A cold war is on-going between the Nigerian Army on the one hand and certain powerful Nigerians including some past Heads of State, retired military officers, some serving Nigerian leaders at the National Assembly and a construction company owned by Azibaola Robert, a cousin to former President Jonathan Goodluck.
The causes of the silent war were the sudden take-over of certain plots of land in Maitama Extension, a choice area in Abuja by the Army authorities and the purported directive that on no account must anybody be allowed entrance into the land.
Although no official reason for the take- over was initially given, it was however rumoured that the powers that be was behind the action taken by the Nigerian military to hit back at former President, Goodluck Jonathan.
The claim, according to an unconfirmed account, was that the entire Maitama Extension, a new district stretching over 230 hectares of land in the choice area is owned by former President Jonathan and is merely being managed by Kakatar CE, also suspected to be one of his ‘disguised firms’.
But, on the contrary, information made available to this newspaper purportedly indicated that Jonathan did not own even a plot of land in the Maitama Extension and that over 400 plots of the controversial land allegedly owned by him (Jonathan) were already allocated to powerful Nigerians and duly captured in the Abuja Master plan.
It was further learnt that these individuals including past heads of state, retired military officers, politicians, traditional rulers, among others were beneficiaries of the plots and that some of them had begun developing the property.
The aggrieved rightful owners of plots of land in the Maitama Extension presently barred from entering their property, it was learnt, are said to be studying situation to determine the next line of action.
It was also learnt that the aggrieved parties are particularly waiting for the intervention of the Minister in Charge of the Federal Capital Territory, Mohammed Bello, to decide whether to approach court for resolution of the matter or not.
What actually happened?
It would be recalled that on September 3, this year, men of the Nigerian Army had sealed the gate leading to a massive construction site measuring about 230 hectares of land in Maitama Extension District.
The company is near the Lungui Barracks of the Nigerian Army.
The action, according to the construction company, was taken without any provocation, notice or explanation.
The affected construction company, Kakatar Civil Engineering Limited, is owned by Robert Azibaola, a sibling of former President Jonathan Goodluck.
The company is providing engineering infrastructure for the Maitama Extension District purportedly allocated to former heads of state, serving and former top military officials, serving and previous top party leaders and some powerful and influential traditional and religious leaders in the country.
According to a source at the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA), the Maitama extension was carefully planned as highbrow residency for the mighty and powerful and was purposively tucked on the fringes of the Lungi Barracks, near the powerful Brigades of Guards of the Nigerian Army between Asokoro and Maitama districts for an added security.
It is the first Abuja district’s infrastructural development project in the history of the FCT to be awarded to a wholly Nigerian construction and engineering.
Under the project, KCE is to construct a total of 23 kilometres of road of various types, one major bridge to link the various communities, provide 26.4 kilometres length of storm water line of various sizes, 31.8 kilometres length of four sewer line of various sizes; 38.7 kilometres length of water supply lines with relevant accessories and a booster pump station and 1000m3 of clean water reservoir.
In addition, the company is expected to construct a network of electricity distribution and telecommunication ducts with a 33 KV/11KV injection substation and 11/0.415KV transformer as well as underground cables for distribution and plot connections.
Apparently to prove that it is capable of doing what a foreign firm can do, the company has gone far in the provision of relevant infrastructure under the terms of the contract, which has also excited the FCDA.
As a mark of appreciation of its quality job, the FCDA has earmarked N2.5 billion for the settlement of outstanding bills to Kakatar CE on the Maitama Extension project in its 2016 project approved by President Buhari just last week.
Interestingly, all the workers of KCEL are Nigerians and they have taken steps to deliver quality job worthy of celebration.
But like a bolt in the blue, the soldiers, on the day in question massed into the construction site and drove out all workers of the company, Kakatar Civil Engineering Limited, providing engineering infrastructure for the district.
By the aggression, the company’s vital working facilities like asphalt-producing plants, road construction material-producing machines and trucks were trapped: they can neither be maintained nor repaired while those needed to be moved out for external jobs in other locations like Karishi and Kyami, where the company is also working for the FCDA, have also been barred from leaving the premises by armed soldiers.
Meanwhile, the relationship between the company and the army had been very cordial until that fateful day when soldiers claiming to ‘be acting on instruction from above’, changed their attitude and decided to act as an ‘enemy’ to the company and its workers.
