When the Kaduna State Government, through its Property Development Company (KSDPC), gave quit notices to residents in its estate, many, comprising mostly civil servants, who had lived most of their lives there and had hoped for it to become their retirement homes, were already in distress. In October, 2020, they were served the first notice and asked to vacate their homes and in March this year, they were issued another , with a three day notice to leave. Most of these residents have lived there for over 40 years. Viewpoint followed an interview held by Leadership Newspapers with the Managing Director of KSDPC, HADIZA YAHAYA HAMZA. She however admitted that several eviction notices were handed to tenants and landlords of the Malali Low Cost houses, including engaging with the community before the houses were demolished so as to pave way for good befitting structures. Excerpts:
Recently, some residents of Malali complained that they just woke up and saw bulldozers demolishing their properties without prior notice. Why were eviction notices not served on them before the commencement of the exercise?
Let me make some clarifications, eviction notices were served on tenants that were occupying the houses of Kaduna State Development and Property Company (KSDPC), contrary to the impression that was given in the media. In fact, the first notice was given in October 2020 and subsequently, we gave reminders. So, we gave about three notices before the bulldozers went in. But there have been several allegations both in the mainstream and social media that we did not alert the tenants, that notices were not given and that ‘’they just woke up and saw bulldozers’’, to borrow your phrase. That is not the correct representation of what transpired between KSDPC and the tenants.
But, apart from giving notices, did you engage with the tenants by telling them why they would be evicted and how the area would be remodeled?
Yes, we did. We told them that there are a lot of land contraventions in the neighbourhood. There are so many unplanned developments, and this made it a slum-like settlement. A lot of people built on soak-away lines and on green areas. Houses were erected on just about every available space, sometimes neighbors could not get access to their homes because structures have been built to block them. The congestion posed a health and an environmental hazard to the entire community. In fact, the area was a Public Health emergency waiting to happen. So, when Kaduna State Government launched the Urban Renewal Programme, it decided to remove these structures and build modern buildings, complete with a market and other facilities, for the people of Malali.
We had a stakeholders’ meeting with all relevant stakeholders. We sensitized them on the urban renewal plan and we kept on engaging with the tenants’ associations, traditional title holders and so on.
Some critics have questioned why the government sold the houses to them in the first place, if it wanted to evict the tenants to pave way for better houses under the Urban Renewal Programme. What do you have to say to that criticism?
Let me give a little background as to what happened. In 2017, government set up a Committee for the Sale of Government Property and other Non-Essential quarters and it included the rooms at Malali. But out of 1,336 rooms, only 69 rooms were sold in the sale of non-essential government quarters exercise.
Like I said earlier, these single rooms have common facilities like toilets, laundry areas and kitchens. Some of these new owners decided to fence their houses, in most cases single rooms, thereby blocking access to these facilities. So, there was a lot of chaos. We used to receive complaints from homeowners, almost on a daily basis, of people blocking access to these facilities. We also received complaints from the homeowners of criminal activities being perpetuated within the neighborhood. So, that is why government at the highest level, decided to revoke the sale of those Malali houses, or rooms if you like. The Kaduna State Ministry of Finance was directed to refund the money of those who bought them and government, through Kaduna State Geographic Information Service (KADGIS), decided to compensate them with a parcel of land each.
Apart from the owners of the houses that government sold, were other landlords in the area whose properties were demolished also given alternative plots?
With the exception of those beneficiaries of the Sale of Non-Essential Government quarters who as we already discussed have since been compensated, no landlord lost their property in the demolition exercise as the demolished houses were all owned by KSDPC.
Before now the KSDPC used to issue Certificates of Occupancy (Cs of O), has the situation now changed, that KADGIS needs to ‘’authenticate’’ the titles that it gives before they become valid?
Kaduna State Development and Property Company (KSDPC) was established as a limited liability company in 1991 and it is a state-owned enterprise. Our major mandate is real estate development. In the course of doing our business, the company acquired land from the then Ministry of Lands and the process of sub dividing the land followed. And the parcels of land were sub-leased and we then issue the sub-lease documents. No, we do not issue Certificates of Occupancy.
To get a C of O, the first step is to register with Kaduna State Geographic Information System (KADGIS) with the sub-lease documents. And then you will be issued a Certificate of Occupancy. Legally, under the law, we do not issue C of O.
Is it true that some officials of KSDPC were involved in the selling of these carve-outs? If so, what steps has the management taken against these alleged culprits?
I do not have any record of KSDPC staff that connived with the community or land speculators to perpetrate what you are alleging. Most probably, these underhand dealings happened during past managements but I do not have any information regarding this kind of thing happening now. But any member of the public, or owner of any of those demolished houses who has any concrete evidence of such connivance, should come forward with them and the law will take its course.
Can you give an insight into what the area will look like once the Urban Renewal Plan is concluded?
We are currently building a modern retail market in the neighbourhood. If you look at Malali, it does not have a market. The neighbourhood will have nursery, primary and secondary schools. It will have green areas, recreational facilities, religious facilities and a health facility. Modern houses will be constructed and people whose houses were demolished can key into this programme. Anyone can own those houses if they meet the criteria.
Is KSDPC also into mass housing?
The sole business of KSDPC is development of real estate which includes mass housing schemes and commercial development. For the past 17 years, KSDPC has been an instrument of development of real estate in Kaduna state. Our impact is visible in some parts of the Kaduna metropolis like Barnawa and Malali Low Cost area. Though some of these houses were inherited from federal government since the Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC) which was held in 1977. But the most recent mass housing projects handled by KSDPC are in the Millennium City layout; we have also extended our tentacles to Zaria, Kafanchan and other parts of the state.
-From KSDPC records, it was observed that most of the original tenants had sold their rooms, some had sublet them without approval from KSDPC, which contravened their tenancy agreements, and were receiving between N120,000 and N150, 000 per annum. Most tenants had rent arrears running into several months;
- The Malam Nasir El-Rufai administration set up a committee on the Sale of Government Property and other Non-Essential Government Quarters;
-Government sold 69 out of the 1,336 rooms at Malali Low Cost and each successful bidder was given a C of O;
- The sale also created another problem because most ‘house’ owners decided to fence their property, thereby blocking access to common facilities like toilets, kitchens and laundry areas;
-Government has decided to launch the Urban Renewal Programme and modern houses with attendant facilities will replace those KSDPC Malali Low Cost houses;
-An earlier survey of it revealed that the neighburhood was an ‘urban jungle’, as houses have been erected on every available space, sometimes neighbors could not access their homes because structures had blocked the road;
-Houses were built on drainages, sewer lines and just about everywhere. Investigations revealed that most of the house owners lacked valid titles and building permits;
-Government decided to demolish illegal structures so as to build modern houses, in line with its Urban Renewal Programme;
-Alternative plots will be given to the owners of the Low Cost houses and they have been refunded their money.