By Henry Umoru & Joseph Erunke
ABUJA — MINISTER of the Federal Capital Territory Administration, FCTA, Senator Bala Mohammed, yesterday, told Senators that the Park and Pay policy recently introduced in the nation’s capital where owners of vehicles park and pay was not backed by law.
The FCT recently made it mandatory for commuters who use the roads especially in places like in Garki, Wuse, Maitama, Asokoro to pay N50 for 30 minutes, N100 for one hour and more depending on the hours one must have parked his or her vehicle.
After a serious session, yesterday, with the Senator Smart Adeyemi, PDP, Kogi West-led Senate Committee on the FCT to defend the 2013 budget, the FCT Minister, however, dared the lawmakers, boasting that no law can stop him from demolishing 31 estates and Mpape in the FCT.
When asked if there was any law backing the introduction of park and pay policy in the FCT, the minister said: “The parking regime, we inherited it and we saw that it is noble and we implemented it. We are treating it administratively.
“There is no institutional structure at all. It is just a responsibility of the road department to make sure that all these practices where the city is converted into a car park. We have designated car parks here and there, people park anyhow such that the corridors are impeded by people who do not want to follow our transport resolutions and that is why it was done by my predecessor and I saw that it is a good thing.
“Even the Okada, we don’t have a law but we are treating it administratively because security is everybody’s business. If we allow all these things to happen, certainly we will end up in trouble and we just have to take pre-emptive measures. I have a law on demolishing.
The law I said I don’t have is the one the chairman asked on the issue of parking. But for demolition, I have the law and I don’t even have to interfere with Development Control Law under the Land Use Act.”
The FCT Minister noted that N50,000,000,000 budget ceiling for the FCT by the Budget Office of the Federation as 2013 National Priority budget will not be enough to provide the needed infrastructure for the city. He said 2012 budget based on analysis, stands at 99 per cent, adding that total payment made up till date stands at N31.7 billion while the balance of N496 million is under process.
In the budget breakdown, the FCT will next year build a cultural centre and Millennium Tower for N2 billion, just as besides the N1 billion earmarked for construction of Vice President Namadi Sambo’s residence in Aso Drive, it will now be completed for N2 billion.
On demolition, Mohammed said: ‘’I want to ,with all respect and humility , tell the Chairman that this is not true. Since I came, I am not aware of any conversion that we have done and we have the coordinator of Abuja Metropolitan Management Council.
‘’People are free to think anyhow out of mischief and treachery and they will be ringing issues to the highest level of government up to the Senate. I too, I have had occasion to discuss to in the Senate that there are some of this information that are not true and as a Senate I will ask you to investigate and find out.
‘’If there are hills being bulldozed maybe they are part of the development of the Master Plan and it is not true that all hills are not being developed. If you go to some countries they are all on hills. So it is not every hill that should be left out. Some hills are meant to be removed and we have some areas which we call buffer zones and we have to bulldoze some buildings.
I must say with all humility at the risk of sounding impudent that there is some lot of practice of impunity prevalent in our city where people take it for granted.
‘’Some of those estates that you said we have not given notice, we can give you evidence when you come when right from the foundation we have been telling the developer ‘don’t do it. This place is designed. It is not your own plot. You have not even obtained Development Control approval. Yet they will go ahead and develop and you expect us to leave them to practice that impunity thinking that will go through the corrupt system and get it regularize.
‘’Certainly we will not allow the business of government to be extricated by this type of unwholesome attitude. And it is with all humility that we do demolition. It is not because we like it. It is not the moral issue but the moral baggage is also on the society to know that government is just a service to them and if they continue to abuse it certainly we have to take the remedial measures in terms of enforcement and we do enforcement after persuasion.
‘’Not just going with the big hammer to start killing the fly but we normally give all the information and in particular cases of the expense we will give you all the information that you require. We are in court. We don’t want to pre-empt the outcome of the court but certainly we will not allow the huge investment made by the federal government for the last 35 years to the tune of N3 or N4trillion to be destroyed by the wishful interest of some few individuals who are just using the media and using some offices of government to blackmail us. we are not doing it for ourselves, we are doing it out of absolute responsibility.
