THISDAY Newspaper From Juliana Taiwo in Abuja, 06.19.2008
The Federal Executive Council (FEC), chaired by President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, has approved the revised master plan for the construction of Abuja Boulevard.
When completed, the boulevard will be like Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles, United States, and is expected to boost tourism in the city.
The boulevard will have a cluster of highrise buildings, hotels, conference centres and parks, in a bid to modernise the nation’s capital.
Briefing State House Correspondents yesterday, the FCT Minister, Dr. Aliyu Moddibo-Umar, in company with the Minister of Information, John Odey and his Minister of State, John Akpanudoudeghe, said the new arrangement would see the upward review of the new development levies payable by allottees in the Boulevard area from the prevailing rate of N2,000 per square metre to between N50,000 and N70,000 per square meter.
This means under the new arrangement, a plot of land in the planned boulevard will cost over N500 million in the 6.5 kilometre stretch of the new downtown facility.
Already, N250 million has been provided for in the 2008 Budget of the FCT as seed money for the planning, engineering design and similar preliminary works/services for the project.
The Boulevard, he said, is contained within four major axial roads which are Road B06, B08, B10 and B12, adding that the FCTA administration resolved to embark on the development of the Axial roads B08 and B10 into world standard similar to other popular boulevards substantially through private partnership.
According to Modibbo-Umar, the boulevard would make Abuja a more befitting town comparable to its peers around the world.
He said when completed, “it is expected to attract and facilitate 24/7 commercial activities complemented by 24/7 vehicular and pedestrian movement.”
“There are three categories of plots in the proposed Boulevard area - they are the undeveloped, partially developed and fully developed. Out of the plots, 71 plots have been fully developed, 72 have been partially developed while 132 have not been developed at all.
“Some of the developed and partially developed structures are not in conformity with the boulevard concept. They shall therefore require some upgrading for integration into the boulevard scheme or shall need to be removed subject to compensation,” he said.
The FCT Minister said current allottees within the Boulevard area would be given the right of first refusal to reacquire the Boulevard plots “for which they will pay the revised development levies failing which they will be considered as having opted out of the scheme. They will be relocated to other plots outside the Boulevard area”.
The minister who said government had not fixed any time frame for the commencement of or the cost of the project said: “We are not sure of the estimate though we are working towards getting the correct estimate but the original estimate just for that 6 kilometres will cost N50 billion to build it.
“That is why we believe the time is over where government will build infrastructure and develop it and give to somebody who paid N2000 per square meter only for him to resell that plot for N300 million and put into his pocket. At the moment, a plot of 5,000 square metres is selling for between N100-150 million and it is not fair on government and people of Nigeria, where some people by virtue of their privilege will take this land and wait for government to take this precious money that could be channelled to other use to develop the area for you only for you to resell. When there are even institutions like MTN and Globalcom waiting for us at the Boulevard even with the new rate,” he said.
Modibo said the project “is expected to pay back its cost through payment of development levies or premium by allottees of the plots within the boulevard area. To facilitate the private finance arrangement for the project to pay back its cost, allottees of the plots will be required to pay in full the new development levies.”
“Similarly, properties in the central area which may benefit indirectly from the development of the boulevards will be required to pay betterment levy for the increase in value of their properties,” the minister said.
He said talks would be held with owners of plots in the planned boulevard, as there are fears that many of the present owners would lose their plots due to the new development rate of between N50, 000 and N75, 000 per square metre to be introduced by the FCT administration.
“We don’t want to bulldoze people based on our new mantra of the rule of law. We want to respect the rights of our citizens to fair hearing. If a tenant decides he does not want, he will first go to the FCT Land Use Act Tribunal and if he is not satisfied, he will go to the Abuja High Court, then the Appeal Court. And we are willing to go all the way because one way or the other the Boulevard will have to be built. This is very clear, is either the government does it long time or government gets money to do it because it is already in the master plan,” he said.
“Under the Land Use Act we have the right to change that plan but the tenants have the right to seek redress and the Land Use Act is also clear about the rights of the sitting tenants. In the next one or two weeks we are going to publish in the papers. We are going to discuss with the owners. The key word there is the right of first refusal because we are not going to say move… if you are going to retain your plots this is the new development levy. We are going to exercise that right,” he said.
The FCT Minister assured Nigerians that the FCT authorities “are going to follow due diligence” in all the activities concerning the new project.
The new boulevard, according to him, would stretch from the Eagle Square to the National Hospital, all in the central business district of the FCT and is contained within four major axial roads (which are roads BO6, BO8, BO10 and B12) - also constitution avenue, hospital avenue north, hospital avenue south and independence avenue respectfully.
He said the FCT administration resolved to embark on the development of the axial roads “into world standard boulevards similar to other popular boulevards in the big cities of the world substantially through public private partnership”.
He explained that the “status of the city of Abuja has informed the strong desire of the FCT administration to embark on the development in the central area to provide Abuja with a downtown and make the city more befitting of its status as a world class city”.
Other decisions taken by the council were for the construction of six recreational parks and gardens in the FCT.
The parks are to be constructed by some corporate organisations such as banks, construction companies and other service providers.