I must first express my high regard for his excellency. Despite being only a passive follower of events of Nigerian I couldn’t help but see the extremely rare stalwartness of his character. I am particularly aware of how he passed his test of character in the troubled days of the People’s Democratic Party and how he only and few others bore that party on his shoulders not running here and there in pursuit of personal interests or opportunistic political advancement. This he did even risking his own life and by resilience he tamed those who were out to bring a crushing blow down on his party. Though this loyalty was along party lines, it shows that he lives by a nobler and higher ideal than the crudity of self seeking politics. I personally have a strong admiration for His Excellency, Nyesom Wike, Minister of FCT.
Since he became FCT Minister, people knew they were in for a lot of reforms, actions, and drama, but they didn’t know which way it would swing, whether for harm or for good. Even those who didn’t know him well knew he was a man of actions. Indeed we saw a lot of actions but sadly some were out of place which I hope amendments would be made. I wish to express my thoughts on some perceived wrongs of his first few months in office.
The Moral Wrong Of Land Revocation
I have followed the events of land revocation, payment of ground rents, and so on, and though a bit passively, I have observed some things that call for concern. The one thing that stands out is that of land revocation, particularly that of undeveloped lands. I suppose that if lands were not developed it is not because the owners were ignorant of the fact that they had a lot to benefit in developing their lands. Usually lands remain undeveloped for a long time because of lack of funds. To therefore revoke lands on account of the owners not developing them is in the first place inconsiderate.
Secondly, while I may be wrong, I do not think that there has been any compensation given to those whose lands were revoked. I’ve not heard of any cases of compensation. The thing we need to consider is that such lands were not given to owners for free to develop. They bought them with their money. Money was paid to purchase it. It is their property. And if it is their property it is theirs to develop or not to develop. And if its being undeveloped is such a nuisance, then when revoking it the owners should be compensated at the full value of the land currently. If that cost would be too high, then let the owners be. It is too high because their nuisance is not that much.
To revoke the properties of others without compensation is outright theft, whether or not there are laws backing such actions. If there are laws that back such godlessness then that law needs to be reviewed with speed. Not even godless Ahab in the Bible was that godless to take a man’s land without paying for it for he told Naboth, “Give me thy vineyard… because it is near unto my house: and I will give thee for it a better vineyard than it; or, if it seem good to thee, I will give thee the worth of it in money.” (1 Kings 21:2). So to revoke the properties of others without a commensurate compensation is outright godlessness.
I’ve also heard the claim that such revocations are necessary because these lands are needed for some other purpose as though all the lands in Abuja were exhausted. I invite the reader to open Google map and see the map of Abuja. We would see that all from Kubwa to Nyanyan to Gwagwalada, places we would consider the entirety of Abuja are just about 15% to 25% of Abuja. The rest are just forests and completely undeveloped. Abuja is not pressed for lands that makes such actions imperative.
That people have lands and can’t develop them is a sign of failure on the part of the Federal Mortgage Banks and Federal Housing Schemes. They ought to come in to ensure that there are funds for the development of properties including mass housing where required. But we don’t see these things happening. It is not really a failure per se because giving out low interest loans with the horrible inflation we are experiencing is practically impossible. Seeing the unprecedented plight of the nation at this time, much consideration should be shown.
I will therefore recommend that these lands be restored to the owners or compensations be made. When we look at the map of Abuja we would see that development is centralised and congested. I suppose it’ll be a great idea to develop other areas of the FCT. And if the government has need of lands to that extent they should be a bit restrictive in selling lands to individuals. I don’t think there’s soundness in the practice of selling lands liberally and having to revoke them later to make use of them.
The Fault In Land Laws
Before I go on to other things I’ll like to share my thoughts about land laws, particularly that of ground rents or tenement rates. When we see the way these things were introduced it gives one much to worry about.
Before now ministries and agencies had staff quarters which they later sold to their staff. One would see this as a show of good will which indeed it is. Not long after selling these houses to interested buyers and once payments had been completed a barrage of fees were introduced which almost amounts to the same house rent collected from staff. I learnt that at one point the collection of these fees was halted by the National Assembly but the decision of the national assembly was later overturned in court by the then FCT minister.