‘’Development control is just a government office. We don’t have power of enforcement. We use the police sometimes we use the military but people don’t listen and like you said we will want more capacity to be built. In the Mass Housing area, when it was started, it was about four to five district and we did not have the capacity for oversight but now we are really building with the support that we are getting from you. You can see in our statutory budget all this things captured so that we can have more in terms of enforcement.
‘’But certainly as you said we are not just allowing it to grow until it reach a level then we come and start demolishing. At every stage we give notice ‘please stop.’ But when they refuse to stop and we don’t have capacity to go and stop them from the onset unless they refuse to it then we now know that yes, these people mean business and we have demolished and we are in court and we will plead with you to allow us exercise our statutory responsibilities over all these duties and of course since it is in court so that it will not pre-empt what is going on.”
When asked by the Senators on efforts he was making to ensure that houses were not demolished without the backing of the law, the Minister roared, ‘’Which law? Which law are you asking for? We have the responsibility to enforce the Master Plan. The FCDA has a law and the Abuja Master Plan is not compromising.”
When a member of the Committee, Senator Domingo Obende reminded him thus, ‘’Hon Minister you just said to us that you don’t have a law, the FCT Minister replied saying, ‘’I have a law for demolishing.
The law I said I don’t have is the one the chairman asked on the issue of parking. But for demolishing I have the law and I don’t even have to interfere with Development Control law under the Land Use Act.”
On whether he was going ahead with the demolition with the estates, he said, ‘’You see two wrongs do not make a right and for us to allow an exclusion of an exercise of impunity or lawlessness, we are not going to condone this for any reason. They have given a lot of sentiments as a politician, I am a civil servant. We have to go through the process.
‘’People are going wrong. It is just like theMalaysianGarden. People’s money have been collected to build estate on over 500 hectares in the last seven years. Coming back to the issue of the 31 estates, most Nigerians are gullible. Unfortunately when the accelerated development programme was put in place, there were no guidelines.
‘’We are supposed to know the timeline for delivery. We are supposed to put on sight primary infrastructure and prototype for people to know that this is a building they are going to get, within certain period based on the agreement. But Nigerians were just paying. The same thing happened to the 31 estates. What we are saying is that we are going to give alternative to those developers.
After all, most of them have not gone very far and again for Nigerians that are trying to get affordable housing, we are coming with estates, an American investor has come and even our own Abuja Property Development Company is going to build about 100 hectares and my colleague is developing a district so that we bring houses to the threshold of affordability by Nigerians who may not afford these high brow areas. And again, even in Mpape where we are demolishing, we want to build social and affordable houses within the precincts of the city.
‘’Yes, we have already demolished some portions and we have done enumeration after going through all the processes.
That place is just a large and big encroachment because of the economic activities arising from the quarry activities.
Even the quarries we intend to move them out of that place because we have provided some quarry areas within the Master Plan. But certainly this is a long time measure. We have been stopped by our principal so that we can do persuasion, we can carry them along but certainly we are not going to leave them because if you leave them this Chamber is not safe because of the security information that we got.
‘’So we have to carry on not because we want to do it but certainly we are going to make sure that we provide palliation. Those whose buildings are going to be demolished, we will make sure they get alternative from the developments that are going to be in that place or in other portions of the city. Essentially what I am saying is that we have a moral bargain.Abujathe way it was structured is such that right from the onset it did not take into cognizance the needs of the common people especially the lower cadre of the civil servants and supporting staff. Most of them are left out in the buildings and in the Master Plan.
‘’That is why we have a show of plan-lessness from Nyanya up to Keffi and of course, on the other precincts of the city. But it is not today that we are going to effect a change. Of course, Mr. President is bringing transformation and we are building affordable mass housing.”