El Rufai’s Trial: Controversy Trails FCDA Document

Hearing in the ongoing trial of Mallam Nasir El Rufai today witnessed controversy over an exhibit. Michael Okoye, a former assistant general manager with the PHCN, told the court cross-examination that he saw an FCDA letter of July 2003 allocating Plot 1201 Asokoro to the PHCN. He admitted that the exhibit was the letter he saw, but when he was asked to read the comments inscribed on it, he denied ever seeing that copy. The remark on the exhibit is to the effect that the FCDA has no power to allocate land, and that was no FCT minister at the time the letter was written. Counsel to the prosecution admitted that they tendered the document,but it was without the remarks, and that they would be clarifying the matter later.

Olumuyiwa Adekeye ,media advisor to Mallam El Rufai said  in a press release that  Okoye, the third prosecution witness (PW3), told the court that Plot 1201 was meant for a power -station. He said that when he noticed that Plot 1201 was being tampered with, he constructed block-work fence to secure the place, but the fence was later pulled down. He said he does not know who encroached on the plot and he denied that PHCN evinced intention to surrender reduce the size of the plot before he disengaged from service in June 2008. Okoye said the encroachment reduced the plot size from 2.5 hectares to 1.5 hectares. PHCN, Okoye testified, reacted to the encroachment by writing a letter to the minister of power, complaining that they never indicated disinterest in the plot.

PW3 further told the court that corridors are established when PHCN wants to move tension cables from one transmission station substation to another to improve power supply in a particular locality. He denied that PHCN asked for a corridor for Plot 1201 because is only when the -station is completed that PHCN can seek for a corridor. He said he did not seek FCDA approval before fencing the plot, and had not sought such approval for the other PCHN properties he had fenced in the Abuja area

PW3 confirmed seeing Exhibit 4 when he was a PHCN staff, and that it is dated July 2003, and that the letter is the evidence of the PHCN's title. Okoye agreed that this means that PHCN had no title to the land prior to 2003 “by implication”. He  said he is not aware that parcels of land within the plot had allocated prior to 2003, otherwise he would not have spent on fencing the place.

PW1 Mohammed Alhassan, former executive secretary of the FCDA, had testified in December 2011 that he has not seen any document vesting the PHCN with any title to Plot 1201, Asokoro. Alhassan admitted conveying the allocation of the plot to the PHCN via a letter in July 2003  which did not have a specific date. He attributed the non-inclusion of a specific day on the letter to oversight, but the court was reminded that period fell into a period of transition before the resumption of a new minister as the previous minister left office on 29 May 2003, and Mallam Nasir El Rufai only resumed on 16 July 2003. Alhassan admitted that he did not have the power to allocate land, but he was unable to show any approval by any minister allocating the plot to PHCN.

The was adjourned to 11 and 12 December 2012.

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