Findings from the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) in Abuja have shown that the FCT Minister, Mallam Muhammad Musa Bello, may have been deliberately misled by certain officials of the ministry in his recent statements before the National Assembly concerning the on-going Centenary City project.
A senior staff of the ministry who is very knowledgeable about the project, insisted at the weekend that the Minister “means well” but that “he was wrongly briefed,” and deliberately so, by a clique of what he called “the old older” in the establishment.
According to our source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, the aim of this group is “to scuttle the well-conceived project” by confusing the public and leading the FCT Minister into making high profile misstatements and factual errors that would embarrass him out of office,
Either way, any minister who means well is in the line of fire, said our source.
It would be recalled that Bello had last week, accused the promoters of the Centenary City Project of seeking to have a parallel authority in the FCT, declaring the request for revocation of the development agreement between the Centenary City Plc and the FCT Administration as untenable and unrealistic.
But our source explained that there was no such thing as demand for parallel authority, or even the remote possibility of same.
He said that the agreement being touted by the FCTA was lawfully overtaken by two developments, namely the declaration of Centenary City as a free zone by the President and the simultaneous acquisition of supervisory authority and rights over it to NEPZA.
Its Regulations were gazetted by the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA) as the Centenary Economic City Free Zone Guidelines and Regulations, 2015.
He pointed out that all staff of the ministry know about this. “They also know that the Centenary City land was obtained under the FCTA’s Land Swap Scheme, and that the President declared it a “Free Zone” “Centenary Economic City Free Zone”, on the recommendation of the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment.
Continuing, our source asked: “How can you speak of them signing an agreement with `a third party`, when they are simply drawing our attention to their new status, which puts them under NEPZA and not FCTA?
He further said: “A call for good record keeping should not be given another name by mischief makers in order to drive their personal vested interests. No one can speak of an entity waking up one day and entering into an agreement with NEPZA and we all know that.”
The demand for a formal amendment of the Development Agreement entered into with the FCTA is simply to eliminate a double regulatory regime, which is the sort of things that scares away investors, her concluded.
Our investigations reveal that many FCTA officials are aghast that the ministry is being made to appear unaware that every “Economic City” in the world, including EKO Atlantic City in Lagos has “free zone status”. Even the FCTA has its own free zone, the Abuja Technology, which it has not been able to develop.
Everyone now seems to blame certain individuals in FCTA, including the Coordinator of Abuja Infrastructure Investment Centre (AIIC), Mr. Farouk Sani, who is accused of having repeatedly lied under oath to the Senate Committee, especially with regard to the Centenary City Project and spending of N350 million collected from each of 23 land swap investors.
Sani`s claim, for instance, that the Centenary City Project was not a land swap arrangement was the most shocking for concerned staffers and this is still the subject of serious discussion among management staff. The Ministry is currently unsure of its next steps, even as several government agencies have also since fingered Farouk Sani and the Centenary Committee set up by the new Minister as the source of the imaginary controversy.
Interestingly, Sani was the Secretary of the Committee, according to our findings.