POISED towards amicable resolution of a lingering crisis involving the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA), over the former’s property, the Federal Government has waded in, raising a committee saddled with the responsibility of proffering solution to the dispute.
In a meeting with the ECOWAS President, Mr. Kadré Désiré Ouadraogo, in Abuja recently, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Amb. Aminu Wali, said that the meeting was to address the lingering issues on the property at Katampe, adding that the place is already becoming an environmental hazard to the residents.
Against this backdrop, Wali said President Jonathan gave a directive for the ministry to intervene on salvaging the situation.
“We believe time is running out and the place is being taken over by all sort of things and it’s becoming more like environmental problem. So the president gave a directive that we should certainly do something to dispose of that. We have held a bit of discussion inside my office,” he said
The minister explained that there has been no problem among the three organisations on the matter.
“The only thing we are looking forward to is the modalities. Here, the custodians of those modalities, that is, those that will put those modalities in place are the only people and agencies having the authorities to dispose of properties in FCT. So in this case, a committee has been more or less formally formed if you like,” he added.
Wali said that due to failure to maintain proper channel of communication by those involved, there is the need to formally inaugurate the committee, which is to be chaired by the FCT permanent secretary with the view to design modalities to address the problem.
“Once we formalise it here, we will be able to give them a timeline within which we can have a report of what next step will be. At the end of the day, whatever we do, we will now submit to Mr. President for his approval and we also have to understand that ECOWAS has its own principle,” Wali said.
Also speaking, the ECOWAS President, Mr. Kadré Désiré Ouadraogo, said all parties have already agreed, saying ‘‘what remains is to work out the modalities and this can be done by our experts because we also have to report to Council of Ministers of ECOWAS because they have a sub-committee dealing with this matter.’’
The ECOWAS Commissioner on General Administration and Conference, Mr. Stephen Nartey, who chronicled what really transpired, said the property came into being when the Nigerian government decided to assist the ECOWAS to accommodate its staff in the early day when the commission moved to Abuja.
‘‘The project started, a loan was taken but somewhere along the line, the monetization issue became the norm. So instead of employers providing accommodation, people were given their money to go look for their own accommodation. That put the project to a standstill. Resources have been invested, yet there is no revenue coming in to pay back the loan. So it’s a good thing solution is being found,’’ he narrated.
On his part, the FCT Permanent Secretary, Mr. John Chukwu, said FCT has at no time intended to superintend over the asset without following the proper guideline.
“But we must understand that this issue has been lingering for so long and that place is constituting both security and environmental hazards and in order to make sure that things were properly done, we have to make an impromptu visit because we have had a meeting with the representatives of ECOWAS to see the place in order to understand what we are talking about. So, we contacted Foreign Affairs to inform ECOWAS properly.’’
Chukwu, an engineer, said that though he has seen the buildings, experts would have to visit the place to assess and see the current state of the buildings and advise government on what to do; whether it is to sell or not. Before we conclude, we would ensure that all stakeholders’ interests are taken care of.’’