Curbing the menace of land speculators in Abuja Blog In Nigeria today, there is no state or city where the menace of land speculation is as pronounced as the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. For want of a better expression, their activities have made land ownership a nightmare for potential investors in the nation’s capital. The situation has become so bad to the extent that incidences of double or multiple land allocations and wanton abuse of Abuja’s master plan has become the norm rather than the exception. That the disturbing incidence has persisted till date is not due to lack of attempts by the FCT Administration to curb it. Far from it! Successive administrations in FCT have made several attempts to halt the menace with little success. Each time policies are rolled out to curb the activities of land speculators, the criminals involved would always evolve their own strategies to circumvent such government’s policies. If truth be told and even orchestrated, thousands of Nigerians have fallen victim to the dangerous activities of land speculators in Abuja, with scores of them losing precious properties worth millions of naira, including lives in the process. Some became hypertensive, while others have become living corpses as a result of the rapacious greed of these elements. That the incidence of land speculation is still very much on in Abuja is not in doubt. And, that it is being fuelled by the greed of some desperadoes is equally not in contention. But, what is however disturbing in the entire saga is the cutting of corners or worse still, the flouting of laws to dubiously these acquire lands for amorphous land development purposes. It would be recalled that the FCT Minister, Bala Mohammed, at the 34th Leadership Forum put together by Nigerian Pilot and its sister publication, Nigerian Newsworld Magazine sometime this year, had expressed serious worry about the pernicious activities of land speculators, which he said had become a cog in the wheel of progress, especially in land administration in Abuja. According to the minister, when he took over the driver’s seat at FCTA in 2011, land speculators were seen as the real landlords of Abuja who were doing their illegal businesses with reckless impunity; he however stressed that worried by this development, his administration decided to frontally tackle the menace with the setting up of Senator Saidu Dansadau Committee with a view to breaking their vicious stranglehold on land administration in the territory. Thereafter, he digitalized the system, which led to the enthronement of accountability in land administration in the FCT. To further prove that he meant well for the FCT, Bala deliberately decided to empower all plot owners by granting them titles, a development that has gone a long way in boosting the confidence of investors in the territory’s land administration. The minister’s commendable efforts notwithstanding, some dubious smart alecs masquerading as land agents (read speculators) have been working assiduously to frustrate such laudable efforts, a development that has led to the avoidable friction between the FCDA and some estate developers like Minannuel Estate Developers and Saraha Estate in Galadima, along Kubwa Expressway in recent times, all of which fell under the weight of government’s bulldozers, a development that generated stormy criticisms of epic proportions from a segment of the society. That the FCT Administration is favourably disposed to having private sector acquire lands for the purpose of providing houses for the people does not mean that when such developers breach the laws of the land with impunity, the authority should turn a blind eye to it. Because if such abuse of processes leading to land acquisition is allowed to persist, Nigerians may wake up to find out that Abuja has been turned into a jungle. May that not be the portion of our beloved capital city! To forestall such possibility and further reduce the fraud associated with land administration in the territory, Bala Mohammed in his ministerial wisdom has injected transparency and good governance into Abuja Geographical Information System (AGIS) as epitomized in the introduction of Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI). The revolutionalization (permit the coinage) of the agency via computerization of ‘’spatially related work flows in selected departments and agencies and the buildup of AGIS Resource Centre’’ is a strategic effort geared towards this direction. It would be recalled that the minister’s determination to tackle the menace of land speculation was further manifested when some of his aides were caught in land malpractices. What did he do? He promptly fired them and handed them over to the security agencies for prosecution. That is a commendable act of seriousness on his part. Experts in land administration and other unbiased developers are of the opinion that whatever the minister and his aides have been doing in the area of land administration is hinged on the spectacular pillar of abiding fidelity to Abuja’s Original Master Plan. Judging from his body language thus far, the minister has shown that as far as sticking to Abuja’s master plan is concerned; he is not willing to compromise. And that explains his persistent nay rugged determination to give land speculators a bloody nose and to throw them out of business once and for all. Agreed, the administration has not totally succeeded in clinically eliminating this group of economic saboteurs from Abuja’s landscape, but it has taken the battle to their doorsteps with an all-round impressive transformation of land administration through AGIS under the directorship of Hajiya Jamila Tangaza. *Garba writes from Bwari, Abuja.