The Federal Government acquired vast land in Amuwo-Odofin in Lagos State, over forty years ago. A section of it is what is today known as FESTAC Phase I Housing Estate.
Source of article: The Nation
After lying fallow for years, the land owners, known in common parlance as Omo Onile, had a field day selling the land to the public.
Various Structures, planned and unplanned, sprang up in the estate, turning the former highbrow town to a slum.
But determined to breathe fresh air into the estate, the Federal Government in September 2014, signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with a concessionaire, to develop the Phase II of the FESTAC scheme. But, a case filed by the Kuje-Amuwo family against the government, the FHA and others, truncated the plan.
Having won at the Court of Appeal, the FHA has started the processes that would started the project into reality.
Its Managing Director, Prof. Mohammed Al-Almin, at the authority’s zonal office in Lagos, shared the government’s plans for the project. He said: “Our dream for FESTAC Phase II is similar to what you see in a Dubai neighbourhood called Jumerai Extension. It is a waterlogged area like the FESTAC Phase II but sand-filled by a company called Ema. This is the type of development we intend to bring in FESTAC Phase II.”
Although Al-Amin sees the judgment as “a watershed in the drive to improve the economy,” he believes there was no need for the litigation in the first place. This, according to him, is because the Federal Government acquired the land over 40 years ago. He blamed the litigation on two factors: the delay in the development of the area; that is, the Phase II, and, the population explosion (estimated to grow at the rate of four per cent yearly) in the country, coupled with rural-urban migration.
“So, there was a lot of demand for residential accommodation. Now any vacant land, even if it was earmarked for certain purposes, is being hijacked by people through the facilitation of a group of criminals called Omo onile. So, we were taken to court by the natives on the flimsy excuse that Phase II was not part of the acquisition. We followed the first case at the High Court, which they won. Now we have won the appeal because there was sufficient evidence that showed that perfectly, an acquisition was done; compensation was paid, and clear demarcation was done by way of survey captured in the books,” he explained.
The FHA chief said the authority was not unaware of some cases in which land allottees were prevented from taking possession until they paid money to the Omo oniles. He however assured that anybody so extorted should be assured that the government would ensure the culprits were arrested and made to refund such money.
He said the FHA has held a meeting with the resident association and informed them of the government’s plans to immediately revive development activities in FESTAC Phase II. “This area in question is over 1, 000 hectares and already, the Federal Government, in September 2014 had concessioned the entire land to certain private developers to do infrastructural development. Most of the land is waterlogged, so they need to be reclaimed. There are infrastructures to be put in place and, then the serviced plot will be sold to the public; this project is still ongoing,” he said.
Al-Amin noted that before the concession of Phase II land, there had been some allocations made by FHA, which have been integrated into the concession. He said the FHA has held talks with the people affected and whose major complaint is that the roads, as contained in FHA’s masterplan leading to their plots of land have been sub-divided and sold by the omo oniles. This means there is no access road again to their plots. He assured that the FHA plans to open up such roads and to restore the master plan of FESTAC.
The FHA, Al-Amin said, has adopted a strategy for FESTAC Phase II in which development would be done simultaneously in the four parts of the land, so that nobody would see it as being idle again.
Also, the FHA, he said, was considering helping the natives – the Kuje-Amuwo family, so that they could expand their settlement in a way that would make them comfortable. This is hinged on the new thinking within the FHA which is based on not to be obliterating communities wherever acquisition has been done. “Our position is that communities in acquired areas are to be reintegrated into the development so that they can share the good things and improvement in living. What we won’t allow them to do is to sell the land of the Federal Government to people. They will be well- integrated into the new development. Our dream for FESTAC Phase II is similar to what you see in a Dubai neighbourhood called Jumerai Extension. It is a waterlogged area like FESTAC Phase II but sand-filled by a company called Ema. Its roads were constructed with facilities, such as water reticulation, and electricity; and plots of land were given to the public and they were given the designs of buildings that they should erect there. This is the type of development we intend to bring in FESTAC phase II.
“So, what we are trying to do is to uplift development for all in that area, including the natives and first beneficiaries of FESTAC Phase I. It will be a city with its own facilities. This would be the first city that would have its own electricity grid and water system. FESTAC Town is the first settlement that had a central sewage system, which is reticulated into a wastage sewage and being treated. The waste that is being transformed into sludge will be transformed to energy to generate electricity.
“In our projects, we have computed to create over four million jobs. Directly, 870, 000 jobs will be created in the project and the remaining will be indirect jobs. We are using this project to drive the economy, jobs, creating wealth,” he said.
Fate of Concessionaire
With the judgment and redefinition of the development planned for the project, the government, Al-Amin explained, had been discussing with the concessionaires. This will see them expanding their scope of participation in the project. It was revealed that initially, the plan was to bring in some foreign investors – to bring their capital and their technology to bear on the Phase II project, but with the recession globally, and the nonchalant attitude of investors coming into Nigeria, this could be a setback.
“So, we have finished arrangement with the concessionaires that we are going to do more of FESTAC Phase 11 developments, in which we bring in indigenous companies. Part of the land has been earmarked for National Housing Programme of last year, and part of it is also going for National Housing Programme of 2017,” the FHA boss said.
He said there were a lot of projects the FHA was trying to bring not only to help the community and the Authority but also to help the concessionaires to get what they wanted.
“In fairness to the company, when they came to this agreement, it was not the Nigeria of today they met. In Nigeria, there are lots of setbacks, particularly foreign exchange rate. So, an investor wouldn’t want to come into an economy where he wouldn’t know how much the naira would be selling tomorrow. It would be good on the side of the concessionaires to own up to this new idea that we are bringing so that we quickly start this project immediately,” he added.
He said the concessionaires would also be involved in the National Mass Housing Project (NMHP), an idea conceived by the FHA to decongest major cities. “If you look at places like Lagos, Kano, Enugu, and Kaduna, you would see that at the peripherals of these cities, big slums that are as big as the settlement, are growing. So, we have sold the idea to the Federal Government that we needed to do mass housing in these highly densely populated areas in Nigeria. And the Federal Government has bought into this idea; even there is an allocation for this in the 2017 budget to introduce a pilot project in Abuja. So, we are in the process to start mass pilot housing programme in Abuja. And we are going to do it in all the geopolitical zones; taking one very big city to augment their residential accommodation. This will stop the development of shanties,” he explained.
For the Lagos NMHP scheme, the FHA boss revealed that in conjunction with the FESTAC Phase II concessionaires, part of the FESTAC Phase II and will be used to build the mass housing project for the federal government.
Also, Al-Amin revealed that the Authority was considering partnering the concessionaires on the FHA Diaspora Housing project (DHP), which has been introduced by the FHA to cater for Nigerians outside the country to own houses. “You trust your elder brother or an uncle, give him money to build a house for you; he will tell you lies about your house making progress, but by the time you come back to Nigeria you would never find it. So, these are big problems that the FHA has to come in to help them,” he said.
Al-Amin said through the DHP, the country’s economy would benefit from Diasporan remittances, which were estimated at about $35 billion last year alone through the black market.
“So the country’s economy doesn’t benefit from that. Part of the DHP is to see that the money that is being remitted into the account is channelled through the economy so that it would rebound. And, also, to help them own their houses, so one of the things that we have designed is to discuss with the concessionaires to take part of these land and we build the Lagos Diaspora City within it with all the facilities and the services that are required and this is something that the concessionaires are also aware of,” he explained.