Senate, FCT Minister meet over army-civilian land dispute

Edwin Akwueh, Abuja

The Minister of Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mohammed Bello has assured all allottees of land located in the Maitama extension district of Abuja, that their property will not be lost due to any dispute.

Bello gave this assurance on Monday during a meeting with the Senate Committee on the FCT and officials of the Nigerian Army over the 238 hectares in Maitama extension.

The Minister noted that the FCT administration was already working out modalities to compensate owners of the contentious plots, as a way to resolve the impending crisis.

Soldiers had on September 13th occupied the area to take possession of the plots, prompting the civilian allottees to protest at the National Assembly.

Investigations show that the said 238 hectares were originally allocated to the Nigerian Army in 1996 and marked as a military zone but it was subsequently reallocated to some individuals in 2009 when the country returned to civilian rule.

This action by the FCT Administration led to a dispute between the army and the civilian allottees over ownership of the 238 hectares.

However, the FCT Minister who was in the National Assembly to clarify the issues acknowledged that the land in question was actually earmarked for the Nigerian Army, adding that he needed more time to resolve the matter with the army authorities.

“I have been meeting with the Chief of Army Staff, the area in contention was actually earmarked for the Army Brigade in 1996 but in 2009, reallocation was made. I will like to appeal to the committee to allow us continue discussion. Those who were allocated plots in the area and made financial commitment will not lose their money. 

We will discuss and work out the requirement for the military to function. We have been discussing quite amicably because we are one government. I thank the military for their cooperation and I appeal for ample time to resolve this,” he stressed.

Chairman of the Senate Committee on Federal Capital Territory, Senator Dino Melaye, had asked the Minister to give assurances that no Nigerian who acquired the land in the disputed area would lose his money. He blamed the previous FCT Administration, especially the immediate past Minister, for not exercising caution during his allocation of the plots.

“No Nigerian who acquired land in the disputed area will lose his money; the Minister should give this assurance. Everywhere in the world, the military has exclusive reservation, and it was irresponsible for the former minister not to do due diligence. We learnt that the land was allocated to the Army in 1996. It is a misnomer to allocate lands to individuals near the military zone. There must be exclusive preserve for military zone,” Senator Melaye said.

In his response, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Burutai who said that the Army would abide by whatever decision arrived at by the meeting, emphasized that land close to army barracks should always be given particular consideration because of security.

The Army Chief, who stated that a long term plan was necessary for military development, explained that the present locations of the Defence and Army headquarters in the central districts of Abuja, were not the best for the country and needed to be relocated.