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How police arrested Abuja land racketeers

The Assistant Inspector General of Police in charge of the Zone 7, police headquarters Abuja, Ivy Uche Okoronkwo said while parading the five suspected land…

The Assistant Inspector General of Police in charge of the Zone 7, police headquarters Abuja, Ivy Uche Okoronkwo said while parading the five suspected land racketeers that the police had received complaints on illegal land allocations, did investigations and arrested the suspects.

She said land fraud was done in collaboration with some insiders believed to be staffers of land departments.

It was said that two of the suspects, namely Enock Manager and Murtala Baba worked with the Planning Department of the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC). Abdulhameed Mohammed, Hussaini Mohammed and Israel Oduwaye were their accomplices.

Two other suspects were officials of the land allocation units.

The AIG said one Joe of AMAC who provided land payment receipts to the suspects and one Mohammed of AGIS were being hunted.

Police investigations in the interim had revealed that the syndicate had illegally allotted land to people using forged documents.

Police information indicated that the gang could replicate the signatures of land officials and the stamps of so many government agencies and even power of attorney.   

According to the police, the syndicate obtained blank land allocation papers from the Area Councils, FCTA and AGIS with the assistance of insiders and write the names of their victims.

They later imitate and append the signatures of the land issuing officials, which the AIG said looked like the original.

The fraudsters also provided forged building plan approvals to their victims.

Police investigations showed that the processes of getting a piece of land involved completing land application forms, obtaining approval of offer of grant letter and a Title Deed Plan (TDP) all within two hours unlike the legal process that was characterised by various searches and bureaucratic bottle-necks.

“The activities of this syndicate amount to economic sabotage,” the AIG stressed.

The police explained that one of the suspects, Oduwaye was arrested while issuing out a fake Grant of Occupancy in respect of a plot of 8,000sqm along the outer Northern Express way with forged signature of one Lugard Edegbe, a former employee of AMAC, at Utako District in Abuja.

Oduwaye led the police to his hide out where they recovered items used in forging land allocation papers.

The AIG said a police monitoring team led by Superintendent Nzota Chidi  was able to discover how the syndicate forged land allocation papers and sold them to one Alhaji Kabiru Haruna of Games Village, Abuja at the cost of N40 million.

The suspects also collected a car, Honda Accord Model from Haruna as part of the payment for the land.

Confessing, Abdulhameed Mohammed said they had sold pieces of land to people including Haruna using forged documents.

He said they actually negotiated a piece of land along the Kubwa Road with Haruna at the cost of N20 million. Haruna had already paid N8 million to the syndicate and gave them his car, a Honda Accord (2009 Model) valued at N5 million as part payment for the land which brought the total money to N13 million.

The activities of land fraudsters in Abuja had led to multiple allocations of land and a number of legal tussles among land owners. This also generates fears and doubts in the minds of prospective land owners. FCTA authorities also wonder which plot of land is genuinely allocated and which is not.

Police investigations have pointed out that land frauds in the FCT had been going on for long.

“People become more involved in the fraudulent activities because government has not enough mechanisms to check those leaking out vital documents and information to people among its employees, coupled with the fact that people are desperate to own land in the FCT even when they don’t have the means of developing such lands,” Okoronkwo said.

The Special Assistant to the FCT Minister (Media), Alhaji Abdullahi Zuru, had recently said at a press briefing that 105 fraudulent and irregular plot allocations had been uncovered at AGIS.

He said names of illegal land owners who had no valid documents had been compiled and would soon be sent to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and a committee had been set up to investigate AGIS officials who might have aided the fraudulent allocation of the plots.

The revocation of the 1,270 plots allocated by former FCT Minister, Mal. Nasir El-Rufai, was being carried out, upon directive from the Joint Senate Committees on the FCT and Housing that investigated the administration of FCTA between 1999 and 2007.

Zuru said 700 allottees out of the 1,270 had already been served revocation notice.