hear­ing that they did a trans­par­ent process and due dili­gence was strictly fol­lowed in se­lect­ing the in­vestors, say­ing they did not ad­ver­tise be­cause they felt they were not so bound by the Pro­cure­ment Act.

He said: “I only acted within the pro­vi­sion of the Land Use Act, which per­mits the FCT min­is­ter to al­lo­cate land. The gazette pro­duced was not an ex­ec­u­tive or­der or law but an agree­ment.

“All the ex­ist­ing districts were done by my pre­de­ces­sors with­out any ad­ver­tise­ment, so I’m not the first to start such a pro­gramme. I only con­tin­ued from where they stopped. The process of the se­lec­tion was very rig­or­ous. I have no in­ter­est what­so­ever. We se­lected the in­vestors based on our con­vic­tion that they could de­liver, from their track records. I chal­lenge any­body that says I did what I did for per­sonal gain to show ev­i­dence of such,” the for­mer min­is­ter said.

Sim­i­larly, the com­mit­tee dis­cov­ered that money to the tune of about N1 bil­lion was paid to in­di­vid­u­als both through their ac­counts and in cash, al­though some of those in­volved ap­peared be­fore the com­mit­tee and ex­plained their roles and how the money given to them was ex­pended.

In the end, the com­mit­tee made 10 rec­om­men­da­tions, all of which were adopted by the House on June 23. The rec­om­men­da­tions in­cluded that the Eco­nomic and Fi­nan­cial Crimes Com­mis­sion (EFCC) and the In­de­pen­dent Cor­rupt Prac­tices and other re­lated of­fences Com­mis­sion (ICPC) should in­ves­ti­gate the for­mer min­is­ter to ex­am­ine the likely abuse of fi­nan­cial reg­u­la­tions in the Land Swap pol­icy.

Also rec­om­mended for probe along­side Bala are the Ex­ec­u­tive Sec­re­tary of the Fed­eral Cap­i­tal De­vel­op­ment Author­ity (FCDA), Engr Adamu Is­maila and the co­or­di­na­tor of AIIC, Sani, to as­cer­tain their cul­pa­bil­ity or oth­er­wise in the abuse of fi­nan­cial reg­u­la­tions, due process and other reg­u­la­tions re­gard­ing the pro­gramme.

The House also asked rel­e­vant se­cu­rity and law en­force­ment agen­cies to in­ves­ti­gate and track all monies ex­pended out­side the laid down fi­nan­cial guide­lines for the pro­gramme, par­tic­u­larly, monies paid to the FCTA Land Swap Pro­gramme Ac­count with the FCMB Plc, and the pri­vate per­sonal ac­count of Mustafa Us­man Ka’oje, the ac­coun­tant of AIIC and any other of­fi­cial of FCTA and AIIC.

The House said ap­pro­pri­ate sanc­tions, as con­tained in the Fi­nan­cial Reg­u­la­tions, 2009 of the Fed­eral Repub­lic of Nige­ria, be meted out by the rel­e­vant au­thor­i­ties or any of­fi­cer found to have paid or col­lected money in cash or cheque with­out proof of ex­emp­tion from the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s E- Pay­ment Pol­icy.

FCT Min­is­ter, Malam Muham­mad Musa Bello (2nd right), Ex­ec­u­tive Sec­re­tary, FCDA, Engr. Adamu Is­maila (right) and other per­son­al­i­ties dur­ing the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Pub­lic Hear­ing on the FCTA Land Swap Pro­gramme, at the Na­tional As­sem­bly, Abuja, re­cently

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