By Soni Daniel, Northern Region Editor
It was Sonny Okosun, who made an enduring fame from a blockbuster entitled, “We want to know who owns the land”. The chartbuster, which criticized land grabbing by white supremacists in Namibia from the aborigines, highlighted the harmful effect of the unending inhuman treatment of the natives by the imperialists. That was in Namibia but it was a Nigerian songwriter; musician and activist, who deployed his gift and guts to challenge the invaders and, in a way, helped to secure independence for Namibia.
Today, Namibia is free from the grip of their former overlords and the struggle remains a source of history. But Nigeria, from where Sonny Okosun wrote and sang the liberation song, is yet to be fully out of the grip of the Army. Officers and men of the military institution in Nigeria are so powerful that they can brutalize anyone and get away with it because of the fact that neither the police nor other para-military officials can question, detain or call them to order when they err. Indeed, the fear of the military is the beginning of wisdom in Nigeria.
That may explain why the management and staff of Kakatar Construction and Engineering Limited- ran away from their site at the Maitama Extension District on September 3, 2016, once the Army served them notice that they should not enter the vast plot any longer.
It was a Saturday morning and the staff of the company had arrived on their site at the Maitama Extension to continue their work from where they left off the previous day but they were given a shock of their life. As they arrived the vast premises, which houses no fewer than 430 plots of land tucked in on a-230 hectare parcel of land overlooking the Mpape and Katampe Hills, some strange but stern-looking soldiers had taken over the road leading to the site.
“We are on the instruction of the Chief of Army Staff not allow anyone to enter this place,” a soldier who had been deployed to ward off any ‘intruder’, shouted at the top of his voice.
“It was one of our Generals who brought us here last night but we don’t know what led to our being moved into this place but we will not allow anybody to enter this place until we get a different directive,” the soldier said.
With those words, the Army effectively took over the Maitama Extension, a sprawling district, which was created by the Adamu Alieru-led Federal Capital Development Authority, FCDA, in 2008 to provide a low density well protected housing estate for top class Nigerians and members of the diplomatic corps.
Since Aliero, now a serving senator, created the Maitama Extension District over nine years ago, the Army, whose Lungi, Mambilla and Yar’Adua barracks are close by, has never raised any issue of ownership of the land until September 3 this year, thereby creating a new set of questions that it is unable to provide answers. In the main, the Army claims that the land was given to it by the Federal Government as far back as 1991 and would not allow anyone to encroach on it any longer.
Since the forceful takeover of the land by soldiers allegedly on the instruction of the CoAS, Lt. Gen. Tukur Burutai, the 430 title owners and workers of Kakatar Civil Engineering Limited, KCEL, owned by former President Goodluck Jonathan’s sibling, Azibaola Robert, have been kept at bay. Neither the workers can gain access to their offices and equipment to continue with the provision of engineering infrastructure awarded to them by the FCDA in 2011 nor the plot owners can access their completed and ongoing properties.
And the two sets of people are angry, confused and frustrated. While the allottees have protested the land grab to the Senate and asked for intervention to secure their plots, the management of KCEL has dispatched two separate letters to Burutai and the FCT Minister, Mohammed Bello, seeking explanation on what has been done by the soldiers to the company and the losses it is incurring as a result.
In one of the letters, dated September 5 and addressed to the FCT Minister and sighted by Sunday Vanguard, KCEL drew his attention to the sudden takeover of the land by the military, denying the firm and its workers access to do their work.
Sunday Vanguard learnt from competent sources close to the army that neither the letter from the Managing Director of KCEL, nor the plea from the FCDA to the army to reopen the site made sense to the army.
But angered by the action of the military, the Senate Committee on the FCT, headed by Kogi-born Senator Dino Melaye, summoned the CoAS and the FCT Minister and his officials to appear before it and explain who owns the land.
When the parties appeared before the Senate, penultimate Monday, they all laid claims to the strategic piece of land. The army, represented by Maj. Gen. Pat. Ake, insisted that the land was allocated to the army by government as far back as 1991 but did not tender documents to buttress his claim.
Bello said the land was allocated by the FCDA to the allottees based on the Abuja Master Plan. Also, he did not tender documents to support his claim.
Based on the divergent claims of ownership, the Melaye-led Senate Committee ordered the FCDA Minister and the army to come back with the proof of ownership to validate who owns the land.
Meanwhile, if the army presents allocation letter to show the land was given to it in 1991, it would be difficult for the FCDA to appease the 430 land owners, who are spoiling for ‘war’.
On the other hand, if the army fails to produce evidence to justify its action and seizure of the land, it would push it into confrontation with the land owners and generate bad blood. For now, the question remains: Who owns the MED land?