Fresh facts have emerged on how Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, a former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) reallocated a plot of land belonging to the defunct National Primary Education Commission (NPEC), now Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) to himself.
In February 2009, the Senate had at the end of a lengthy probe of the El-Rufai administration, asked the FCT administration to revoke a plot of land the ministry allocated Obasanjo Farms Limited on the eve of Obasanjo’s exit as president.
The Senate had also directed that the plot be returned to its “original owner” Inter-Projects Associates Limited.
However, throughout the probe, El-Rufai concealed from the senators that in 1994, his firm, El-Rufai and Partners Limited had undertaken a consultancy for National Primary Education Commission (NPEC) to build an 11-storey complex on Plot 589, Cadastral Zone A00, the same plot the senators asked be handed Inter-Projects Associates Limited.
Back in 1994, four companies that indicated interest in constructing the 11-story office for NPEC. El-Rufai and Partners had in a 200-page tender evaluation report specifically recommended Contain West Africa as the preferred bidder. The contract sum was for N400 million.
El-Rufai and Associates pocketed N19 million as “consultancy fees.”
The report was dated November 1994, and jointly signed by El-Rufai and Partners (the consulting quantity surveyors) and Steveben and Associates (architects). Both firms were based in Kaduna.
NPEC’s national headquarters at the time was on 12, Ali Akilu Road, Kaduna. Its Private Mail Bag was 2328, and Alhaji Abdulsalam Abubakar Sambo its Executive Secretary.
At the time of the tender evaluation report, the registered address of El-Rufai and Partners was S4 Kankia Street, Ungwa-Sarki, Kaduna,
The postal address was P.O. Box 5110, Kaduna.
Interestingly, Inter-Projects Associates Limited, the firm El-Rufai re-allocated NPEC’s land to in 2005- 11 years after designing NPEC’s building- shares the same S4 Kankia Street, Ungwa-Sarki, Kaduna address.
In 1992, the FCT minister, General Gado Nasko had handed NPEC Plot 589, Cadastral Zone A00 in the Central Business District. The plot measured about 8555 square metres.
Aside NPEC, the Gado Nasko administration allocated plots of land to several other government agencies including National Universities Commission, National Commission for Colleges of Education, Nigerian National Merit Award, Public Complaints Commission.
Pointblanknews.com investigations revealed that out of fear that several government agencies were directed to relocate from Kaduna, several top northern power brokers moved to block the directive.
One of such power brokers was Alhaji Yayale Ahmed, at the time permanent secretary, Federal Ministry of Education.
Ahmed, who later became Head of Service, and Minister of Defence, reportedly counter-directed NPEC and National Teachers’ Institute (NTI) to “stay put in Kaduna.”
To ensure NTI never relocated to Abuja, Pointblanknews.com checks revealed, Yayale Ahmed converted NTI’s official allocation on the Kubwa Expressway into Civil Service Training Institute. Till date, NTI’s national headquarters is in Kaduna.
Pointblanknews.com checks revealed that, but for providence, NPEC (now UBEC) would have like NTI remained in Kaduna.
About the end of 1992, New African Merchant Bank (NAMB) a bank with powerful northern interests, was distressed. To bail out the bank, Gen. Mohammed Abdul One, a former Military Governor of Borno State, later deputy ECOMOG Commander, directed NPEC Executive Secretary to lodge N400 million in the distressed bank.
A few months later, New African Merchant Bank went under- with NPEC’s N400 million, the same amount at which Costain had agreed to build an 11-storey building for NPEC.
Checks revealed that following NAMB’s liquidation, a panicky NPEC made several efforts to recover its trapped N400 million.
NPEC, on realizing that the liquidated NAMB had put up an almost finished property on Gwani Street, Wuse Zone 4, for sale, applied for equity swapping.
After a series of negotiations and pressure from top shots in the Abacha regime, NPEC agreed to buy off NAMB’s half-finished office for N650 million- N250 million higher than the N400 million Costain had agreed to build an 11-storey tower, Pointblanknews.com checks revealed.”
NPEC reportedly paid the N250 million difference in cash.
However, in 1999 when President Olusegun Obasanjo took over power, he scrapped NPEC converting same to Universal Basic Education Programme. In 2004, the law establishing the programme was passed by the National Assembly and became Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC).
