Appeal court verdict revives FHA’s N30b FESTAC Phase II project
There is a ray of hope for prospective land allotees and concessionaire under the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) FESTAC Town Phase II project, following Appeal Court ruling in favour of FHA on the 1,000hectares property.
The authority and the Amuwo community have been in a running legal battle on whether due diligence was followed on the Land acquisition by the FHA. The Alamuwo of Kuje Amuwo, Oba Isaac Owolabi and three others had last year instituted a suit against the FHA claiming that about 4.017 hectares being a portion of land in Festival Town Phase II belong to the Amuwo community and was not properly acquired by the Federal Housing Authority. The case was decided last year at the High Court and judgment was awarded in favour of the natives.
Following the development, the FHA approached the Appeal Court to challenge the decision of the Lower Court. This led to the reversal of the earlier judgment in favour of the community to the Federal Government based on grounds that the Lower Court lacked competence to entertain the suit, as there was perfect acquisition, due compensation, proper survey of the land as well as necessary demarcation carried out, amongst others.
The Federal Government had entered a Public – Private Partnership agreement with Messrs New Festac Property Development Company Limited (NFPDCL) for the redevelopment of 1,126 hectares of land in area largely swampy and alleged to have been encroached upon by illegal squatters. Government earnings from the project are estimated at N25.765 billion as premium for 30 years of concession and an additional N150 million ground rent annually.
In his judgment, Justice Ugochukwu Anthony Ogakwu of the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division struck out the respondents’ action in SUIT NO. FHC/L/CS/1065/2012 , with no order as to costs.
“”If a court or tribunal is not competent to entertain a matter or claim or suit, it is a waste of time for the court to embark on hearing and determination of the suit, matter or claim…there is no justice in exercising a jurisdiction where there is none. It is injustice to the law, the court and to the parties to do so”. The concomitance and conflating of the foregoing is that this appeal succeeds. The decision of the Lower Court delivered on February 29, 2016 is hereby set aside”.
Speaking on the aftermath of the decision of the court at the South West Zonal Office of the Federal Housing Authority in FESTAC, Lagos, FHA managing director, Prof. Mohammad Al-Amin said initially there was no need for the case because the acquisition was done over 40years ago by the Federal Government and duly captured in the book of survey, well described in the letter of allocation which is also called the letter of exchange with the entire boundary well stated.
He said unfortunately due to delay in the development of the area (the phase II), and the population explosion taking place in the country at the rate of about four point zero per cent of the nations’ total population yearly, coupled with increased migration from rural to urban area, the matter degenerated into the Court Case.
“We have a satisfied copy of the judgment now and that is why the entire management of FHA have to come to Lagos to implement series of activities that would ensure that proper take over of the site back by the Federal Government and by extension to the entire Nigerians. We have had a meeting with the residents associations and we have told them of our plans to immediately revive activities on the place. The area in question is over 1,000 hectares of Land”, he explained.
According to him, FHA is encouraging the natives not to challenge the judgment at the Supreme Court but to take its offers of expanding their settlement by allocating the plots promised initially and also by marking a special area that would house substantial part of the people as well as integrating the infrastructure development of the places into their areas.
“For them to go to the Supreme Court is like wasting their time. It is there in the constitution that if the Federal Government requires land for over-riding public interest, it gets it and so I believe that they would embrace the offers and be part of the great story”, he said.
Prof. Al-Amin said: “Through our project, we have computed to create over four million jobs directly and indirectly. Directly 870, 000 jobs are going to be created in the project and the remaining 3, 230,000 are going to be indirect. We are not just going to use it for development purpose of residential areas but we are seeing the project as a way to drive the economy of Nigeria and bring about development of artisanship spirit within the youth”.
“The FESTAC project is going to be like an academy in which training of our youth is going to commence. When we train them, we will also create a means by which they would practice their trade and so we are collaborating with the national productivity centre, national development agency to see how we could use the project to disseminate knowledge and absorb the teeming youths”, he stated.
On whether the concessionaires are still maintaining their roles in the project, he said the Federal Housing Authority meeting with them on how to expand their scope of participation.
According to him, initially the plan was to bring in foreign investors who would bring in their capital, technology to develop FESTAC Phase II but with the recession globally, and the non-charlatan attitude of investors coming to Nigeria, that could be a problem.
Speaking on FHA intervention on existing FESTAC Phase I renewal, he disclosed that the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing is already working with a consultant for upgrade of facilities nationwide but will start with FESTAC by addressing issues of the sewage system which could spread diseases if people continue to dig individual suck-away in swallow underground soil that could drive waste materials to be channeled through the canal which is environmentally unfriendly.
“The consultant is working on how to solve the problem of the sewage system. We are working with a company that would bring the finances and the technology to do the central sewage reticulation and to collect it at a point where they could transform it from waste to renewable energy.
We have gone very far with the negotiation but what remains is the cost because part of the cost must come from the residents’ association. We have met with them and are currently fine-tuning how much could be given per household apart from what FHA is contributing. We are starting the roads in the next one-month”, he said.
The FHA boss said: “The design for FESTAC Phase II is similar to what is seen in Dubai; where there is beautiful neighborhood, that is exactly our thinking of FESTAC Phase II.”