Senator Bala Mohammed
There were disagreements Tuesday between members of the Senate Committee on Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and the Minister of FCT, Senator Bala Mohammed, over the minister’s N4 billion budget in the 2013 budget proposal meant for the construction of Vice-President’s residence and the construction of Cultural Centre and Millennium Tower in Abuja.
Also, efforts by the lawmakers to convince the minister to shift ground on his plans to demolish about 36 estates spread across the capital territory that were at various stages of completion fell on deaf ears.
Mohammed said the FCT budget had been pegged at N50 billion by the Budget Office of the Federation (BOF).
He said the FCTA had to operate within the ceiling in order to take care of the ongoing projects and outstanding liabilities, adding that the pegging would not deter the FCT from squaring up to the responsibility of providing required infrastructure to make Abuja a world class city as well as actualise President Goodluck Jonathan’s transformation agenda.
The minister pointed out that during the interactive session with the BOF and the Ministry of Finance, the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, briefed them concerning national financial constraints.
While acknowledging that the sum of N50 billion budget ceiling given to the FCT by the BOF may not allow the FCTA to operate at the required capacity of providing infrastructure for the city, he stated that the Territory is obliged to operate within the available resources.
Mohammed stressed that efforts would be made to harness other avenues to fulfil its strategic role of building a befitting Federal Capital City.
According to him, in the year 2012 the sum of N46.2 billion was appropriated for the FCT National Budget. Up till date FCT have received the first, second, third and fourth quarters warrant bringing the total amount relieved to them to N37 million.
He stated that the FCT was still awaiting the cash parking of the 4th quarter warrant.
The FCT National Priority Projects for the year 2012 according to him are being implemented by the technical department of the FCDA (Engineering services, the public building and the FCT transportation secretariat and other FCT agencies). He added that the total payments made to date amounted to the sum of N31.79 billion while the balance of N496.13 million is under process.
Mohammed stated that the budget performance of the FCT based on the amounts release so far is 99 per cent.
He however clarified that the performance based on the entire budget including the approximately N14 billion that is yet to be released stands at about 75 per cent.
He expressed optimism that the amount yet to be released would be released soon to enable the FCT continue to execute its various projects.
While fielding questions from the Senators, the minister debunked an allegation that some green areas were being converted to houses, stressing that such rumours were the handiworks of mischief makers.
On the parking fees being charged motorist on FCT roads, he said that the measure was necessary for sanity and orderliness on the roads as well as the protection of public facilities. He however stated that the enabling law for the exercise has been prepared by the FCT transport Secretariat and forwarded to the National Assembly for passage.
He lamented the problem in the FCT was due to lack of autonomous legislative structure, saying unlike Lagos State where the state Assembly churns out laws, the FCT depends on the National Assembly which already has a lot on its hand.
Immediately after appraising the FCT 2012 budget of N46, 257,784,097, which he stressed had been cash-backed to the tune of N37,030,221,113, scoring himself 90 per cent, the Chairman, Senate Committee on FCT, Senator Smart Adeyemi, took the minister on the plans to demolish the estates.
Adeyemi asked: “We have received petitions from the general public and even some lawmakers which confirms that you have concluded plans of still going ahead to demolish about 36 estates in FCT that are at various stages of completion without moral ground?”
Underscoring his foreclosed plans of going ahead with the demolition plans, the minister in his reply, said all arrangements on the demolition of the remaining 36 estates spread across the territory will be carried out soonest, adding that the Federal Capital Development Agency (FCDA) had a law which is embedded in the Abuja master plan which cannot be compromised.
“I have a law for demolishing; definitely I will go ahead and demolish these ongoing 36 estates that are illegally acquired in the first place.
“I must say with all humility and at the risk of sounding immodest that there are a lot of practices of impunity prevalent in our city where people take it for granted. Some of these excuses are that we have not given them notice.
“In most cases we have told the developers, don’t do it, it is not your plot, yet they will go ahead and develop and they have not even obtain development control approval and yet they would go ahead and develop and you expect us to leave them to practice that impunity thinking that they will go through the corrupt system and get it demoralised. We are not going to allow this to go on with impunity,” he said.
According to him, the issue at stake is not about morality, adding that Federal Government has in the last 35 years invested more than N4 trillion into FCT with social infrastructure and therefore would not allowed to go down the drain because of impunity on the part of developers who do not have approvals before constructing their estates.
Senator Domingo Obende, while urging the minister to take another look at the implication of the demolition considering the huge investment in the sector, added, the idea of allowing building to attain over 90 per cent completion was beyond legal issues.
Responding, the minister stressed: “However, we are in court. We don’t want to preempt the outcome of the court, but certainly we will not allow the huge investments made by the Federal Government in the last 35 years to the tune of N4 trillion to just go down the drain and to be destroyed by just few individuals who are using the media and agents of offices of government to blackmail us. We are not doing it for ourselves, we are doing it out of out own corporate social responsibilities.”
The minister explained that Development Control, which is the agency in charge, does not have enforcement power as the demolition is always done under the supervision of police and the military.
He said: “Development Control is just a government. We don’t have power of enforcement we use the police and sometime we use the military, but people don’t understand.
“And I want to plead with you because we don’t have laws in FCT as obtained in other cities or states and that is why we are having problems and the absence of these laws is really mitigating FCT’s capacity to implement some enforcements.”
Mohammed, however added that the authority was also making an alternative arrangement to build social houses with facilities that will be given to the displaced residents, adding that the enumeration of those involved have been concluded.
He said that it has become expedient to demolish the Mpape illegal residential areas also because the place is fast becoming a zone for security risk.