When in 2017 the Kaduna State Government published an invitation to bid and the approved guidelines for public auction of state government’s residential quarters to public servants and the general public, the government of Malam Nasir El-Rufai had exempted the sales of some categories of government residential houses. The first was; Governor’s Guest House, Alimi and Race course road; the second was the Deputy Governor’s Houses at Tafawa Balewa Way and Lamido road; the third category was the Chief judge’s Guest Houses at Yakubu Avenue; the fourth category was Rt. Honourable Speaker’s Guest House at Shehu Crescent; and finally, the government also exempted the sale of institutional quarters of all hospitals, schools and other related facilities in the state. However, the recent alleged sale of teachers’ quarters by the government has continued to generate controversy.
However, by early 2021, in an apparent shift in policy, the state government’s Committee on the Sale of Government Residential Quarters allocated the quarters of Government Secondary School Kaduna without the knowledge of the civil servants/teachers who have occupied the residence for many years.
Ibrahim Hassan Mailafiya (Not real name) said he was dumbfounded when he learnt that the state government had gone back on its words and allocated their home to politicians without giving them the right of first refusal. “We were not told of a bidding process, even if there was one, the state government had assured that like it did in 2017, the civil servants will be given the right of first refusal. In this case, we were given a quit notice, our homes have been transferred to new owners,” he told Daily Trust on Sunday.
With allegations rift that the new allottees had been family and friends and associates of Governor Nasir El-Rufai, the 27 occupants of the college quarters along College Road and Gwamna road narrated touching tales of how they have lived in the homes for decades with the hope of someday owning the property. Now downcast and deeply betrayed by a government they trusted to protect their interest, the teachers say they had written letters directly to Governor Nasir El-Rufai to notify him of their predicament but their letters were never replied.
“I lost my home first,” said one of the teachers, who like others, asked to remain anonymous for fear that the authorities could victimize her for speaking to the press. “The woman who was allotted my home is a director in one of the ministries, she got it for N15.4m and has since sold it to a new buyer at N25m,” she said.
What the Procurement Law says
Section 57 (9) of the Public Procurement Act 2007 states that every public officer involved directly or indirectly in matters of public procurement and disposal of assets shall (a) divest himself of any interest or relationships which are actually or potentially inimical or detrimental to the best interest of the government and the underlining principles of this Act; and (b) not engage or participate in any commercial transaction involving the federal government, its ministries, extra-ministerial departments, corporations where his capacity as a public officer is likely to confer any unfair advantage – pecuniary or otherwise on him or any person directly related to him.
However, a state like Kaduna with its own Procurement Law signed by Governor Nasir El-Rufai in 2016 is silent about whether a public officer like himself, involved directly or indirectly in matters of disposal of assets need to divest himself of any interest or relationships which are inimical or detrimental to the best interest of the government as well as not to engage or participate in the commercial transaction involving the government since his capacity is likely to confer any unfair advantage.
The state law, however, gives the procurement entity the right to issues guidelines detailing operational principles and organisational procedure to be adopted by all procuring entities engaged in the disposal of public property.
With this, based on the bidding guidelines earlier published by the Kaduna State Government in 2017, all houses occupied by civil servants were to be sold in an open auction whereby all residents of Kaduna State shall be given equal opportunity. The guideline had stated that a simple auction system by way of competitive bidding shall be employed and all bids must be submitted with a bid bond by way of bank draft equal to 10 per cent of bid value.
The guideline had further stated that: “The highest bid price will then be offered to the public servant in occupation to exercise the right of first refusal by effecting payment of 10 per cent nonrefundable deposit.”
While many civil servants who occupied government properties had benefitted from these guidelines in 2017, it was not so for the teachers of Government College Kaduna who have now been given between April 1 and June 30 to vacate their homes.
Government violating its guidelines – Teachers
With none of the 27 legally occupants of the college quarters either made an offer of purchase, the teachers said their rights of first refusal had been violated. On March 9, the civil servants had written a letter to Governor Nasir El-Rufai after allottees began to make themselves known to them as the rightful owners of the houses. The teachers had expressed the fear of being rendered homeless and reminded the governor that they had occupied the houses for years from where they had made and continue to make their modest contribution to the educational needs and growth of the society.
According to them: “We are ready if officials will make the offer for the purchase of the quarters/houses to us the occupants. That is consistent with the governor’s policy on the sale of government’s residential quarters.”
Speaking further to Daily Trust o Sunday, one of the teachers, Danjuma Mathew (not real name) told our correspondent that he has 10 dependents living with him in the house and has nowhere to go when evicted. Mathew explained that he and his colleagues got their spirits dampened when on March 15th a letter from the Committee on the Sale of Government Residential Quarters directed the Ministry of Education to issue quit notices to the occupants to vacate the properties within a reasonable time.
The letter sighted by our correspondent, and signed by one Alexander K. Sule on behalf of the chairman of the committee, had emphasised that the 27 houses occupied by staff of the Ministry of Education had been valued and offered to some members of the public for purchase.
The government, however, in justifying its decision said it was necessitated in view of the dilapidation of the structures and the cost implication of renovating them. “In addition, following the rehabilitation of schools and residences of the teachers within the perimeter of the school, it was observed that the teachers, ideally ought to be within the school compound rather than outside. It has therefore become expedient, to dispose of the houses under reference, as they do not fall under the category of “essential,” it stated. It assured the teachers that efforts are being made to ensure that the proceeds from the sale are used to provide more decent houses for them within the school premises.
Unconvinced with the government’s assurance and having tried but failed to reach the Chairman of the committee, Jimmie Lawal, who is also Governor El-Rufai’s Adviser on Trade and Investment, the teachers wrote another letter on March 29 urging the governor to intervene.
The letter also copied and received at the offices of the Head of Service, Commissioner of Education, the Director, Quality Assurance Authority, the Principal, Government College Kaduna and the Chairman, Committee on sales of non-essential Government Houses on March 29, 2021, had called on the governor to ensure that “fairness, equity and justice prevail’ by giving them the right of first refusal. But like the previous ones, the letter was never replied to.
One of the evicted teachers who spoke with our correspondent said: “We believe the governor may not know what is happening, he may not have accessed our letters. We don’t believe Governor El-Rufai is the man to come up with a policy aimed at benefitting the common man then turn around and violate it by giving our homes to his friends and family. We believe he may not be aware of what is happening.”
‘Outside allottees, less than 1 per cent’
Kaduna State Government, in reacting to the plight of the civil servants and allegations that Governor Nasir El-Rufai had allotted some of the properties to his family and friends, said it had sold 2,028 non-essential residential houses, 80 per cent of which were bought by the civil servants who were sitting tenants, based on their market value.
The state government stated that though certain persons were allocated plots for accelerated development between six and 12 months, they constituted less than 1 per cent of the persons who have been assigned plots in recent years.
A statement issued by El-Rufai’s Special Adviser on Media and Communication, Muyiwa Adekeye, stated that the administration had issued 51,032 Certificates of Occupancy for new titles and recertification of previous titles. Though the statement was silent on whether the houses occupied by the civil servants were allotted to the governor’s family and friends, he however said: “Government denounced the attempt to smear all those who are being assigned plots under an accelerated development programme.”
He stated that the government was proud of the calibre of persons responding to its active canvassing of land applications, adding that the governor specifically directed that Kaduna Geographical Information Service allocate plots of land to as many government workers and citizens that demonstrate active interest by applying.