3 Mar 2015

MUST READ: President Jonathan’s controversial multi-billion Naira farm in Abuja

People residing in six villages in Abuja, the nation’s capital, have been forced by the Federal Capital Territory Administration, FCTA, to leave their homes and relocate to a neighbouring Wukara community at the Aviation Village in Abuja to pave way for the establishment of a farm by President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and his mother, Madam Afeni Eunice.

The large expanse of the land was allocated to them by the Federal Capital Territory Administration.

The farmland, measuring 95.88 hectares, is located at the Cadastral Zone, Aviation Village, within the Abuja Municipal Area Council, AMAC, and was specifically allocated to Ebele Integrated Farms Limited by FCTA on March 8, 2012, two days after the company applied for the land and less than three months after it was incorporated by the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC.

According to the CAC, Ebele Integrated Farms Limited, with registration number 1003866, was registered on December 20, 2011 with a share capital of N30 million, said Daily Trust.

The company has only two registered directors: Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, with share capital of N28.5 million and Madam Afeni Eunice, with share capital of N1.5 million.

Records at the commission indicated that the nature of business the company was registered to execute are: “To carry on the business of agricultural and mechanical farming in all its branches (which include but not limited to) crop farming, rearing of livestock, feed milling, arable and fruit farming, manufacturing and distribution of agric products, flour merchants, poultry farming, animal husbandry, fish farming, deep sea fishing, trawling and to sell and deal in same etc.”

However, Ebele Integrated Farms Limited, since its registration in 2012, has no evidence of filing annual returns with the CAC, which is a vital requirement to be fulfilled by all such registered companies.

The legal practitioner that filed the application documents for the registration of the company with the commission, Arum Ifeyinwa Jane, provided the address of the company’s owners, Jonathan and Eunice, as number 23, Kolda Street, Wuse 11, Abuja.

Similar address was provided by the company to the Abuja Geographic Information System (AGIS) in its application for the farmland.

However, Daily Trust reported that when its correspondent visited the supposed company’s address at 23 Kolda Street, nobody around the area seemed to know that Ebele Integrated Farms Limited or any other company ever occupied the building within the past ten years. A security guard inside the compound said that the building was owned by a telecommunication firm.

When Daily Trust visited the farm near Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, over 40 articulated vehicles belonging to SCC Construction Company were seen with several staff of the company carrying out different works.

Armed soldiers and plain-cloth security operatives were seen at strategic parts of the farm which has a crocodile section near the main gate, orchards, where well irrigated mango trees provide shelter overlooking the hill top buildings said to be meeting and resting place for the president.

On the other side, there is a standard fish pond with embankment to prevent erosion. There is also the clean water in the fish pond recycling itself.

A short distance from there is a small airstrip for any helicopter to land. The airstrip is overlooking another set of hundreds of mango trees and a small stream with water passing through all in a solid concrete walls round the farm.

The security operatives in the farm were there to, among other assignments, prevent any unauthorised person from gaining access into the farm.

People living at the Wukara village, workers at the SCC construction company working in the farm, government officials in the FCT ministry, AGIS, Development Control Department of the FCDA and AMAC “have all been warned not to talk about that farm,” Daily Trust said.
The case of the displaced villagers is pathetic. Malam Ahmadu (not real name), who was seen resting under a tree at the outskirt of Wukara, spoke to our reporters.

He said: “I was residing in Sarkin Madaki village before we were ejected and our houses demolished. Six villages that include Sarkin Madaki where I hail from, Aguwan Audu, Kukeli, Anguwan Sharuwa, Badambo and Nasarawai, were the villages people were sacked from and demolished to provide space for this farm. Yes, we knew the farm belongs to the president but we have been warned not to say so. They said we must never discuss about the farm with anyone.

“The former FCT Commissioner of Police came in company of some top officers and warned us at the palace of the Aguma (village head) of Wukara that if we ever mentioned anything to anyone about the farm, they will arrest the person that made the statement and drive others from here without compensation. I am talking to you now because no one is seeing us. If you had met me in the village, I would not have talked to you.

