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The vanity in the Abuja land

According to the provisions of sections 47 to 63 of the Nigerian Urban and Regional Planning Law, the power for enforcement is vested in the…

According to the provisions of sections 47 to 63 of the Nigerian Urban and Regional Planning Law, the power for enforcement is vested in the Development Control Departments. Various forms and procedures for enforcement were specified. They include stop-work orders for unauthorised developments, or developments not in compliance with the building permit, quit notices and demolitions of defective buildings as to pose danger or constitute nuisance to the occupier and the public.

All these procedures are imperative for the purpose of preventing derailments in the implementation of plans in our urban areas, prevention of encroachments to public facilities and adjoining plots and resolution of conflicts between land owners. While some would always abide by the development rules and regulations, there are many, mostly highly placed individuals that are notorious in the violation of the rules for their selfish benefits and personal aggrandisement. But the law is not a respecter of position or status, otherwise many areas in the Abuja City would have since been transformed into slums. There is a parlance in the planning profession, that planning without development control is just like a wishful thinking.

The city population was projected to be 3.1 million and compliance with the development guidelines is one of the means guiding the achievement of the Master plan’s objectives. Contrarily, when residential densities are allowed to be violated by overdevelopment of plots, it leads to overpopulation which results to overstretching of the infrastructure and services. Undertaking the enforcement by the mandated public officers as provided by the law, is by no means an easy task. Most especially in an elitist city like Abuja with abundant highly placed individuals who are always obsessed with having things their own ways, irrespective of the provisions of the law or the rights of other citizens.

The experience of the development control officers, with the humiliation and hazards associated with the assignment, leaves much to be desired. In one of my encounters, more than 20 years ago, when I was on one of the regular routine tours of the area under my control as the Development Control Site Officer in charge of the Central Area District, I saw a land earmarked for public infrastructure being fenced. I immediately understood that it was the owner of the adjoining hotel that was in the process of illegally annexing the plot. I immediately served a stop work notice.

The following day, Tpl. Jummai Kwanashie, then heading the Development Control, could not come to the office until afternoon, because she was summoned to the headquarters. On her return, she immediately called me to enquire whether I served any stop work notice in the Central Area the previous day, which I confirmed. The veracity of my report made her concur with my action. Thus, not minding the consequences, she submitted to the higher authority, that if the illegal development is not stopped the demolition notice would be served.

But, when the hotel owner’s wife was subsequently appointed a minister, the illegality continued. At that time, Development Control had assumed the status of a full-scale department. When I served the next notice, I was held hostage by the workers at the site on the directive of their boss. Fortunately, the wife, who was more educated on the subject was around. She came to the scene and understood my mission better than her husband, subsequently, I was saved from further embarrassment. Upon my return to the office and lodging my report, I was ordered by my director, Tpl. Ogunmola, to ensure that the infraction is removed first thing the following day. And so it was, amidst fracas and police tear gas in order to disperse those mobilised to prevent the demolition.

However, the developer remained recalcitrant in ensuring that he is allowed to maintain the land, irrespective of the infractions. He continued wielding his influence with any opportunity provided. The matter was a highly classified case in the FCT Administration and continued even beyond my tenure as a development control officer. Unfortunately, in one of his missions for the same purpose, he was involved in a crash and passed away without succeeding. May his soul rest in peace. I got the subsequent information when I read the book written by Nasir El-Rufa’i, ‘The Accidental Civil Servant’.

The above is only one among many of my other harrowing experiences. My colleague and contemporary in service, A. K. Ejim, had his encounters with a former Head of Service, former Inspector General and former Senate President, among others, on similar issues. I was a witness to an incident in which one of them came to our office threatening to slap him for carrying out his official assignment. Yet, they all passed away, leaving behind the lands and their contents. It finally turned out to be worthless and vanity. May their gentle souls rest in peace.

 

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