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‘Next Level’ and Problem of Land Title Regularization in Abuja.

Land is one of the major factors of production, which makes it a great asset; especially in Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory, FCT Abuja. This value placement on land can explain why its title rights or lack of can often generate a lot of controversies.

The FCT occupies about 8000 square kilometres, while the Abuja city covers about 250 square kilometres of this.

The demand for land in the FCT continues to increase as more people and business move to Abuja. Since officially becoming the capital of Nigeria in 1991, most ministries moved from Lagos to Abuja. Even several private organisations have established and continue to strive to have a presence in Abuja given that it is the seat of power.

By the virtue of Section 297 (2) of the 1999 Constitution as amended and Sections 18 & 1 (3) of the FCT Act respectively has vested the entire 8,000 square kilometers of the land in the Federal Capital Territory to the Federal Government of Nigeria, and is being managed by the FCT Minister under a delegated responsibility.

But unfortunately, there was a previous practise were the FCT local government area councils were arbitrarily allocating lands to individuals and organisations without FCDA authorisation.

In 2006, the FCT administration had directed the Area Councils to discontinue allocation of land and requested that they update and forward their records of allocations for the commencement of the title regularization for thorough cleaning and validation.

To serve this purpose, a private organisation known as ACCTRIS, in partnership with FCDA was tasked to help regularise land titles that were previously given by FCT area councils.

Unfortunately, and according to our sources, the FCDA realised that this objective was not being achieved because of mismanagement. The Administration spotted some illegal allocation of papers being backdated by fraudulent ex-FCT officials and ex-Land officers at the Area Councils; fake letters of allocations and Certificates of Occupancy in circulation as well as farmers, village heads, community heads selling land in the Area Councils, thereby duping unsuspecting members of the public.

On completion of tenure, the partnership with ACCTRIS was not renewed. The FCDA has now allocated that responsibility to its department of land, now domiciled at Abuja Geographic Information Systems, AGIS, whose mandate is to provide a comprehensive, all-inclusive, state-of-the-art, fool proof, computerized, Geospatial Data Infrastructure for the FCT.

This lingering controversy has negatively impacted a lot of people, businesses and organisations. Even FCDA itself admitted that several thousands of Certificates of Occupancy (C of O) as well as Rights of Occupancy (R of O) for Federal Capital City (FCC) titles are unclaimed in the Department of Lands Administration and called on the beneficiaries to come forward with necessary documents for collection.

Obviously, there has been a lot of mismanagement and shady deals, but in the spirit of NEXT LEVEL, many Nigerians believe that government institutions for land, building and housing should be responsible stakeholders and find a way around solving this land title regularisation crisis.

President Buhari is gearing up to constitute a new cabinet that will help the administration achieve its NEXT LEVEL objectives as promised during his re-election campaign. In NEXT LEVEL, the government and its party have promised to deliver on a promise of socio-political and economic elevation for the people. It is therefore the wish of many that this land title crisis in Abuja is looked into as the government plans for the next four years.

According to some Abuja residents who spoke with Housing News, this issue has even affected access to funding for SMEs and other ventures. Some of the cases are still pending in over stretched legal battles.

Stakeholders are also calling on the government to include in its NEXT LEVEL agenda, the mandate of resolving this regularisation crisis once and for all.

By Ojonugwa Felix Ugboja

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