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Graceland demolitions: Some pertinent questions

Ahmed Yahaya – Joe

The Land Use Act of 1978 appropriates all land in our nation to state governments. By extension state governors are the custodians. The de facto landlords of Nigeria. They can summarily allocate, appropriate and confiscate at will – all land, “for the the overriding public good” including such allocated to Federal government MDAs.

Every, “Certicate of Ownership” has a specific purpose and time frame including various meandering and arcane provisions.

It is against the background of this clarification that Zaria recently woke up to a massive demolition exercise at the sprawling Graceland located adjacent the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT) along the Samaru axis that stretches to the Kano-Abuja expressway.

Before writing this, I paid an on-the-spot assessment to the affected area. I am therefore not unmindful of the level of the associated devastation and agony of the affected. There is also a compendium of conspiracy theories that range from banal to profound encompassing religious and indigene/settler dichotomies.

My findings also indicate there are various court proceedings on the said matter between NCAT and its most immediate neighbours affected by the recent demolition exercise.

But has there been a concerted action through the political process?

After all, our “landlord” state governors don’t just drop from the sky. The are political birds who use the rule of law to primarily feather their nests.

I humbly stand to be corrected but the fate of Graceland was sealed in 2017 when the Federal Executive Council approved the takeoff of Nigeria’s first Aviation and Aerospace University.

Agreed, the proposed institution is to be sited in Abuja. But by 2019 only N1 billion had been allocated.

Is a temporary campus at NCAT in Zaria a more financially realistic Plan B? What could the residents of Graceland use as leverage against the envisaged figures of the internally generated revenue and other multiplier effects of having another university in Zaria?

Kaduna Polytechnic established in 1956 ahead of being upgraded to a university had to expand its facilities which put its immediate neighbors at Gbagyi Villa on notice.

My friend, Luka Biniyat then Kaduna correspondent of Vanguard newspaper reported in the July 22, 2016 edition of the paper;

“Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State, Monday, said all structures in the expansive Gbagyi Villa suburb of Kaduna metropolis that did not have Certificate-of-Occupancy and Building Permits would be pulled down, despite a pending court case instituted by the community.

Recall that Chris Obodum, Chairman, Gbyagi Villa Community, in April, claimed the community ‘has no fewer than 3,000 fully developed modern housing units, 40 churches and about 12 schools and 35,000 inhabitants.’

El-Rufai, who visited Gbagyi villa, Monday, was shown around the controversial estate by the Rector of Kaduna Polytechnic, Dr. Mohammed Bello Ibrahim, said it was unfortunate that thou-sands would have to lost their life savings because they broke the law.

Bello told the governor that the villa was an illegal settlement, which had taken over 70 percent of the land allocated to the polytechnic.”

Eventually, no demolition took place at Gbagyi Villa and Kaduna Polytechnic still fulfilled the prerequisite NUC provisions to become a degree awarding institution. 

So what happened?

Perhaps that is the question we should be asking in regards to Graceland, Zaria.

“Win through your actions, never through argument.” – 48 Laws of Power

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