When the Federal Capital Territory Administration, FCTA, inaugurated the debt recovery committee on ground rents, it was with mixed feelings, many hailed it that property owners must pay the necessary bills, others are of the view that they needed more time.
But whatever yardstick is used, the FCTA needs the money to provide the necessary infrastructure for the good of the residents in the nation’s capital.
So, in its determination to up the ante in its Internally Generated Revenue, IGR, by increasing its revenue base, the FCTA recently commissioned a nine-man committee to retrieve the over N29 billion being owed by property owners as ground rent in Abuja.
The committee, tagged ‘Coordinating Committee on the Recovery of Outstanding Ground Rent’, is expected to persuade and compel all those owing the administration to pay or have their titles to land revoked.
According to available information, the FCTA is disturbed that for it to meet its target of providing the necessary infrastructure that will make life comfortable and easy for residents of the territory, there was need to let the people know that they should play their part by paying their bills so that government in return will provide amenities that will befit a nation’s capital.
The committee, which is headed by the FCT General Counsel/Secretary of Legal Services Secretariat, Mohammed B. Umar, promised that the committee will ensure those involved are made to pay.
The FCT administration decided to set up the committee because after several appeals and notices served the affected property owners they still remain adamant.
It will be recalled that the FCT Permanent Secretary, Adesola Olusade, while inaugurating the committee with the mandate to recover the outstanding debts owed the FCT administration with particular interest in ground rents and other sundry fees in the Land Administration as well as land related departments advised that the government needs to look inwards to increase its revenue base. It also believes that property owners ought to pay the necessary ground rent for the best service to be provided.
According to him, the committee will make use of mobile courts in order for the exercise to be fruitful. Umar, however, said if the money being owed are paid into government’s coffers, the paucity of funds to provide amenities to residents of the federal capital would no longer be a problem.
The assignment may look easy on the surface but the committee has a herculean task. However, as the head of the task force rightly pointed out, everyone involved must play its part accordingly.
One fact that is certain is that while the committee could surpass its target through determination and commitment, the landlords should not see the committee as an enemy.
The committee is expected to formally start communicating to the affected persons and corporate bodies as from today after which those who fail to comply by paying their outstanding debts would be prosecuted.
The ground rent, when collected, will certainly be used in the provision of necessary infrastructure and other essential services to the residents.
The committee, however, needs to apply diplomacy and enlightenment to get the job done without hitches.
The committee should not be deceived into believing that threats would yield the desired results. The committee will need to do a lot of publicity that will explain the benefits to the property owners and residents that government means well.
However, FCTA said it is made to adopt these measures due to the non-compliance by the affected individuals and corporate organisations.
The property owners need to be reminded that funding is key in the running of government, provision of infrastructure as well as delivery of quality services to the residents of the territory.
The property owners need to be reminded and enlightened that activities of the FCTA are being hampered due to paucity of funds, which is necessary for the running of a modern capital city such as Abuja.
In this wise, the residents need to know that the decision to embark on recovery of ground rent has become a matter of necessity.
The committee must operate with human face but since stubborn ones will want to question their integrity, the carrot and stick approach could should be adopted.
The government, however, wishes that the affected debtors will come forward and clear their outstanding debts to avoid prosecution, revocation and forfeiture of their property.
Mohammed Hamza Sule, the FCT director of information and communication who doubles as the chairman, media and publicity subcommittee, warned debtors of dire consequences should they allow the committee to fully execute its mandate, if they refuse to pay the outstanding land fees.
He promised that the committee will vigorously carry out its mandate to the letter because “no stone will be left unturned”, in carrying out the assignment.
Both the government and the residents are waiting anxiously to see how the committee will do its job without harming one party against the other.
The government really needs the money, nevertheless, the committee should not rush into punishing defaulters but be reminded that the economic situation may compel some to ask for instalmental payment. This should be granted to those who are willing to pay, but those who think otherwise should be treated otherwise as well.
While one wishes the committee a successful execution of its assignment, it is expedient to remind them that human face should be deployed to get the best from their efforts.
Abdul is an Abuja based journalist.