At the time the soldiers took over the land, a low rank officer who preferred anonymity disclosed thus: “We are here on order from the Chief of Army Staff to take over this place and not to allow anyone in or out of the premises. It was one of our generals, who led the team of soldiers to take over this place last night but we do not know the reason for our being here,” he said.
The junior soldier, mounting sentry at the first gate, warned a journalist, who attempted to penetrate the compound not to dare it.
Although top management staff of the company went to the Army Headquarters last Monday about 72 hours after the army took over the construction site to find out why soldiers dispossessed them of their site office, they were not given any concrete answer by the army.
But a few days after seizing the premises, the Nigerian Army came out boldly to justify its action, saying that the land was its own and that it took it back to prevent further encroachment.
The Acting Director of Army Public Relations, Col. Sani Usman had said: “The said property is on Nigerian Army land and the army will not allow anybody to encroach on its land.
“Consequently, the property has to be sealed to prevent further encroachment,” Usman had warned.
Although the army orally claimed that the land belonged to it, the aggrieved owners of the plots of land in the area are challenging the army to exhibit document to buttress its claim of ownership .
They are contending that in a democracy, the Nigerian Army cannot just hijack property that were lawfully allocated to civilians and retired military officers at will.
Already, the army’s action is creating tension among the purported plot owners on the expansive land, who feared that they might be perpetually denied access to their plots under construction.
The fear was heightened by the clear warning by the military that nobody should be allowed access to the land in question and soldiers have also effectively barred all affected plot owners from accessing their property since the day the order was made on September 3.
Specifically, the seizure of the land by the army had also fuelled the fear about whether the on-going construction of the official residences of the Senate President, his deputy, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and other principal officers of the National Assembly, which were at various stages of completion in the area, had also come to an end.
In fact, most of the residences of the senior government officials in the district are at the level of being completed while the provision of infrastructure by the company has also reached an advanced stage.
Besides, many other privately-owned property are already completed and ready for occupation while the major bridge linking all the facilities and segments in the district, had been completed along with many roads, water, sewage ducts and electricity lines.
On its own, Kakatar said it has not recovered from the shock occasioned by the action of the Nigerian Army, saying that it had not breached any known law to warrant such action by the soldiers.
The Spokesman for the company, Mr. Austin Ekeinde, said in a statement released in Abuja that the action of the Nigerian Army had caused the firm daily losses estimated at hundreds of millions of Naira and caused untold hardship for thousands of families whose workers in Kakatar are now being forced to stay at home by the action of the army.
According to Ekeinde, “It is instructive to note that at no time did the company suggest or claim that the land upon which it was using as a site to coordinate the project belongs to Kakatar. Never!
“All that we have been doing is to speedily complete the contract in accordance with the terms given by the FCDA and pull out our multi-million equipment so that the plot owners can move into their property and live happily.
“And as a proof of our sincerity of purpose, and good neighborliness, no notice of any security breach or infraction has ever been sent to us by the Nigerian Army.
“Nigerians should also note that no enquiry as to our presence or intention to recover any land was ever sent to us before the costly invasion locking in our equipment and driving away thousands of Nigerians working with us,” Ekeinde said.
Although the FCDA was said to be handicapped since the face-off between the military and Kakatar broke out last week, the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Mr. Muhammad Bello, has reportedly waded into the dispute.
The Special Adviser (Media) to the Federal Capital Territory, Mohammed Sani, made the disclosure in a chat.
Sani was quoted by The Punch to have stated that the minister was looking into the issue of ownership of the premises sealed by the Army.
It was gathered that the Federal Capital Development Authority would also investigate ownership of 400 plots in the Maitama Extension.
The Special Assistant to the FCT minister said that Kakatar had written the minister to complain about the confiscation of its premises by the Army.
Sani disclosed that the minister was looking into the complaint to determine the original allottees of the land and take remedial action on the matter.
He confirmed that Kakatar was engaged by the FCT Administration to provide basic infrastructure at the new Maitama District, but added that he could not confirm if it was allocated the land in contention.
Spokesman for the company, Mr. Austin Ekeinde, in a statement, had alleged that the action of the Army was causing the firm huge losses.
It is expected that the minister in charge of the Federal Capital Territory would resolve the issues in contention.
Otherwise, the matter might result in court action with both parties laying claim to ownership of the property producing before the court their evidences of ownership for it to make a definite pronouncement on the matter.