From: TONY JOHN, Port Harcourt Hundreds of youths in Rivers State yesterday, staged a peaceful protest in Port Harcourt, condemning the activities of some operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the state police command. Protesting on the platform of Niger Delta Non-Violence Youth Leaders Assembly (NDNYLA), they marched through some major streets in…
• They want Games Village defaced like FESTAC Town –Residents
• We have govt’s approval to build church –Lebanese
By Magnus Eze
Residents of Games Village, one of the highbrow estates in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), were last week denied access into the estate by the Lebanese community in Abuja, which had come to develop a plot of land said to have been allocated to them in 2009 for the erection of a church, but was prevented from entering the estate.
Irked by the action of the estate security guards, who acted on the directive of the Games Village Residents’ Association Abuja (GVRAA), leader of the Lebanese community, Mr. Albert Alwan, reportedly ordered that a 40-foot freight container sholud be left at the estate’s entrance.
The incident, which happened during the Sallah holiday, caused discomfort to residents and visitors to the estate, especially on Wednesday, when those who travelled outside Abuja returned from their trips. The situation became more unbearable during the rush hours of Wednesday and Thursday morning, with traffic gridlock stretching over 1 kilometre within and outside the estate.
General secretary of the residents’ association, Mr. Jude Uzeh, described the action of the Lebanese as an affront, wondering whether any Nigerian could attempt such impunity in Lebanon: “It hit me like a thunderbolt; can a Nigerian or the Nigerian community do what they did to us in Lebanon?”
Uzeh reasoned that the original developers of the estate had developed all the required infrastructures, including mosque and interdenominational worship centre, for the residents and expressed shock that the Federal Capital Territory Authority (FCTA) was still allotting green areas to people and organisations.
The estate scribe admitted that the Department of Development Control (DDC) of Abuja Metropolitan Management Council (AMMC) had written to them directing that they allow the Lebanese unrestricted access to develop plot 1752 Cadastral Zone B11, Kaura District, which he claimed is a green area.
The letter dated June 16, 2017, with reference FCDA/URP/EST/14645, titled “Status of Plot No 1752 Cadastral Zone B11, Kaura District, and the right of Lady of the Rosary Church to develop it as approved by the Department of Development Control, AMMC, FCTA, Abuja,” which was obtained by Daily Sun, threatened to sanction the association if they failed to comply.
Part of the letter signed by the director, Mukhtar Galadima, read: “I am directed by the Honourable Minister of FCT to furnish your association with the status of the above mentioned plot and right of the allottee of the plot, Lady of the Rosary Church, to develop it.
“Plot No 1752 Cadastral Zone B11, Kaura District, measuring 1.05Ha is designated in the land use plan of the district as Religious Institution-Church.
“The said plot was allocated to the Rosary Church for church use.
“The Lady of Rosary Church has been conveyed a Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) by the authority and has been issued building plan approval by the Department of Development Control in August 2015.
“In view of item (4), the Honourable Minister is hereby compelling your association to grant unreserved access to the allottee to take possession and develop the plot in line with the approval.
“Failure of the association to grant unrestricted access to the allottee will attract necessary sanctions from the authority.”
Fears of residents
But why are the Games Village residents opposed to the siting of the said church by the Lebanese community?
Spokesman for GVRAA, Uzeh, outlined their reasons to include that not a single Lebanese lives in the entire estate, adding that the Games Village community boasts of worship centres for Muslims and Christians alike, including a Catholic Church located outside the estate, 200 metres away from the estate gate: “The truth is that we don’t even have any Lebanese in this estate; so who is going to be attending the church? If you walk down two minutes from where they claim to have received approval, there is an interdenominational worship centre built for the estate; three churches worship there.
“They claim that their own is a Catholic church, but about 200 metres away from where they want to erect their own church, outside the estate gate, there is a Catholic church.
“We don’t think that their intention is to build a church; there is an intention that is not made known to us yet.”
Uzeh further lamented that the indiscriminate development going on in the estate was overstretching the infrastructure there. Aside from the Lebanese, he said many land grabbers enter the estate at will in search of green areas to build upon.
He regretted that these things were done in connivance with government officials and appealed to the minister to visit the place to see things for himself.
According to Uzeh, “Sewage and other facilities are being overstretched. This was how the FESTAC Town started in Lagos and today everything has been defaced. That is exactly what they want to do to Games Village. We should be ashamed of ourselves as a nation.
“Ordinarily, there should not be any further development, if things were done right, because this is a gated community and all the infrastructures are in place; we have a mosque, the interdenominational worship centre for Christians, restaurants, two shopping malls, a pharmacy, hospital. Which other development are they bringing in here?
“In fact, the green areas are meant to service the estate, the areas they want to block have manholes that service the underground cables; the sewage is on the same line.”
A resident of the estate who pleaded anonymity told Daily Sun that the battle over the plot of land has lingered for a while.
He alleged that previous leaderships of the residents’ association had resisted the erection of the purported church by the Lebanese, including resisting efforts to compromise them.
Investigations also revealed that the GVRAA, at some point had about 10 suits in court, in their effort to maintain orderly development in the estate.
Special assistant to the FCT minister, Malam Abubakar Sani, in a chat with Daily Sun, said no area was allocated to the Lebanese to erect a church building.
He, however, conceded that an approval was given by the minister to the Lebanese to build a religious centre. He said the minister did not err by issuing the approval.
“The minister of the FCT did not allocate any green area to the Lebanese to build a church. He only allocated a (plot of) land to the Lebanese to erect a religious centre,” the media aide affirmed.
When our reporter visited the estate at the weekend, it was gathered that the residents’ association had removed the obstructing container on Thursday and dropped it near the estate’s police post.
The outcome of their emergency meeting over the issue, which held on Saturday, could not be obtained at press time, but indications were that legal fireworks may soon commence over the matter.