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.