Abuja Land Racketeers, Speculators Grapple With Declining Fortunes

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Since the coming of the present FCT Administration into office in 2015, a lot have changed in land administration in the territory. DAVID ADUGE-ANI reports that land dealers, who before now swarmed every available space in Abuja Geographic Information System, AGIS have disappeared and put out of business.

Before now, the activities of land dealers in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT were pervasive. They had so much influence and easily swung matters involving land in the direction they desire. Many of those who controlled the levers of power within the FCT land administration structure were under their belt. The many ways they could manipulate land allocation contributed hugely in making the process of land ownership in the FCT, a nightmare for ordinary people.
The situation become so bad to the extent that incidences of double or multiple land allocations and wanton abuse of Abuja’s master plan become the norm rather than the exception. The land dealers were the real owners of Abuja, and had all the crooked means to expropriate genuine allocations from both the wary and the unwary in the city.
Their business involves land speculation in which they buy up land, making it unavailable in the mar¬ket, and sell at a premium. This has an adverse effect on the city in the sense that it makes land unavailable and scarce. The result is that a large number of individuals in the city are not able to purchase land, while it leaves a larger portion of the city undeveloped.
It would be recalled that the former FCT Minister, Bala Mohammed had expressed serious worry about the pernicious activities of land speculators in FCT, which he said had become a cog in the wheel of progress, especially in land administration in Abuja.
Our correspondent gathered that it was because of these challenges, that the Federal Capital Territory Authority (FCTA) established the Abuja Geographic Information System (AGIS) to oversee issues of land allocation in the entire territory. AGIS has a mission to become a comprehensive, all-inclusive foolproof and state-of-the-art computerized geospatial data infrastructure for the FCT.
The Abuja Geographic Information System also seeks to provide basic and quality services which every citizen is entitled to, in a quality, fair, honest, effective and transparent manner. Under normal circumstances, land allocation is supposed to be smooth and swift if one formally applies to the agency for a piece of land.
The process starts with the payment of a non-refundable application fee of N100, 000, filling the necessary forms and returning same with all the required information about the individual applicant or organisation, including tax clearance certificate for three years prior to the application. Some residents see this formal route as cumbersome particularly when applications for land could remain pending for several years.
The long-winding process in AGIS has further bred corruption as touts hang about the gates of the establishment seeking the patronage of those who need land fast and desperately for different purposes.
However, all these have changed in the past few months. The large fray that usually gather at the front AGIS office and under the tree canopies around the AGIS premises have virtually disappeared. In the expanse of land overlooking AGIS that was a hive of activities as all manners of land dealers congregated there every day from the morning hours till evening fall, now lies empty. Part of the space is now given out to FCT painted taxi company, while the trees under which the land dealers took shelter have been cut down by the FCTA just to ensure that the land dealers will find no place to congregate.
It was a common site every day to see the Christians among the dealers organize praise and worships sessions under the trees, while their Muslim counterparts also make calls for prayers in the space at the times.
Not all the land dealers have, however, given up as a few have relocated to a nearby point under a tree outside the perimeters of AGIS.
One of the dealers, who simply identified himself as George told our correspondent that things have been very rough for most Abuja land dealers, since the coming into office of the present administration of Mohammed Bello. “In the past, our members usually buy land papers almost every week, but all that have changed. We hardly see people coming with allocation papers for sale. You can even see that the number of land speculators coming here these days has reduced.”Speaking recently as part of his score card during the last one and half years in office as FCT Minister, Bello noted that one of the greatest achievements of his administration, within the last one year, is the restoration of sanity in land administration in the territory, adding that the administration has been able to resolve about 500 pending land issues within the period, just as it is also making sure that land administration is done following due process.
Bello explained that this action has reduced the activities of land racketeering in the Abuja Geographic Information Systems (AGIS) head office, disclosing that his administration had not issued a single land allocation since inception, because it wanted to correct past mistakes in land allocation, whereby a plot of land was allocated to different people, leading to multiple allocation.
Acting director, FCT Land Administration, Malam Adamu Hussaini confirmed recently during a press briefing, that the issue of land allocation in the federal capital territory is on hold for now, because of the problems the present administration inherited from the past FCT administration.
“As you are all aware, the issue of land allocation is on hold for now, because of the problems we have inherited in land administration system. We are sanitizing the whole system to make it more effective. We want to ensure that whatever allocation we are going to make, must be within the designed area. We don’t want a situation where allocations are made to plots without services. What the FCT minister, Malam Mohammed Musa Bello said is that there must be an engineering design for a district before allocations are made, so that you can access your land and develop it.
“We don’t encourage speculation, because land is meant to be developed and not to be sold. This is what we want to discourage.”
Hussaini said that the minister has since commenced the signing of certificates of occupancy (CofOs), after reforming the institutional frameworks for land services delivery, just as he announced that over 1000 CofOs have been signed and were ready for delivery to the owners, while there are no longer delays in the signing of land titles once they were cleared by relevant departments.
Reaffirming the commitment of the FCT minister to institution building, Hussaini noted that the Land Use and Allocation Committee (LUAC), which had been moribund in the past years has recovered its statutory status as the clearing house for all land related issues.   He further disclosed that there was currently an enhanced synergy between the various land services stakeholder departments, like the Urban and Regional Planning, Survey and Mapping, Land Administration, AGIS among others, which he noted has eliminated various bottlenecks in the processing of land title documents in the administration.
He pointed out that when the present administration came on board last year, it discovered that the image of the FCT land administration was nothing good, which prompted the FCT minister to give a marching order for the department to strategize and reposition itself. “A lot of staff was deployed, while others were sent away for one reason or the other for the good image of the department. Most of the double allocations we had in the department happened when we had standalone system; that was when the system was not computerized. It is not happening now, because we now have very minimal levels of double allocations.”
Also speaking, the acting director of Abuja Geographic Information Systems (AGIS), Dr. Isa Ibrahim Jalo explained that the agency is the only official source for geospatial data, covering the entire FCT with comprehensive, all-inclusive, state-of-the-art, fool proof, computerized, geospatial data infrastructure for the territory. “We also serve as a source for accurate information and improve the effectiveness of land-related agencies of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA); as well as maximizing land revenue generation through improvement in customer services, which is crucial for sustenance of good governance,” he added.
Jalo disclosed that until recently, trained database administrators obtained most analysis from long and tedious processes of database scripting, adding that AGIS is collaborating with its software service partners to upgrade the application and provide components to automate the entire AGIS service desk, customer service operations, resource management, online portal and mobile application.
“For the purpose of clarity, the microsoft dynamics as installed in AGIS is aimed at plugging leakages and ensure accountability and transparency in revenue generation, which has gone a long way to expand our horizon in terms of revenue generation.  To further improve efficiency and meet up with the demands for the production of certificates of occupancy for conveyance to eligible allotees. AGIS is automating the workflow of the entire processes.”
He maintained that the project is leveraging on the existing ICT infrastructure of AGIS, the computerized land administration tools user for this purpose, namely: The AGIS Land Information System (LIS), the AGIS local Intranet and new technologies available to provide effective speed, monitoring and a system of live information and feedback at the click of the button.