A Mass Housing Estate on the Brink

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Jessica Odemwingie writes on the unending crisis enveloping one of the largest mass housing estates in Abuja and why the FCT authorities need to intervene urgently

Winning Clause Estate recently renamed City of David Estate, which is situated at Plot 67 Kafe District, new Gwarinpa, Abuja, is one of largest mass housing estates in Abuja. With over 350 duplexes already developed in the estate and over seven hectares of land yet to be established, the stress-free accessibility of the estate makes it eye-catching to many house subscribers.

From the Life Camp Roundabout, it is about a 15-minute drive to the estate; and if you are accessing it from the Main Gate of Gwarinpa along Kubwa Expressway, it’s about 10 minutes drive at 50 kilometres per hour.

Planned to be a mass housing estate, a group of homes and other buildings, built together as a single development by a single contractor with uniform appearance, the City of David Estate would ordinarily have been the most sought after but for the unending controversy enveloping it, which most residents claimed was created by a “disputable estate developer”, Winning Clause Limited.

Like other housing estates in Abuja, usually the form of residential design in new towns, the estate is designed as self-directed district to minimise through-traffic flows, and to provide a recreational space in the form of parks and greens. But the estate is opposite of what mass housing estate should be.

THISDAY’s findings show that the problem with the estate started sometime between 2009 and 2010, when the current house owners bought their properties, under the mass housing project, from one Alhaji Kabiru Haruna, who was then Chairman/CEO of Saraha Homes Limited, a company well-advertised for estate development in Abuja.
Many of the owners, according to investigations had long completed payment for the properties, built and were in firm possession of their properties without any interference from anybody until 2012.

At the beginning of their business conversation and transaction with Saraha Homes, they were said to have demanded to see the original allocation paper of the said plot issued by the Federal Capital Development Authority. And they were presented with a copy of ‘’Letter of Offer’’ issued in the name of ProForm West Africa Limited.

‘’In fact, our search at the Abuja Geographical Information System (AGIS) actually confirmed that the plot was allocated to ProForm West Africa Limited. We were also made to understand that there was a partnership agreement between ProForm West Africa Limited and Saraha Homes Limited,” the House Owners/Residents Association Chairman, Mr. Mike Oluwasegbe told THISDAY.

‘’Indeed, a copy of the said partnership agreement was also presented to us then by the Chairman of Saraha Homes, Alhaji Haruna empowering him to manage and superintend the business transaction and development of the plot.’’

In addition, he said Saraha Homes also issued the home owners with “Offer Letters”, which gave them access to their landed properties in the plot, saying “through the grace of Almighty God, many of us finished our buildings and moved in since 2010 without any disturbance from anybody or institution, not even from the staff members of the Department of Development Control, who regularly visited us during the process of buildings.”

However, things suddenly changed when a group in the name of Winning Clause Limited, came in 2012 and pasted quit notices on the buildings in the estate claiming new ownership of the said plot. The house owners were later told that the then Minister of FCT, Alhaji Bala Mohammed, had revoked the plot in the name of ProForm West Africa Limited and re-allocated it to Winning Clause Limited.

“Imagine revoking a plot of developed land with about 300 duplexes and reallocating it? As a follow up to their dirty game, Winning Clause Limited later instigated the Department of Development Control (FCDA), under the leadership of Director, Alhaji Yahaya who came to pull down some houses in the estate on December 3, 2012 apparently to send a frightening message to us that a new owner of the estate had come,” Mr. Oluwasegbe further stated.

Before the bulldozers came, the management of Winning Clause had insisted the house owners pay N15 million per plot again, outside N8 million many of them had paid to acquire the land from Saraha Homes to avoid demolition of their properties. The same Winning Clause had also initiated several court cases at the Abuja High Court against ProForm West Africa Limited/Saraha Homes over the true ownership of the said plot.

THISDAY was also told that before then, the then Director, Mass Housing Department, Engr. Jibril Gambo Umar, had told the embattled house owners that Winning Clause Limited never applied for mass housing land through his department and had expressed shock on how such huge parcel of land already being occupied by people could be revoked and re-allocated to Winning Clause.

While the legal battle between Saraha Homes and Winning Clause over who owns the plot lasted in court, the MD of Saraha Homes was said to have been “harassed and intimated” by Winning Clause management and a powerful force within the FCDA using police and agents of EFCC, to force him to surrender the title.
Indeed, Saraha Homes eventually surrendered after he was released from two-week detention in EFCC’s cell through “Out-of-Court-Settlement” by way of “Consent Judgement.”

