The House of Representatives Committee on Federal Capital Territory (FCT) had the cause to wade into the issue of increase in land premium announced by the FCT Minister, Senator Adamu Aliero, recently.
The minister had announced the new rate, which he said had been increased by about 900 per cent, saying it enjoyed the approval of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) headed by President Umaru Yar’Adua.
The intervention of the House came based on alleged violation of the constitution of the Federation, which enjoins that the National Assembly must give any approval to whatever must be done by the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) administration, especially when it has to do with appropriation and generation of revenues, among other things.
The minister had claimed, in a report, that his administration embarked on the voyage of hiking the land charges in the FCT based on the urgent need to generate more revenues for the territory in order to address the need of the area and its people.
The House committee, headed by Honourable Atai Idoko, while addressing newsmen, last week, maintained that the minister violated the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in Sections 62, 88, 89 and 299 as well as the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives of the Federal Republic of Nigeria while taking the action to increase the land rent.
The letters of the constitution say the National Assembly is the Legislative Arm of the FCT government, as it is also to the Federal Government (FG), and therefore, it is incumbent on the FCT administration to make sure that it obtains the approval of the National Assembly on anything it wants to do, else, such action would be seen as illegal, unconstitutional, null and void.
This is exactly the problem with the step taken on the land charges in Abuja by Adamu Aliero, who ought to know better as a former member of the Senate, which must ensure adherence to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. In essence, the House of Representatives Committee on the FCT maintained at the press briefing that Aliero did not follow due process in taking such action to increase the land rent in Abuja.
Consequently, the committee has ordered the minister revert to the status quo, maintaining that the committee ordered that Senator Aliero must revert to the old rate without further delay.
Committee boss, Honourable Atai Idoko, declared that the minister took the action to jerk up the land premium without making any consultation with the National Assembly or even making any information available.
“The Federal Capital Territory is guided by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Acts of the National Assembly. Consequently, this arbitrary increase is no doubt in breach of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” he said.
“The committee wish to state emphatically that the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Authority does not have sole rights to impose levies and fees on the Nigerian citizenry without due constitutional provisions and enactment by the National Assembly.
“We, therefore, hope that all who are involved in breach of the constitution, with respect to the arbitrary increases in the land charges, will obey the constitution, apply the rule of law and comply with all due processes,” the committee boss said.
But, the minister might have given his own reply to the request of the committee when he said that only the Federal Executive Council (FEC) can make the reversal of the step already taken on the land premium possible, else the decision stays and there is nothing the National Assembly can do about that.
Senator Aliero said this when he finally appeared before the Senate Committee on Federal Capital Territory (FCT) on same issue, with report saying the minister was in war of words with the senators before the parley hurriedly went into a closed-door session.
Will the FEC reverse the said decision on land premium or not? This is the question that is begging for an answer right now. It is the possible action or actions of the committee nay the House of Representatives in case the minister refuses to yield position that the committee boss, Honourable Atai Idoko, did not want to contemplate, as at last week, when he and his members addressed newsmen on the explosive land issue.
But political observers believe that the matter cannot just end that way without some feathers being ruffled.