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FCTA to prosecute 413 ground rent defaulters by September

By Azimazi Momoh Jimoh, Abuja
15 August 2022   |   4:58 am
The Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) is set to begin the prosecution of 413 defaulting property owners in Abuja, to recover the ground rents of about N29 billion they owe.

FCT Minister, Malam Muhammad Musa Bello. Photo: FACEBOOK

Abuja market unions, AICL lock horns

The Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) is set to begin the prosecution of 413 defaulting property owners in Abuja, to recover the ground rents of about N29 billion they owe.

It said, yesterday, that the exercise would start by the end of this month and may lead to the forfeiture of the affected property to the government, in line with relevant laws.

But the traders’ unions in Abuja, particularly in Kugbo International Market, have called on the Minister of Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Muhammad Bello, to prevail on Abuja Investment Company Limited (AICL) to stop any illegal land seizure within the the market.

The Kugbo market union said apart from having all legal land papers, it had secured favourable judgment from a court of competent jurisdiction.

On the N29 billion debt, the Director, Information and Communication, FCTA, Muhammad Sule, lamented: “It is disheartening that some of the debtors have failed to pay their ground rents, despite several appeals and warnings, thereby putting their property on the line.

“Accordingly, since all entreaties failed, the Administration has no other option than to commence the prosecution of the first batch of defaulting property owners.”

Sule recalled that FCTA had earlier announced the engagement of five law firms owned by Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs), to prepare legal documents for the legal action against defaulting titleholders.

“Already, letters serving as last warning to the debtors have been dispatched, and the real court cases will start at the end of August 2022,” he said.

The FCT Permanent Secretary, Mr. Adesola Olusade, recently inaugurated a debt recovery committee with the mandate to recover the debts owed the FCTA, with particular interest in ground rents and other fees in the land administration.

He warned that there would be no sacred cow, as the law would surely take its course, because the only language it will understand clearance of their outstanding.

“The committee intends to take advantage of these highly professional legal firms to recover all the outstanding funds, because the government needs them for infrastructural development. It has collated a list of first batch of defaulters consisting 413 property owners that will face prosecution and eventual forfeiture of their property. The only choice left is for them to clear their debts before the end of the month,” he disclosed.

President of United Kugbo Market Traders Association, Emeka Egwuekwe, stated, yesterday, that a court of competent jurisdiction had ruled in their favour.

Claiming that the market union also has all the necessary papers already approved by FCTA, Egwuekwe wondered why an agency under the FCTA would want to embark on illegality.

He said the union was aware of a statement by AICL and MESOTHO Group Limited, which contravened the FCTA’s stance on land grabbing.

“For the avoidance of doubt, it is on record that neither MESOTHO, which happened to be our developer until we parted ways after irreconcilable differences, nor the FCTA had challenged the judgment of the court that ruled in our favour; and not surprisingly, the judgment was never set aside until the renewed attempt to grab the Kugbo commercial layout in 2020, with the backing of the FCT police command.

“It is also noteworthy that in December 12, 2021 and January 13, 2022, our members took steps to caution the general public on the disputed Kugbo International Market during an SOS procession, where we called on the FCT minister to dissuade AICL and its co-travellers to vacate the Kugbo commercial layout,” he added.