It is good that staff became house owners with this scheme, but the motive behind selling off these houses is what calls for concern. Having government staff quarters was a way of generating revenue. At the point of choosing to sell those houses it should have been done with the consciousness that they were relinquishing a source of steady revenue that is extremely easy to collect. But immediately after selling these houses, all these fees and charges were introduced. So they sell the houses and still find a way to be demanding an amount close to the same house rents they relinquished.
Such kind of action reminds me of a story of a group of people who would sell their beds in the afternoon then come at night knocking on your door and crying in such a pitiful way that they have nothing to sleep on. Government requires revenue to operate, but they sold these houses for several millions for each house. After the houses were sold and they raked in billions upon billions, they came back knocking for something similar to house rents, only with another name. Not only from houses they built but from every house owner and occupant in the FCT. This, to me, shows some level of dubious dealings.
The government that needs revenue to run should tone down the level at which they sell their properties and tone down the level of privatisation.
The Wrong Of Guilt-Trapping FCT Residents
The next wrong is the wrong of guilt trapping FCT residents. For years and years the FCT administration has been very slack in collecting these tenement rates and the justification for the level of urgency and high handedness in collecting all the accumulated fees is to claim that a good citizen doesn’t need to be told or reminded before he pays these fees. In other words, FCT residents are bad citizens.
We need to be reminded that though those fees have been levied on people to pay, and that by law, it does not mean people should be going about to pay those fees. The payment of these has been contested before as said. The House of Rep even going against it once. Not many people think they ought to pay these things. Why should individuals be going about to beg for their money to be collected as though they have no use of money? It is a bit awkward to expect this of citizens and unfair to brand them bad citizens on this account.
That it is in the law does not mean it makes one a bad citizen for not paying. The law means you can ask for it and expect compliance. If you don’t ask for it then it’s the fault of the past administrations. If they asked and people didn’t comply, why are they complying now?
I don’t agree that residents of Abuja are bad citizens on this account. Residents of Abuja have been wronged to be charged this way.
The Wrong Of Insensitivity To The Plights Of Nigerians
Now, after these fees have accumulated amounting to a very high amount in Naira, all of a sudden people are made to pay everything at once. This forgetting that the things mentioned before about all the controversies that shrouded the payment of such fees. These fees built up while the matter was still contested and people unsure and definitely not in support of it.
True and well that it is in the law, but the essence of the law was not to yank off such humongous amounts from people at once. It was intended to be paid gradually. Rather than put such a financial burden on people which will of necessity bring drawbacks to them in such hard times, a repayment plan ought to have been introduced that shall enable them pay over time. Not to force them to pay at once and threaten them with forfeiture of their properties….
We all know how hard the times are. We have an unprecedented level of increase in the cost of living. Increase in cost of fuel, increase in cost of electricity, increase in the cost of food, increase in the cost of dollars, and what have you. Is this the time to be laying such heavy financial burdens on residents in such a blood and iron approach? The timing is awfully wrong and the approach is reflective of awful insensitivity to the plight of Nigerians. Truly, Nigerians have been the victims of their leaders.
The Wisdom Of Joab
Now a brief reference to the story of Joab in the Bible (2 Samuel 14:1-20). When Absalom was in exile and Joab saw that the king was yearning to see his son, he sent a woman to the king and put word in her mouth. The summary of everything she said was that she was a widow and had two sons. They fought and one killed the other. These two sons were necessary for her survival. If one has been killed by the other, the law (which we are all about in this article) states that the second son is to be killed for it was not by accident that he killed his brother but in a fight. Now she pleaded that they have come to execute the law by killing her second son. The death of one is already a big blow to her, the law states that her last hope should also be destroyed. But what did David the just king say? By the power upon him, despite being the minister of justice to execute the verdicts of the law to the fullest, he said that he will use his power to protect her from that which the law states. And he did this with all assurance.
