By Sadiq Umar – There are strong indications that the Senate may have directed the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) to take steps to immediately clear any obstacle in the way of the commencement of the Centenary City Project in Abuja.
In giving the directive, the Senate acknowledged that if the economy of Nigeria must have a quantum leap, Nigerians should think and conceive projects like the Centenary City Project, whose “economic benefits are huge, the social benefits immeasurable, and the political benefits cannot be imagined.”
This is contained in the Report of the Senate Committee on the FCT regarding the integrity and legal status of the Centenary City Project and other matters pertaining thereto.
The Report of which a copy was obtained by our Correspondent yesterday, is jointly signed by Senator Dino Melaye (Chairman, Senate Committee on FCT) and Olufemi Folajin, FICA (Clerk, Senate Committee on FCT).
According to our findings, the Report was submitted and the Senate’s decision, were taken almost one month before the House of Representatives, based on a motion by Honourable Timothy Golu (Plateau, PDP), resolved last week that the Centenary City be investigated to determine whether the project, conceived by the Jonathan Administration in 2014, followed due process, among other things.
This would explain why the move by the lower house was immediately greeted with condemnation from some Senators and even by a few of the members of the House who have followed the development.
The committee also noted in the report that the opportunity of the public hearing conducted on the subject matter was an eye opener on the whole issues about the Centenary City Project, as there had been “a lot of misinformation, misunderstanding and misconception of the Project and many issues about it.”
“We make bold to say that agencies of government should endeavor to come to terms with the fact that Governments do not “supervise” private sector projects; Government only regulates them. To discourage a project of this nature for any reason is a great disservice to the nation,” the committee said.
In the exercise of its oversight and other functions, and especially in response to insinuations of illegality and lack of equity in the establishment of the Centenary City Project, the Senate Committee invited the FCTA), the management of Centenary City Plc. (CCPLC) and others to a public hearing to ascertain the truth or lack of it in the issues brought before it.
At the concluded hearing, all relevant facts, documents, arguments, claims and counter claims were tabled and discussed.
Issues raised during the public hearing included Land Swap Scheme and Development Agreement (DA) with the FCTA, Land Premium and FCTA’s 5% Equity in CCPLC, Statutory Responsibilities of the FCTA and the Operations of Free Zones and, Land Size, Others were Relocation of 330 KVA Transmission Line Crossing the Centenary City site, Centenary City Project and Abuja Master Plan, Compensation of Original Inhabitants and Other Private Property Interests; and Resettlement Scheme for the Original Inhabitants.
Participants in the public hearing were the FCTA led by the Honourable Minister Mohammed Musa Bello, the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) led by the Executive Secretary Engr. Adamu Ismaila, the Management of Centenary City Plc. led by the Managing Director Dr. Odenigwe Ike Michaels, Jr., Nineteen (19) Land Swap Investors and, Members of the Press.
The Committee requested and received detailed submissions by all parties, and permitted oral presentations and rebuttals by all parties. Among other things, the Committee assessed all presentations and also interrogated the relevant officials of the invited agencies and organizations.
Documents received by the Committee included Written Brief by the FCTA, a comprehensive update on the Centenary City Project by CCPLC, Process of Declaration of Free Zone Status on Centenary City site, Development Agreement between FCTA and CCPLC, Right of Occupancy and Certificate of Occupancy of the Centenary City land and, Free Zone Declaration License for Centenary Economic City and the Centenary Economic City Free Guidelines and Regulations, 2015.
Others were Letter from the FCTA requesting funds to settle Compensation Claims on Centenary City site and Proof of Payment, Letter from the FCTA requesting funds to settle Compensation Claims on the Centenary Resettlement site, Contract for the Relocation of the 330 KVA Line Crossing the Centenary City site, Letter from the FCTA requesting funds from CCPLC to embark on the Centenary Resettlement Scheme, Letter from FCTA requesting funds to settle Compensation Claims incurred on the relocation of the 330 KVA Transmission Line, Development Control Regulations (DCR) for Centenary City and, Letter to FCTA requesting allocation of unencumbered land for the establishment of a Logistics Hub and for Independent Infrastructural facilities.
“We note with relief that the Committee is now fully apprised of all the facts and can confidently address Nigerians on its findings in order to bring all issues regarding the Centenary City Project to a closure,” the committee said in its report.
On the major high points of the Development Agreement, the committee reported that during the hearing, it was established that the Centenary City site measured in totality about 1,264.78 Hectares out of which about 600 Hectares is developable and the rest comprised of hills, rocks and a river. It is noted that the integration of these features into the City planning have huge cost implications;
It was also established that the FCTA and CCPLC signed a Development Agreement based on which the Certificate of Occupancy was issued over the land to CCPLC by the FCTA. Compensation clauses; Resettlement Clauses; and 5% equity for the FCTA in CCPLC; etc.
The hearing further established that since the land was granted under the Land Swap Scheme, the FCTA should have both Supervisory and Regulatory role on the Project;
Other facts established during the hearing included some financial expenditure and implementation clauses; Again, it was established that after the Development Agreement was signed, the President on the recommendation of the Honourable Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, proclaimed a “Free Zone Status” over the entire Centenary City land mass. This was done almost at the same time with the Eko Atlantic City Project in Lagos.
