MINISTER of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Alhaji Mohammed Bello yesterday blamed one of his predecessors, Senator Adamu Aliero, for the current face-off between the Nigerian Army and civilians over ownership of the 238 hectares of land in Maitama Extension, Abuja. Bello, who appeared alongside the army hierarchy led by the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Yusuf Buratai, before the Senate Committee on FCT, however appealed for time to resolve the problem amicably with the army authority. He disclosed that the 238 hectares of land was originally allocated to the Nigerian Army in 1996, but some time in 2009 when Senator Aliero was the FCT Minister, about 600 plots were re-allocated to some privileged civilians and retired military officers without any legal revocation of allocation made in 1996, when Lt.–Gen Jeremiah Useni (rtd) was the minister.
“I want to just mention that the area in contention was actually an area earmarked for the Nigerian Army under the Guards Brigade way back in 1996; but for sometime in 2009 a portion and the entire area in contention is about 246 hectares or thereabout. “Sometime in 2009, plot allocations were made there and commitments were undertaken by the FCTA in terms of infrastructure. Allocated plots in that area from our records numbered about 600 plots out of which Certificate of Occupancy, C-of-O, have been issued to about 200 from payments of about N5.6billion have been received aside commitment of about N9billion billion already made in respect of providing infrastructure in the area out of estimated N23 billion.” The minister appealed to the committee to give the FCT authority and the army more time to resolve the problem, saying “at the end of the day we would be able to reach a solution to meet
the needs of the military and of course ensure also those that were allocated plots in that area in terms of financial commitments, do not lose their commitments.” He added that as a result of the problem, the FCT administration was already identifying all available military lands within the territory towards avoiding similar encroachment “aided from within. As a result of the experience of what is currently happening in that area, we are now working towards identifying all available military lands within the territory to forestall similar problem,” he said. In his submission, General Buratai disclosed that the military, after acquisition of all the lands allotted to it, legally would move away from its temporary areas of operation to them. The Chief of Army Staff specifically said that the headquarters of the Nigerian Army, Navy, Air Force and the Defence Headquarters presently were not the right
places for such operations. He also keyed into the submission made by the FCT Minister for more consultation between the army and FCT authority over the land. “The location is quite strategic and couldn’t have been planned for co- habitation with the civilian populace,” he said. In his remarks, chairman of the committee, Senator Dino Melaye stressed that whatever arrangement that would be arrived at by the two parties should take care of compensation for those that had already developed their property on a land they thought was legally acquired. The chairman, who said the military was expected to stay in an exclusive zone as the practice across the world, assured that none of the “innocent civilians” who acquired land in the disputed area would lose their money, vowing that “as representatives of the people, we are going to protect their interests.”

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