The Land Swap programme of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) is in the news again following revelations by the upper chamber of the National Assembly
Matters that were not open to the public concerning the Land Swap policy of the previous administration were laid bare on Tuesday during the 2016 budget defence of the FCT Ministry in the Senate. The Minister of FCT, Mohammed Bello led officials of the ministry to the Senate where they were asked many question about Land Swap.
Land Swap started by the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCT A) in 2013 was opened for provision of engineering infrastructure in Phase IV (south) of the Federal Capital City (FCC) by former Vice President Namadi Sambo on February 27, 2015. The initiative called land-for-infrastructure swap was to gulp $6 billion (N12trn that time) of investment. It is a situation where government gives a green field to developers for real property development. The developers in turn provide specified infrastructure on the land. Simply, it is initiative that bridges infrastructure gap using land.
But last week, the chairman of the Senate Committee on FCT, Senator Dino Melaye said Land Swap had been hijacked by a group and there was N350 million alleged fraud in the Land Swap scheme.
In his address, Melaye said the Senate would not hesitate to ensure that all administrative anomalies, misappropriation of funds and misapplication of the laws by the past administration of the FCT are tackled. According to him, the entire process was cumbersome and ambiguous, stressing that such an important project should have undergone a pilot scheme engaging one or two districts as samples.
"The committee notes that despite the good intention of the Land Swap initiative, the coordinators of the programme failed to follow the principle of due process. There were flagrant disregard for financial regulations and the extant laws. The programme was hijacked by super powers of this country, thereby making the coordinators lose focus," he said.
He added, “some of the addresses provided by the investors could not be traced and the amount received from each of the investors is not stated or captured in FCTA submission. The total amount accrued to FCTA is also not stated.
A member of the committee, Senator Bassey Albert Akpan drew the attention of committee members to an illegality on the pre-qualification given to investors, saying, “the payment of an initial N350 million is not under the control of FCT. Of what essence are you saying that investors must make an initial payment of 350 million and in your submission, this is not under the control of FCT?”
Responding to questions from the committee, Coordinator, Abuja Infrastructure Investment Centre (AICC) Farouk Sani noted that all the questions that were asked were captured in the presentation of the ministry.
The minister of FCT, Muhammad Bello noted that Land Swap had been generating reactions from the public. “I want to assure you that the ministry under my leadership will ensure that all the decisions taken by your distinguished committee will be implemented. Like I mentioned to you, this is one policy that has been of great concern to many stakeholders,” he said.
The Abuja Land Swap investment covers land area of 3,886 hectares, amounting to 15 percent of the FCC and less than 0.50 percent of FCT. The Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) was to supervise implementation of the project with the hope that in six years, Abuja infrastructure stock will increase by more than 27 percent, meaning additional 464km of new roads, seven bridges, 696km of street lighting lines and 334km of telecommunication ducts. It was said that there will be 2,566km of electricity distribution lines, 643km of water distribution lines, 626km of foul water drains, 672km of storm water drains and 226 culverts. All this amounting to $6 billion.
A breakdown showed that $2.4 billion was for infrastructure investment; and $3.6 billion for secondary investment in residential, commercial, multipurpose, institutional and active recreation development.
It was said that investors had already spent N4 billion to produce necessary documentation for districts covering survey data, detailed land use plans, final engineering designs and bills of engineering measurement and evaluation.
The programme was projected to create 25,000 plots of land in nine districts. The nine districts include: Ketti North, Sheretti, Ketti, Sheretti Chechi, Waru Kpozaima, Burum, Burum West, Ketti East and Gwagwa.
While launching the scheme, Sambo explained, “In concept, the Abuja master plan envisaged a territory that would be built in 25 years with 79 districts, nine sector centres and 11 satellite towns with the planned maximum population of 3.2 million people.
The investors: Out of 15 companies shortlisted, six were picked to execute the novel land policy. They include: Urban Shelter Infrastructure Limited, System Property Development Company Limited, Afri-International Projects Limited, BGD Properties Limited, Gilmore Engineering Company Limited and AM-PM Global Network Limited.
Apart from the above, eight more investors were in the process of joining the programme. They were: Dangote Group, Ketti East Infrastructure Limited, Bolmus Nigeria Limited, Deep Earth Nigeria Limited, Dayspring Limited, Haitong Limited, Rosehill Group and Waru-Pozema District Infrastructure Limited.
But one year after, when Daily Trust visited the site where the launch took place, there were scarcely marks to show that infrastructure were being built by the developers. Gilmore Engineering Company Limited has built a yard near the site.
Land Swap started with a pilot called Dallas Caraway District. Government did not wait to see completion of this project before opening more districts.