In July 2003, El-Rufai was appointed FCT minister. Months later he launched a programme dubbed “Accelerated Development Programme”.
Under the guise of the “Accelerated Development Programme”, El-Rufai, in May 2005 wrote NPEC, an agency he worked for in 1994, and well knew had been scrapped six year earlier.
The letter “Notice of Revocation of Undeveloped Plots Within Central Area Federal Capital Territory” was dated 10th May, 2005. It bore reference number FG 751.
The one-page letter was addressed “National Primary Education, UBE Building, IBB Close, Wuse Zone 4, Abuja.”
The correct address of UBEC is 7, Gwani Street Wuse Zone 4. There is no IBB close in the whole of Wuse Zone 4.
It read, “Following the expiration of grace period granted by the Minister to the effect and complete development of your plot within the Central Area, I have been directed to inform you that the Minister of Federal Capital Territory has in the exercise powers (sic) conferred on him under Section 28 (5) (a) & (b) of the Land Use Act, 1978, revoked your rights and interest over Plot 589 within Central Area (A00) for your continued contravention of the terms of development of the Right of Occupancy.”
The letter, which was copied the Directors, Development Control, URP and that of Surveys and Mapping, was signed by one Mainasara, B. G., an assistant Chief Land Officer.
About two months after revoking Plot 589, El-Rufai, on 28th July 2005, wrote Inter-Projects Associates Limited informing the firm of its new ownership of the plot.
The “new file number” was given as MISC 80876, and the purpose “Commercial”.
Wrote El-Rufai, “I wish to refer to your application in the Accelerated Development Programme of the Federal Capital Territory and convey to you the approval of grant of Plot Number 589 in Cadastral Zone A00 of Cbd District measuring approximately 8555.00 sq. m,” penned the minister.
He added, “Please signify your acceptance of this offer in writing within two weeks from the date of this letter by collecting, signing and returning a Development Lease Agreement containing the terms and conditions of this offer to this office for perfection,” and thanked the firm “for your interest in developing the Federal Capital Territory.”
The letter was signed by the Director, Abuja Geographic Information Systems (AGIS), on behalf of the FCT Minister.
An official of the UBEC however told Pointblanknews.com that no letter from the FCT ministry ever got to his organization.
“I was a management staff at the time. No grace period was ever conveyed to UBEC let alone the one purporting to revoke our plot,” said the official.
He continued, “In any case, if there is anybody who should have revoked UBEC’s land, it shouldn’t be El-Rufai, a man who participated in the design of our 11-storey building and got mouth-watering payment for it.”
He further probed, “How did a plot of land originally approved for a government education agency now become ‘commercial’. Who approved the conversion?”
Curiously, on 28th May, 2007- eve of Obasanjo’s exit as president- the same Plot 589 was re-allocated to Obasanjo Farms Limited of 56, Quarry Road, Agbeloba, Abeokuta.
Another file number 88963 was opened for Obasanjo Farms Limited.
Pointblanknews.com gathered that El-Rufai’s opposition to the emergence of the late Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, and the bitterness he displayed, led to the revocation of the allocation to Inter-Projects Associates Limited.
Meanwhile, FCTA authorities have yet to return Plot 589 to the rightful owners- UBEC.
The education agency is currently tucked in a two-storey building in Zone 4, and continues to generate traffic gridlock in the area.
“The parking space in UBEC can’t accommodate the cars of management staff, let alone junior staffers. They are therefore compelled to park their vehicles on the road. At least one car is reported stolen each week, no thanks to the greed of El-Rufai who seized our land,” complained one driver.
The immediate past Minister of State for Education, Chief Nyesom Wike had reportedly been indifferent to efforts by UBEC to recover its property.
An official of UBEC however disclosed that the agency, under a new management, had begun moves to recover the property said to be worth over N1 billion.
Several telephone calls requesting the former minister’s comments on the allegations against him were ignored. He equally refused to respond to SMS enquiries.
…Below are scanned copies of Ek-Rufak’s Tender Evaluation Report, the letter revoking NPEC’s property, as well as the letters transfering same to El-Rufai’s front and Obasanjo Farms Limited.