“It is understood that with the Free Zone status over the entire Project site, that the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA) will be the only agency of government that should now exercise Regulatory powers over the Project. Accordingly, what is left of the Development Agreement with the FCTA will be issues of compensation, resettlement and the enjoyment by the FCTA of their 5% equity in CCPLC.” the committee further stated in its report.
On the question of compensation, it was further established that the following compensation have been duly paid by CCPLC through the FCTA: Compensation on the Centenary City site; Compensation on the relocation of the 330 KVA Transmission line crossing over the Centenary City site; and Compensation on the Resettlement land.
It was established that the 5% equity of the FCTA in CCPLC arose out of the consideration that by the Land Swap Model, the FCTA would have been entitled to a percentage of the Serviced Land for its own allocation. Being afraid of distorting the Master Plan, the Developer opted for equity. Also, the 5% equity in CCPLC guarantees the FCTA a seat on the Board of CCPLC and the Free Zone Management Company. This will enable the FCTA ensure that all decisions of the Company complies with the Project purpose and design.
“The FCTA’s 5% equity in CCPLC is expected to yield annual revenues for the FCTA that may be more than what the FCTA generates internally for a whole year, and the 5% equity is a product of a signed agreement between the FCTA and CCPLC,: the report said.
It was also established that work is massively going on at the Centenary Resettlement Scheme and that the project will be ready for commissioning in the next seven (7) months and that all necessary Development Control Regulations (DCR) have been developed after four (4) Clarification Workshops among the FCTA, CCPLC, the Consultants, and Eagle Hills, and that the FCTA has accordingly approved the regulations.
On the issue of due process, it is also established that due processes were complied with in the following areas: Issuance of the Certificate of Occupancy; Granting of the Free Zone status; Payment of all compensation; Obtaining of the Resettlement land; and In developing the Development Control Regulations (DCR),
Following the above, the Senate Committee therefore observed that the Centenary City Project is a heritage programme of the Nigerian Centenary Celebration, and that the project is entirely a private sector project that will be completed at no cost to the Government of Nigeria.
It also noted that Centenary City Plc. (CCPLC or the Company) is a public limited liability company formed by interested Nigerian and foreign investors for the purpose of carrying on the Centenary City Project, and that the Company intends to undertake a public issue of her shares in the not-so-distance future to enable more Nigerians participate in the Project and thereby own it;
That the Company has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Eagle Hills International Properties LLC (Eagle Hills), a United Arab Emirates (UAE)-government supported investment company as the Developer of the Project in line with international best practices;
It noted that the Centenary City Project will stimulate both foreign and domestic investment to the tune of US$18 Billion (Eighteen Billion US Dollars), create up to 250,000 well-paying jobs, promote world-class urban infrastructure, leisure and entertainment and attract multinational retail chains to Nigeria among other things. It will also support the urban renewal of Abuja and earn outstanding revenue for the FCT;
“That the Centenary City, if developed as planned, will be an African pride; and the Developer is ready to move to site if the issue of who regulates the City is resolved,” the Committee further observed.
It outlined the issues for resolution to include the Legal Status of the Project: That is, which Federal Government Agency will regulate the Project given the existence of the Development Agreement under the FCTA and the Free Zone Guidelines and Regulations of the Centenary Economic City, 2015 under NEPZA.
“The Senate having confirmed that due process was followed notes with due sense of patriotism that there is no doubt that it is NEPZA that regulates every Free Zone in Nigeria by law. Accordingly, the Development Agreement with the FCTA should be amended to now focus on the issues of compensation, resettlement and the enjoyment of the benefits of her 5% equity in CCPLC,” the committee resolved.
On the question as to whether the 5% Equity in CCPLC was adequate for FCTA, the Senate believed that fair agreement should be respected and this will not be an exception.
As to whether, by this Arrangement, the FCTA’s Statutory Role would be overtaken, the Senate committee believed that all the roles the FCTA is to play had been factored into the processes and so the FCTA is in a good state. “However, whereas the declaration/designation by Mr. President of a free zone over the entire landmass comprising 1,264.78 hectares at Wawa District, Abuja (the “Centenary Economic City”) has removed it from the control, management and obligation of any other government and or private authority and placed it under the absolute and exclusive control, management and supervision of NEPZA, NEPZA has also indicated that it will be happy to work with the FCDA at any stage necessary to assure implementation of the Centenary City Master Plan,” it added.
According to the committee, “it will be strange to imagine this as the existence of NEPZA is based on an Act of Parliament of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. We have about 35 Free Zones in the country and the operations of the free zones have been seamless with the rights and powers of the host states. Eko Atlantic City Free Zone Project for instance has moved on seamlessly, why not the Centenary City Free Zone Project where all necessary regulations particularly the Development Control Regulation (DCR) have followed due process and approval given by the FCTA.”
The committee further addressed the issue of whether the Centenary City Development was in conformity with the Abuja Master Plan, saying, “we are pleased to note that the Centenary City Project conforms to the Abuja Master Plan. We confirm that the purposes of the Clarification Workshops held among the FCTA, the Consultants, Eagle Hills and CCPLC was to clarify all issues of the Master Plan. It is noted that Albert Spear & Partner of Germany who are the FCTA’s consultants on the Abuja Master Plan was the head consultant.
On the request by CCPLC for a Logistics Hub, the Senate Committee, having noted how important a Logistics Hub is to the project, resolved that the FCTA should consider CCPLC’s request in line with due process especially in view of the clear economic advantages that would accrue from the quick and steady progress of work by CCPLC on the Centenary City Project.