“When they sacked us from our various villages, government gave us plots of land each at Wukara. People from all the six affected villages were moved to Wukara. But no monetary compensation was given to us. We had to sell part of the land allocated to us and build the remaining. It was after the commissioner of police warned us and left that we resolved to name the farm as the Aviation Farm.”
Another resident of Wukara, who simply identified himself as Malam, told Daily Trust at BasanJiya, a nearby community where he went to buy provisions, that their problem is not just because their villages have been converted to the president’s farm, but because they took away their houses, places of worship, farmlands only to be given a piece of land, each, in return. “We are all farmers. None of us had his farm replaced. How do they want us to cultivate?
“We all had our various sources of water before we were sacked from our villages. Here at Wukara, we scoop water from the ground to drink, cook and use at home because we have 2 boreholes that do not work. We complained to the Aguma who said he has written to SCC Construction Company but nothing has been done till date.

“Yes, they are constructing access road for us through the bush path. We do not want that one. Let them construct the one that will burst near the airport gate. That’ll be shorter and safer for us.”
When Daily Trust visited the palace of the Aguma of Wukara, Malam Mohammed Sarki, the people seen around the palace said the traditional ruler was indisposed.
One of the elders was however said: “Nobody can speak to you about the farm. On the issue of the road and water, we have written to AMAC and SCC. Go to their offices and ask them why they refused to help us.”
Daily Trust reporters visited AMAC twice; first the chairman was said to be in a meeting, while on the second occasion he was said to have gone to the FCT ministry for official consultation.
A senior council official who pleaded anonymity, however, said: “Look, do not waste your time. The chairman will never see you on this matter. How can the president compensate them? Advise them to come and beg the chairman for a borehole and clinic, that is more realistic.”
At the SCC Construction office in Utako District, Abuja, efforts to see the project manager were not successful.

However, a top official of the company, who pleaded not to be identified, said that Aguma had actually written a two-page letter to the company, dated May 16, 2014, requesting them to sink additional boreholes for them, adding: “In as much as we sympathise with the community, as contractors, we cannot use our money to develop their community for them.
“What they are asking for is not provided in the contract agreement. As a construction company, we only employ people with skills. But we went out of our way and employed their people who are now working for us. I am not privy to the contract sum, I would have told you. But it is a fact that what qualified us most for this contract was what the president saw our company did in General Abdulsalami Abubakar’s farm in Minna. You know, it was SCC that constructed it also.”
Meanwhile, the development makes people wonder if the farmland in question was actually intended to be used as such by the designers of Abuja.

A retired top ranking civil servant, Chief Bisi Winsala Kolins, who said he used all his retirement benefit to build houses in Garki that were demolished by the FCDA on the excuse that the area was meant for business and not residential, averred: “I am aware that in the Abuja master plan, no part of the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC), including the aviation village, is meant to be used for farming. It is also a fact that the Abuja master plan cannot be redesigned to accommodate any new development. That farm must, therefore, be demolished and relocated to outside AMAC for justice and fair play.”

Former Minister of the FCT, Malam Nasir el-Rufa’i, in a response from the United Kingdom to an online inquiry by Daily Trust, said no part of Abuja Municipal Area is supposed to be used for farming purposes, including the aviation village now housing Ebele Integrated Farms.

El-Rufa’i said: “Aviation Village is self-explanatory … it is part of Phase 5 of the Federal Capital City (FCC) meant to accommodate aviation company needs – hangars, fuelling and maintenance facilities, housing and hotels. There were no provisions for agricultural land in the city footprint.

“Farmlands are located outside the city in places like Gaube, Kuje and Kwali. I am surprised that agricultural land is being allocated in the footprint of the FCT. This may be another violation of the Abuja Dream…..God Save us.”

At the Abuja Geographic Information system (AGIS), a top official who initially doubted claims by our reporters that the application by Ebele Integrated Farms Limited was approved in only two days from the date of the application, was shocked to see the company’s file number MISC 117899 with AGIS.

He said: “You are right, look at the farm’s file. Their application for the allocation of the plot was dated March 6, 2012 and approval given on March 8, 2012. The initial plot number was 1680 before it was later changed to 1683. The change in the plot number does not affect the plot itself. Look at the note written with red pen that the FCT Minister attached to his approval.

“In all my years in AGIS I have never seen an application for plot of land treated with such a rush. If we were allowed to treat it like the normal applications, we would have verified the address. Even if the address they gave was correct and they later moved to a new address, they are supposed to notify us of their new address.”

Mr. Jonathan’s multibillion naira integrated farm project has attracted a lot of criticisms from the public, mainly because the president’s salary and legitimate earnings as a president could not afford him to own a multi-billion Naira farm project.

Credit: Shehu Abubakar/Vincent Yusuf/Daily Trust

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