Trial of El-Rufai: Witness says PHCN needed smaller corridor


The PHCN gave up most of the Asokoro plot that was later reallocated, a prosecution witness today told the court in the ongoing trial of Mallam Nasir El Rufai and two other former FCT officials. PW1 Mohammed Sani Alhassan told an Abuja High Court that the PHCN confirmed to the FCT authorities that it no longer needed a corridor for a 330kva  line.

Under cross-examination by Chief Akin Olujimi, counsel to El Rufai, Alhassan, former Executive Secretary of the FCDA, confirmed that he wrote Exhibits 5A and 5B dated 27 February 2006 and 28 May 2006, respectively  to advise the minister on the PHCN matter. Alhassan who is the first Prosecution Witness (PW1) , read Exhibit 5A wherein he wrote that PHCN had confirmed that it no  longer required a 330kva corridor at the site. Alhassan said that based on this, he requested the minister to direct AGIS to reverse the earlier decision to revoke affected plots and to restore the previous allocations to individuals.

PW1 said he further confirmed to the minister what corridor width was required for the  132kva line that PHCN indicated it wanted. He read Exhibit 5b where he confirmed PHCN’s requirement for a minimum 30m corridor. Alhassan said he recommended 35m for safety reasons, and that he indicated that this might affect about five plots as against the three that a 30m corridor would affect. He further confirmed that the plots concerned were all residential plots. Alhassan had confirmed in his examination in chief that his daughter applied for and was allocated a plot from Plot 1201 after due process.

Alhassan said he cannot confirm whether the area is developed because he lives in Life Camp and had sold his Asokoro property. PW1 also agreed that Altine Jibrin, the second accused who was  Director, AGIS, had no power to allocate or revoke land, and he could not recollect seeing any letter of that nature signed by her. When Olujimi put it to him that a 132kva corridor would not  be provided for a 330 kva sub-station, Alhassan  denied that a 132kva sub-station would require less space than a 330 kva version.

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Adebayo Adelodun, for the prosecution, in his re-examination asked for Exhibit 4 which was admitted in evidence in December 2011, asking whose approval was conveyed in it. Olujimi said the letter speaks for itself, and he objected. Alhassan said it conveyed the approval of the Dept of Planning  which purports to vest title to the said plot in the PHCN. That letter was written in the interregnum between the erstwhile minister and the assumption of office of Mallam El Rufai.

PW1 also identified the land use plan for the affected area, and it was admitted as Exhibit 6. Defence said it was a new matter that would therefore entitle them to a fresh cross-examination of PW1. Kanu Agabi, for the third accused, asked if the master-plan was made before the land use plan. PW1 said yes, but he refused to accept that the land use plan is extracted from the master-plan. PW1 said it details the master-plan by making specific allocation of land for certain services. PW1 later agreed that it emanates from the master-plan. Agabi put it to PW1 that nothing in the master-plan shows that the said plot belongs to PHCN or that it was designated for the PHCN corridor.

The prosecution also called PW2, Idowu Sunday, an inspector of police, who was formerly with the EFCC. Idowu said the matter began when a petition was forwarded to the EFCC by the office of the Attorney-General, and a team was assigned to investigate it. PW2 said PW1 (Alhassan) showed them a memo where he advised against irregular conversion, based on a letter received from Julius Berger. At AGIS, the team discovered the title deeds for the new allottees of Plot 1201, including the two wives of El Rufai. He told the court that allocation were also made to a  company where a  longstanding friend of El Rufai’s is a director and that one of the plots assigned to his wives was listed in El Rufai’s assets declaration form.

Agabi asked PW2 if he is aware that Nigerian law requires a public officer to declare assets owned by his wife and children under age 18. PW2 said he is not sure.

Regarding the revoked NIPOST plot in Maitama, PW2 said it was meant for a post office, but he did not know the terms of allocation to NIPOST, and could not say if NIPOST was in breach of those terms. PW2 said he is not aware that NIPOST has a  civil suit pending on this matter, and the verdict of that court may uphold the revocation.

PW2 said he is also not aware that NIPOST is seeking a declaration to void the revocation, or that NIPOST’s civil action was pending before the criminal case was filed. Agabi put it to him that filing a civil action indicated that NIPOST viewed the revocation as a civil matter. PW2 Idowu denied knowing that NIPOST had leased the land to Rosehill, a private firm. He affirmed that he read the statement of El Rufai; but when told that the first accused disclosed NIPOST’s lease to Rosehill in that statement, Idowu said he could not remember everything about the case. When asked why the Rosehill lease was not investigated, Idowu said NIPOST did not disclose it.

PW2, who said he  has served in the police for 24 years, further testified that he does not know that Rosehill requested the first accused to transfer the NIPOST allocation to them, but he conceded that the FCT minister has the right to allocate and revoke.

At the beginning of today’s proceedings, Chief Akin Olujimi informed the court that a lawyer from the office of the general counsel of the FCT is present in court to report about the status of their compliance with the subpoena to produce certified true copies of certain official documents required by the defence. JO Abari affirmed that the subpoena was served, but that the general counsel is unable to ascertain the existence of the documents, or in whose custody they are. He requested for more time to conclude the search for the documents.

Regarding the undated subpoena for the survey plan of Plot 415, Central Area District, Abari said a surveyor has been detailed to attend to it. The surveyor , Isaac Oyibo, told the court that the site plan  cannot be  produced because it the plot has been revoked from NEPA, a public utility; and the digital FCT system is programmed not to produce site plans for revoked plots. He however produced the manual site plan, and Olujimi told him that is what the defence wants, and all he needs is for it to be certified. Abari agreed to take it back and certify it within three weeks. The court obliged the FCT three weeks to conclude the search for documents and certify the site plan.

The case was adjourned to 25 April 2012.


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