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The Vanity In The Abuja Land

By Umar Shuaib

According to the provision of section 47 to 63 of the Nigerian Urban and Regional Planning Law the power for enforcement is vested on the Development Control Departments. Various forms and procedure for the enforcements were specified. They include stop work orders for unauthorized 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 procedure 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 violations of the rules for their selfish benefits and personal aggrandizement. But, 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 towards 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 obsess to 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 humiliations 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 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 to concur with my action. Thus, not minding the consequences, she submitted to the higher authority, that if the illegal development is not stopped demolition notice will 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 on 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 more than her husband, subsequently I was saved from further embarrassments. 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 mobilized 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 on the same purpose he was involve 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 former Head of Service, Former Inspector General and Former Senate President among others, on similar issues. I was a witness to an incident 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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