BusinessDay

Why FCT assets aren’t sold 17 years after approval – minister

Muhammad Bello, the minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) on Thursday said challenges of institutional memory, archival materials and documentation are the reasons some assets in the Territory were yet to be sold, 17 years after a policy for their disposal was signed.

Bello said this at the investigative hearing organised by the House of Representatives sub-committee on FCT and ad-hoc committee investigating
abandoned federal government properties across the country, at the National Complex, Abuja.

He said all the relevant agencies of the FCT Administration had been directed to provide access to all documents, taking into account that the policy of the sale of government assets, particularly residential houses to occupants was signed way back in 2005, making it about 17 years ago.

“So obviously in many of these institutions, there are challenges with institutional memory, archival materials and the whole process of documentation. That is why like you rightly said, 17 years after this policy, quite a number of these assets are not yet sold, and as a matter of some of them are not even fully documented,” he said.

“So in today’s hearing, I want to assure you that you have the full support of the FCT administration, and throughout this hearing, today and all your other engagements Dr Nasiru who is in charge of the sale of government assets in the FCT would anchor the team from the FCT and continue to work with you here and of course on-site in all the various locations.

“But you have to understand that we are talking of quite a number of assets and a span of time that has covered the tenures of about five ministers or four and of course quite a number of directors. So being able to get to the source documents sometimes might take time. But the beauty of landed assets is that they do not disappear.”

In his opening remarks, Femi Gbajabiamila, speaker of the House, said the country has a large stock of abandoned properties that could become viable assets for the benefit of the Nigerians if properly managed.

Gbajabiamila who was represented by Henry Nwawuba, the chairman of the House committee on the legislative agenda lamented the situation where several properties belonging to the federal government have been abandoned while others are severely underutilised for many years.

He said the House of Representatives has since resolved to help identify these assets and take legislative action to help ensure they are either put to good use or transferred to provide income for the government.

“The Ad-Hoc Committee To Investigate Abandoned Federal Government Properties Across The Federation has convened today’s investigative hearing to focus on such abandoned property in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

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“This Committee has the mandate of the 9th House of Representatives to account for these investments and come up with a plan to put these assets to good use in the interest of all our citizens. To achieve this mandate, this Committee requires the assistance of stakeholders and citizens to provide information, context, and expertise.

“These hearings can take on an adversarial tint that often is not in the best interests of the country. I have the confidence of the chairman to assure you that the only objective of this Committee is to do what is necessary to transform these moribund assets into beneficial ventures for the people and government of Nigeria,” the speaker added.

On his part, Gaza Gbefwi, chairman of the committee, said the many abandoned projects across the country are a visual manifestation of the excesses and failure to plan effectively and execute efficiently that has hampered national growth and development for many years.

Gbefwi said: “When the House of Representatives first authorized this Committee to examine the causes of abandonment of useful property assets and to account for the stock of such assets across the country, we did not then realise the extent of the problem or how much work was going to be required to fully effect the Committee’s mandate.

“Ladies and gentlemen, the existence of abandoned government property, valued in the hundreds of billions, left to deteriorate should trouble all our consciences. These projects are a visual manifestation of the excesses and failure to plan effectively and execute efficiently that have hampered our national growth and development for many years.

“In seeking to account for these assets, the House of Representatives, through this Ad-Hoc Committee is simply trying to rewrite past wrongs. This is particularly important at this time when our nation is pressed by serious financial difficulties and in dire need of creative thinking and out-of-the-box approaches to financial management and the operation of public accounts and resources.

“This investigative hearing will focus on abandoned Federal Government of Nigeria property within the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). We already know that there are quite a few of these, our intention now is to determine exactly how many there are, where they are located, the reasons for their abandonment and the options for recovering, reviving, and revitalising these assets to the benefit of the Nigerian people.

“As legislators, stakeholders, and public policymakers we must make sure the recommendations we make consider all the prevailing circumstances and reflect the well-thought-out contemplation of objective realities and alternatives. To be effective in this regard, we must work together in partnership for the common good.”

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