ABUJA AGIS: Sanitising Land Scam In The FCT
THE Abuja Geographic Information Systems (AGIS) has recently come under the public’s sledgehammer for some shortcomings that range from demands for bribe by the agency’s workers before performing their statutory responsibilities to inefficiency and such sundry allegations. The agency was established for generation, management and administration of geospatial and land related matters in the FCT and the handling of data capture, processing and computerisation of land-related matters, as well as customer services, including billing and revenue collection.
The issue of land racketeering in the FCT has always been in the public domain and some people who claimed to have been allocated plots of land sometimes discover to their dismay that they were not the only owners, as there may be one or two others laying claim to to the same plots of land. Sometimes also, people’s allocations are revoked with claim by the FCT administration that such was fake in the first place.
The recent public outcry concerning the agency prompted a visit from The Guardian on a fact-finding mission, after all, public servants should be held accountable to the people they are elected or selected to represent.
The agency was established in 2004, when Mallam Nasir el-Rufai was the FCT minister and up until 2013, the porosity of the agency could not be contained.
Likening what she met, as the Executive Director of the agency in 2012 to a house with open windows and doors without locks, Mrs. Jamilah Tangaza told this reporter that she figuratively had to put shutters on the windows and locks on the doors of the agency. Expectedly, that action did not go down well with some people, who were already used to having things done their own way.
“My first task was to upgrade and overhaul AGIS systems. This was done with the intention of dealing with the alteration to the Abuja Master Plan. So, we started with the injection of state-of-the-arts and latest hardware/infrastructure equipment and configuration. We also procured back up and disaster recovery system, as well as the 2013/2014 model of Geomedia Satellite Imaging equipment that covers the entire FCT and some neighbouring states. There was also IPCCTV installation/security monitoring room; software and applications upgrade; Microsoft License Agreement, which covers 2013-2016; and Fire Reaction and defence Systems installation. With all this, the agency was good to go on its mandate to transform its business processes in line with global best practices, which aim at creating efficiencies, improving security and service delivery to the public, as well as increase the IGR of the agency,” she explained.
But aside the technical aspect, the AGIS boss said the activities of staff members were streamlined with specific tasks for optimal performance assigned to them in such a manner that no staff would have the opportunity to infringe on the systems without such action being traceable. She told The Guardian that another round of systems upgrade had just been concluded.
“Land racketeering is not something that can be done by ordinary people, though they might be operating on the surface, but behind them are powerful individuals. It was not easy doing all those things and there were moves to stop me. But the right thing has to be done, especially when you have a conscience and the nod of the person who gave you the job,” she said.
In a memo to the former FCT minister, Senator Bala Mohammed dated September 10 2013 and titled ‘Incident of fraud falsification and forgery of land allocation,’ the Executive Director made known her discovery of fake land allocations and cited three incidences. She, therefore, requested for the go ahead to put checks in place so that government would no longer be embarrassed by such happenings that could be curtailed in the first place. The memo detailed the need to find the source of the data, the perpetrators and those who did the cover up.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was involved in the investigation and she suggested that officers being investigated should no longer be allowed to have access to the systems of the agency until the final findings had been concluded. She also sought the minister’s approval to enable her conduct a full investigation of the agency’s officials that had been found wanting and to have breached public trust so that they would know that it was no longer business as usual.
Prayers granted, the case file moved to the legal department of the FCT and investigation commenced in earnest but not without some resistance, as the Executive Director said some people were bent on frustrating the process, but she stood her ground and just three weeks ago, the recommendations that emanated from the investigation was implemented.
The appointments of four staff found culpable were terminated. Two officials were deployed from the agency and the one not found culpable was appropriated schedules, different from what it was before the commencement of the investigations.
“What they were doing in AGIS before I came on board was useless. When people want to exploit the system, they create confusion. It was convenient for people to log into the system with other peoples’ names so that nothing could be traceable to them. There was proliferation of illegal survey documents, violation of the IT systems by fraudulent persons, which resulted in the government losing a whopping sum. Fake layouts were created and given to unsuspecting public. There were double allocations and all manner of forgeries. I discovered that people were generating false allocations and they could even go to the extent of forging the ministers’ signature in a way that the allocation seems authentic. So, I had to put structures in place to check those excesses. Naturally, my action can never go down well with some people and it never did.
“All sensitive operations requiring ministerial approval were stopped on May 28, 2015 and the computer privileges that gave access to people were disabled that day. Such access includes administration privileges, the locking down of plot table, the Certificate of Occupancy and all actions that have to do with revocation. Other such functions include carrying out of legal searches, opening of fresh applications, billings, payment, and registration of power of Attorney. We still do production of C of O, though they will not be signed because doing so is the exclusive preserve of the FCT minister, and even the permanent secretary cannot sign them. No one has the statutory role to sign the C of O, except the minister of the FCT.
“So, the public needs to be alerted that any C of O given to anybody after May 28 and bearing the name and signature of Bala Mohammed is fake. Even some that were produced shortly before the expiration of the last administration and that are yet to be signed are in our vault until such a time that another minister will be appointed. There have been incidences in the past, where a man was printing the C of O right in the car parked out there. He had a printer in his car and was just printing them. We had to change the paper we were using to another type with security features such that no one will notice the features except when passed through an infra light. It was that bad.
“The public should also be aware that there are touts out there impersonating people in authority, they may even carry identify cards and claim to be staff. If I were to vacate this seat now, part of the briefs I would give the new minister is for him to do all it takes to remove touts. He has to have the will power. The former minister did a good job on that, as this place used to be like a market place. But we still have a pocket of them around.
Tangaza said another challenge facing her outfit is that of people coming in desperation and wanting things done at any cost.
“In that state of desperation, they are the ones offering bribe to officials. The message is: do not give bribe. Nigerians are not patient and so, I would advise that they be more patient and do things the way they ought to be done. The giver and taker of bribe are both guilty. Anyone who gives bribe on demand is also an accomplice. So, even if any of our staff is demanding bribe, it is your duty to report such person, after all they are being paid to do the job,” she said.