- NewsRescue-Few days after 234 girls were abducted from Chibok; while Nigerians were focusing on bringing back the girls, Nigeria’s army chiefs were making one the the largest public land grabs in recent history, cutting up large swaths of public land meant for military barracks in Abuja, uncovered reports show. One must wonder what this generous bribery reward from the Presidency was for.
Also among the 439 beneficiaries in the land sharing are spouses, relations, friends, associates and companies of senior Army officials.
There are also many retired officers as well as civilians on the list of those given allocations from the land.
The Annex B Layout Army Barrack, Cadastral Zone A04, land was originally set out for building of barracks for the Air Force, Army and Navy.
Daily Trust learnt that the Army carved part of its own land and shared it out to top military brass and others, obviously for them to build private homes and businesses.
A document signed by Maj. Gen. I. Sani on January 2, 2014 shows that the 439 plots were allocatted to individuals and companies from a land bearing the title ‘Asokoro Annex B Layout Army Barrack.’
Chief of Army Staff General Kenneth Minimah and his predecessor General Azubuike Ihejirika were respectively allocated 2035.41sqm and 3909.35sqm of land.
Those who got allocations along with their wives include former Chiefs of Defence Staff Air Chief Marshal Oluseyi Petinrin and Admiral Ibrahim Ola Sa’ad, as well as former Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal Mohammed Dikko Umar.
Ihejirika’s wife Gift got Plot 4882 which is 2385.59sqm, while another person named Oke Ihejirika was given 1,583.59sqm of land.
A company named Goodok Oil and Gas, which got 7476.95sqm of land, was registered on April 12, 2012 with three directors bearing the ‘Ihejirika’ name, namely: Ihejirika Okechukwu, Ihejirika Chika and Ihejirika Goodluck.
Former Chief of Defence Staff General Alexander Ogomudia, former Minister of State for Defence Olusola Obada, counter-terrorism chief Major-General Sarkin Yaki Bello and Major Hamza Al-Mustapha are also on the list, with various sizes of plot allocations.
A source said the army made a case before the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Minister Bala Mohammed, saying its officers retire without having lands in Abuja. Army authorities then carved out the barracks land for private residences for top military men.
The Director, Department of Urban and Regional Planning, Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA), Mr Sola Salami, charged with the responsibility of overseeing conversion of land from its original use, refused to speak to Daily Trust on this matter.
But a source in the FCDA said, “This is official– it’s approved by the Department of Urban and Regional Planning. The Army sent in a design of what they intend to do on the land. Their design was rejected by the FCT Administration. FCDA sent its men who went and redid the design.”
Mr Yahaya Yusuf, Director, Development Control of Abuja Department of Metropolitan Management Council (AMMC), said if the allocation was institutional but converted to personal use, by the time those to develop it come for building approval, they will not get it.
But he noted that many proposals in the Abuja master plan have been reviewed in tandem with current realities so interpretation of what is happening should not be based solely on what was in the master plan in the last five to 10 years.
When contacted, FCT minister’s spokesman Mr Nosike Ogbuenyi said it is a military affair, declining to give details.
The spokesman of the Nigerian Army, Brig. Gen. Olajide Laleye, said there are two categories of land in the Nigerian Army, one category is earmarked for estates sold to both serving and retiring officers to build their personal houses.
He explained that the second category of land meant for offices and army services has never been allocated to officers.
“If anybody says lands have been allocated to top military officers then they should produce such certificates,” Laleye said.
When contacted, the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian Army Welfare Limited and Guarantee, Major General Bitrus Kwaji, denied knowledge of the sharing out of land meant for barracks.
Major-General Kwaji’s name appeared on the list that Daily Trust has showing those who benefitted from the land sharing. He got 1298.63sqm of land.
Speaking to our reporter yesterday, Kwaji said: “We buy land from locals and then build affordable houses for members of the armed forces. In certain instances where we have army lands, we also build barracks, we also build houses for officers and men, that is soldiers, and at times we also sell to the members of the public, so that when people leave service, they don’t necessarily go and stay in a barrack type of environment again.”
But he added: “If you are saying it is from the FCDA, members of the armed forces are citizens of this country, they are entitled to land anywhere they want in the country.
“If it was that, we are not aware of it here, we are not aware of it here and we cannot give you information on it. But what I’m saying is that since you are saying this land was initially allocated to the Nigerian Army, and now they are giving individuals at the FCDA, maybe the FCDA has changed the purpose of that land, because the Nigerian Army does not issue land to officers and give certificate of occupancy.
“If a piece of land was earmarked for the Nigerian army and it is now maybe in the interest of the public they now find another reason to reissue that land then that’s a different ball game all together….
“The Army cannot give away its land but they can sell this land to make sure our colleagues retire to good homes. If the Army has certificate of occupancy on this piece of land, because of the welfare of soldier, if it is Nigeria Army land then it will not involve FCDA and would not involve any politician.”
A source said now that Army has shared part of its land to individuals and companies, the Air Force and Navy may also take their cue and do the same with their share of the Asokoro land.