The wisdom Joab presented to the king is that the law must be firm but there is a need for mercy to use it rightly and that the law was not given to harm or to snuff out the hopes of people. Seeing that we are all about the law in this article as that has been the major support for this blood and iron approach to addressing issues in the FCT, to be pursuing such stringent measures against residents at a time such as this without any clemency on the method of recovering outstanding bills is a wrong use of the law. For indeed the Bible says, “But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully.” (1 Timothy 1:8). The law is good IF…
He That Does Not Work Should Not Eat
The Bible tells us, “if any would not work, neither should he eat.” (2 Thessalonians 3:10) As this applies to persons, so does it apply to governments for governments comprise of persons. So, while the fact that the government is indeed doing a whole lot, every kobo they collect must be on justifiable basis. It is a well known fact that Nigerians are already paying too much for what they enjoy from the government. We provide water for ourselves, electricity by using generators and solar, waste disposal, security by paying for the services of vigilantes and so on, public transport are run by individuals even with private sedan cars, and then we are taxed so heavily. That is so wrong.
It was Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, president of the African Development Bank, who lamented the fact that Nigerians do not enjoy basic infrastructure that should be provided by the government and so are paying the highest implicit tax in the world. He said, and I quote, “Nigerians pay one of the highest implicit tax rates in the world — way higher than developed countries… Governments, over time, have simply transferred their responsibility to citizens. When governments or institutions fail to provide basic services, the people bear the burden — a heavy implicit tax on the population.” I absolutely agree. Nigerians are well conscious of this reality and are lamenting in silence. This was said about three years before this blood and steel approach, now what do we do when this approach has been introduced to worsen the plight of Nigerians and is being justified by presenting things like “the law says so,” “we need revenue,” etc.
Read the full article of all Akinwumi Adesina had to say here: https://www.thecable.ng/akinwumi-adesina-despite-paying-high-taxes-nigerians-still-provide-water-electricity-for-themselves/amp
One of the things that has also been raised about addressing the recovery of outstanding bills is that Abuja is landlocked and the administration needs these bills to run. One cogent thing we need to consider is that if the FCT administration could run for so long without people paying these bills, then the idea as to whether these bills are needed is in question. How were they running all these years? If this humongous amount of money is now being yanked from residents of the FCT, it certainly can’t be for the same set of services that have been rendered for bygone years. What added services are the residents of FCT looking at?
Nigeria is in dire need of money, we know, and for the past few years we have been hearing things like we need to look inward and explore internally generated revenue. That is true, but what we have is internally collected revenue. That is raising revenue without a commensurate service to justify the collection of it, for the word “generate” implies work.
The only grounds the charade of looking inward to internally collected revenue can be corrected and thus justified is if they have been provided for years and years now.
While it seems that the recent actions of the FCT minister is to the best interest of people, it is nothing short of tyrannical. Neither does it present great prospects as though this hardship will bring about a brighter tomorrow. Such steps would only further entrench the sufferings of the masses. It is true that Nigeria is sick and is in dire need of a fix, but the remedy being administered is not what will resolve the issues ailing the country. Too long have Nigerians listened to the charade that the suffering leaders are subjecting them too is for the betterment of tomorrow. This they say encouraging the masses to be patient as though suffering must of necessity precede prosperity and prosperity must of necessity proceed from suffering. Have we seen any form of improvements all these while? But this I say, the country is indeed sick and is in need of urgent attention, but he is a bad and ill trained surgeon that can’t cure his patient without causing him pain. An expert and good surgeon would treat his patient in such a way that when he’s done his patient would have felt no pain whatsoever. With tact, the plight of Nigeria can be cured without the need of further suffering.
It is time Nigerian politicians look for a better excuse for suffering Nigerians than the promise that better days will come only after suffering further. And I suppose Nigerians too should stop looking forward to suffering first before things will be better. With tact, character, and vision in leaders no suffering is essential for better days. I think we have a lot to learn from Donald Trump who during his first presidential campaign gave the promise about how his time as president would be, saying, “it’s going to be a beauty to watch.” And how well did he do that for his people! We need politicians such as this who give and fulfil these kinds of promises, and Nigerians should look forward to leaders whose leadership would be a beauty to watch.
The essence of writing this article is to share my views on these things and present it for the consideration of Nigerians for possible ways to see how the tragedy we’ve experienced and are experiencing can be remedied. I recommend constructive dialogue and active correspondences to right the wrongs and chart a path for our collective wellbeing. For this to work we need to move with the force of reason and I have presented my own kobo to this effect.
May God help us all. Amen.