According to the judgement, issued by Court 24 of the Abuja High Court, paragraphs 1, 2 and 3 of the “Consent Judgement” delivered by Justice D Z Senchi of Abuja High Court, it states that the 1st to 3rd Defendants (Saraha Homes, Proform West Africa and Alhaji Kabiru Haruna) shall refund to the plaintiff (Winning Clause Limited) payments made by each tenant/subscriber of Plot 67, Cadastral Zone, Kafe District. And with the plaintiff and defendants agreeing that they mutually settled the issue of payment and receipt of monies from the tenants/subscriber to the land in dispute as per an agreement.

The court further directed that each tenant/subscriber of the land in dispute, who had any outstanding balance to be made with respect to the land in dispute, would make such payment to the plaintiff Winning Clause. that the plaintiff shall not demand from each existing home owners as named under this agreement any amount such person had already made to Winning Clause as evidenced in proper receipt accounted by them and presented to Winning Clause except such demand is made to recover monies due to the plaintiff as an outstanding balance.

But Winning Clause was said to have refused to obey the judgement. “In fragrant violation of the court order, Winning Clause started giving each tenant, including those who have finished paying for their land to Saraha Homes, arbitrary bills ranging from N15 million to N35 million,” another resident, Umar Musa told THISDAY
“While conversation between the house owners and Winning Clause was ongoing to resolve the arbitrary bills, Winning Clause went to court suing the home owners for contempt of court, and the aggrieved property owners replied by asking the court for proper interpretation of its consent judgement.

“We were on it when on March 25, 2014, Winning Clause engineered bulldozers from the Department of Development Control to level parts of our houses in order to force us to do its bidding.”

The seeming illegal action of Winning Clause and the Development Control later forced the house owners to write an open letter to the former President Goodluck Jonathan requesting him to intervene and save them from untold intimidation from Winning Clause.

The former President, according to investigation, responded to their request by asking the immediate past Minister of FCT, Bala Mohammed, to resolve the issue. A committee headed by the Executive Secretary of FCDA was constituted on the matter. But, the committee never achieved anything.

An insider in the Ministry of FCT told THISDAY that “some powerful forces within the Ministry” who had an indirect huge interest in Winning Clause Limited’s deal frustrated the committee’s assignment.

Since then, it has been one problem or the other. First, the house owners were asked by Winning Clause to pay N1 million for “regularisation” of their titles, which most of the house owners did.

“At another time, each property owners was asked to pay N350, 000 for hammer test, and we did. We were told the money running into millions of naira was meant for some officials of Development Control to enable them fast-track the building plan approval,” a recent petition by home owners to current Minister of FCT, Alhaji Muhammad Musa Bello stated.

‘’Just few months ago, Winning Clause caused its lawyer to write some house owners demanding for payment of huge bill of N20 million to N35 million from them or face court action. Winning Clause said the payment includes outstanding payments and the interest associated with it.”

Many of the aggrieved house owners who spoke with THISDAY claimed that the current developer, Winning Clause, got the allocation through the “backdoor”, with the help of some dirty staff members of FCDA, insisting that the company lacks the “technical-known-how and financial capacity” to execute a mass housing project.

One of the residents who pleaded anonymity added, “Winning Clause is just a mere land speculator. All the facilities in the estate so far were carried out by the house owners; Winning Clause has not added anything to the estate.

“Winning Clause will not be able to develop the estate, including about seven hectares of undeveloped land, in line with dictates of the Department of Mass Housing. And the crisis may linger on unless the FCT authorities intervene urgently.”

The embattled house owners requested the FCT authorities to in line with the change mantra of President Muhammadu Buhari, who abhor corruption, impunity and illegality, investigate the matter and possibly revoke the plot against Winning Clause so that they can deal directly with FCDA in order to urgently develop the estate in line with the Mass Housing Guidelines.

Also in their recent petition to the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Bello, Inspector-General of Police and the Department of State Services, over the invasion of the estate by some criminally minded gunmen, the house owners drew the attention of the authorities to the “unwholesome development”, which they said the estate developer had foisted on them in the past few weeks.

The petitioners added that they became alarmed when the management of the estate relieved the security company they contracted of their assignment and unilaterally employed an “unknown company”, which staff members no one could vouch for.

“Sadly and suddenly, we recall that some high profile and yet unresolved dangerous robbery attacks started taking place, and this includes but not limited to two dangerous attacks on the home of the association’s general secretary”, they added.

“Indeed, we recall that some members of the task force created by the estate developer have been interrogated by the Gwarinpa Police Station, while the police was investigating one of the robbery attacks.”

They added that on May 28, a house owner, who owns House A35 at the estate, Mr. Okonkwo, reported that the Managing Director of Winning Clause, Mrs. Oby Okwubanego, caused some gunmen to invade his premises and beat up his private security guard, while her thugs fired in the air severally. The incident, they said, was reported to the Gwarinpa Police Station.

They requested the minister and the security agencies to stop every attempt to endanger the security of lives and property in the estate.