By EKONG UTIP
The Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) is working to head off lawsuits that a number of private developers are preparing to file against the Nigerian Navy over land disputes. Owners of private properties bordering the navy’s at Karshi, Bwari, Asokoro, Airport Road, Wuse and Maitama said naval ratings and officers have harassed them in recent times.
The navy’s spokesman, Commodore Suleman Dahun, said he was not aware of any harassment of civilians. But he admitted that the process of handing over some parts of the navy’s land to other people was in dispute.
Although the right to allocate or revoke land and grant approvals in Abuja rests on the FCDA, there is no clear-cut policy for land management in the capital city; and this inefficiency is at the root of most land squabbles. FCDA’s executive secretary Mrs Zali Ahmed has confirmed, however, that a committee inaugurated in August was working to bring all the stakeholders to a roundtable in a bid to resolve the conflict.
On the Airport Road, the authority allocated land to the army, navy, air force and others, but the indigenous residents were yet to be compensated and so continued to occupy their land or even sell portions of it illegally. While the army has cleared its portion and placed a signpost, “Military Zone — Keep Off”, on it, the navy has held talks with the village chiefs and even placated them. Neither the army nor the navy has developed its plot.
The origin of the current conflict at Asokoro, Eyeway has learned, dates to 2012 when the FCTA observed that the land offered the navy/military — which had no C of O yet — overlapped the FCC buffer zone/green area near Pendam Dam, Asokoro Annex. A ministerial committee set up to resolve the brawl recommended that the navy be allocated more land northwards, and the agreement reached was signed by nine members including two naval officers. The FCDA’s Parks and Gardens department reclaimed the land “in the public interest” for the building of a botanical garden and a park for recreation.
But a ranking naval officer who craved anonymity told Eyeway that the FCDA handed the land to private developers and allocated to the navy a substitute that was uninhabitable. The navy’s attempt to reclaim its land this year, despite a January 2013 agreement correcting the overlap, has prompted a squabble with private developers. The navy allegedly blocked a 40m access road excised from the recovered portion and constructed exclusive access to its plot, thus preventing others from having access to theirs.
“Perhaps, the navy guys think the military is still in power,” one of the developers said. “They take the law into their own hands, they don’t seek FCDA approvals, and they intimidate civilians. FCDA officials have been chased off as they tried to put ‘Stop Work’ notice on structures the navy was erecting unlawfully.”
Among the ratings’ victims was Solomon Nwobodo who was seized on June 8 and beaten up. That same day, four subcontractors were seized on the Abuja—Keffi highway; they were held for four days at a detention centre.
Another developer stated: “Apparently in a show of force, the navy illegally erected no fewer than 10 ‘Caveat Emptor’ signboards in the Asokoro district alone. Without the FCDA’s approval or other signage approvals by the planning department, they used several concrete stubs to barricade public access, thus defacing the city and scaring away investors.”
In June this year, chief of naval staff Vice-Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo directed that the stumps and signposts be removed. However, neither Rear-Admiral MB Nagenu, head of logistics, nor Commander SD Ibrahim, the commanding officer of the Navy Unit, Abuja, has obeyed the directive.
Families dispossessed of their land at Karshi said they, like many other indigenous people who have not been compensated, live as internally displaced persons in squatter camps and unable to farm in this season because their land has been used to build a navy golf course.
All hope is now on the FCDA, the final authority on the matter. Asked whether the navy had been cooperating with the FCDA committee to resolve the disputes with the developers and the indigenes, executive secretary Ahmed said yes. She has promised to make more clarifications, but undue delays that characterize most government departments could heighten the crisis.