Home Editorial FCTA should resuscitate Land Swap policy

FCTA should resuscitate Land Swap policy

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When the N26 billion pilot Land Swap project was launched in Abuja in Feb. 2015 by the then Vice President Mohammed Namadi Sambo, hopes were that by this time, the Federal Capital City (FCC) would be witnessing massive housing and infrastructure transformations.

Sambo said with land swap, the yoke of commercially viable public infrastructure provision would shift from government’s shoulders to the private sector’s. For instance, the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) has a resettlement and compensation bill of between N55 billion and N60 billion within the area covered in the land swap project which investors were ready to fund. By this time, 15 investors were ready to pay the resettlement and compensation bills for existing indigenous villages, economic trees and crops. After doing all this, the investors were to provide engineering infrastructure.

But this is a programme that its lifespan is beyond a single administration. Sustainability became the concern of many. In fact, concerns were rife that land swap might die should the ruling party lose power.

Sen Bala Mohammed initiated the land swap

But initiators of the policy maintained that there were enough safety nets to keep the policy afloat. Bala Mohammed, in a brief to the House Committee on FCT maintained that the legal framework that enabled him as FCT minister to grant allocation of land to investors within the context of land swap programme had been exhausted. He stressed that he acted within the provisions of the enabling Land Use Act, Urban and Regional Planning Law and the Federal Capital Territory Act. According to him, selection of investors for the implementation of the policy was rigorous, all to prevent failure.

Moreso, Adamu Ismaila who was Executive Secretary, Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) at the time said the project received the backing of the Federal Executive Council so it would endure.

Similarly, Coordinator, Abuja Infrastructure Investment Centre (AICC) Farouk Sani who was driving the policy said scrapping the policy would be at a severe cost, adding that the programme had adequate legal framework to ensure its continuity after the exit of Bala Mohammed who was Federal Capital Territory (FCT) minister then.

Sadly, since change of government in 2015, stakeholders have seen lack of interest in land swap. This is happening when investors have already committed millions of naira to the project. Each investor was made to put down N350 million as commitment to work. Some of them had even mobilised to site and started work. Won’t abandoning the policy negatively affect these investors? Will this not portray government as untrustworthy business partner and erode confidence?

Apparently, scrapping or putting land swap in abeyance does no good as it has negatively impacted on investment and infrastructural development of the capital city.

This policy was designed to provide infrastructure, attract more prosperity, reduce crime, create employment and enable wealth creation in FCT. The policy was to provide additional housing for more than one million residents of Abuja and over 1,500 jobs.

Because of the potential the programme holds, many are calling for its resuscitation, saying it is panacea for housing shortage in FCT. Group Managing Director of Alpha Mead Group Femi Akintunde recently spoke at  Africa Real Estate Conference and Awards (AFRECA) in Lagos stressing that constrained access to land with valid title and government bureaucracy have made land swap greatly desirable. According to him, given the many challenges militating against the provision of sustainable and equitable housing in Nigeria, land swap is the catalyst needed for resolving housing deficit.

The Abuja Land Swap investment covers land area of 3,886 hectares, amounting to 15 percent of the FCC and less than 0.50 percent of FCT. FCDA was to supervise implementation of the project with the hope that in six years, Abuja infrastructure stock would increase by more than 27 percent, meaning additional 464km of new roads, seven bridges, 696km of street lighting lines and 334km of telecommunication ducts. It was said that there would be 2,566km of electricity distribution lines, 643km of water distribution lines, 626km of foul water drains, 672km of storm water drains and 226 culverts. All this amounting to $6 billion.

A breakdown showed that $2.4 billion was for infrastructure investment; and $3.6 billion for secondary investment in residential, commercial, multipurpose, institutional and active recreation development.

It was said that investors had already spent N4 billion to produce necessary documentation for districts covering survey data, detailed land use plans, final engineering designs and bills of engineering measurement and evaluation.

The programme was projected to create 25,000 plots of land in nine districts. The nine districts include: Ketti North, Sheretti, Ketti, Sheretti Chechi, Waru Kpozaima, Burum, Burum West, Ketti East and Gwagwa.

Out of 15 companies shortlisted, six were picked to execute the novel land policy. They include: Urban Shelter Infrastructure Limited, System Property Development Company Limited, Afri-International Projects Limited, BGD Properties Limited, Gilmore Engineering Company Limited and AM-PM Global Network Limited.

Apart from the above, eight other investors were in the process of joining the programme. They were: Dangote Group, Ketti East Infrastructure Limited, Bolmus Nigeria Limited, Deep Earth Nigeria Limited, Dayspring Limited, Haitong Limited, Rosehill Group and Waru-Pozema District Infrastructure Limited.

Ministers of FCT since its inception in 1976 always come with different policies. These policies are designed to tackle the numerous challenges of the territory. Change is desirable but must it cause pains?

Government is continuous, therefore, policies of past governments should not be merely faulted but tweaked if need be for continuity. Land swap is a policy which life span transcends a single administration and it should be treated as such. We at Viewpoint Housing News are not unaware of the fact that sustaining government policy is a major problem in Nigeria but we maintain that this is one policy that must be sustained at all cost.

Of course, anomalies might have been observed. That does not take away the fact that the policy was a product of credible work that matches the needs and infrastructure standards of FCT. There has been huge expression of investor’s interest in the scheme. Over 200 investors had shown interest. Many of these investors have already suffered fatigue and losses. Not allowing these investors to drive their investments will further push Nigeria down in Work Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index.

Abuja master plan envisaged a territory that would be built in 25 years with 79 districts, nine sector centres and 11 satellite towns. From when the policy was launched, it was expected that investments of about $30 billion would have been made by now. This is enough to realise the dream of placing Abuja among the 20 capital cities of the world by 2020.

Lest we forget, land swap had been working in FCT before the coming of Bala Mohammed-led administration and evidence abound. Districts were allocated to investors who provided primary infrastructure in lieu of land charges. These include: Sun Rise Hill Estate, Efab Estate, Citec Mbora Estate, Malaysian Garden, Houses for Africa Lugbe, Centenary City, Nigeria Film Village and NLC/TUC labour villages.

Land swap has accelerated housing development in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Singapore. It can achieve same feat here.

 

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