El-Rufa’i vs ABU: How not to give back to alma mater

Governor Nasiru El-Rufa’I is no doubt a political household name across the entire nation. My readers may recall my article, “Kaduna State, El-Rufa’I and His Political Shrewdness” published in this column early last year. As stated in the article, El-Rufa’I is not a “roadside politician”, nor a political pushover.

He is bold, courageous, and dexterously accomplishes his political agenda not minding the consequences. I cautioned that El-Rufa’I’s zealousness in making history must be adorned with milk of human kindness. The article generated several reactions for and against. Another one was written when there was a seeming stalemate between NLC and Kaduna state government, titled “NLC Vs El-Rufa’i: Fight of the two Elephants” published in the middle of the year, 2021.

Since then, a lot of water has passed under the bridge; so much infrastructural transformation has taken place. Road networks and markets in Zaria and Kaduna have brought out the beauty of these towns. However, El-Rufa’I zealousness to make history is not without attended consequences as some small traders lost out due to the inability to afford the prices of the new market stalls.

As El-Rufa’I marches on with the infrastructural development of Kaduna town, he is about to burn the hands that fed him. Last week, there was a media report that ASUU, ABU branch threatened to take El-Rufa’I to court over his concerted effort to takeover ABU land in Mando. 

Under El-Rufa’I’s instruction, Kaduna GIS (KADGIS) has surveyed the land belonging to the College of Agriculture, ABU Zaria, and plots were already demarcated for sale. The Union further reiterated, “Given this development, we want to sound a word of caution to the Governor of Kaduna state to desist from this callousness and unlawful taking over of the property belonging to Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. 

To the buyers, we advise them not to pay for any land allocated to them in this place because doing so will be futile. If the governor turned deaf ear to the plea, they will have no other option than to take legal action against him and any other person that was a party to the encroachment”. This matter is very surprising, if not upsetting, and disappointing to many stakeholders like for two major reasons; legal and moral.

Part I of the Land Use Act 2004 states that “all land comprised in the territory of each state in the federation are hereby vested in the governor of that state and such land shall be held in trust and administered for the use and common benefit of all Nigerians in accordance with the provisions of this Act”. 

Furthermore, Part V the Act states, “It shall be lawful for the governor to revoke a right of occupancy for overriding public interest”. This means, governor of a state is holding the land in the state in trust and has the power to revoke the right of occupancy of any part of the land. 

However, Part VIII, Section 49, subsection 1 and 2 states, “ (1) nothing in this Act shall affect any title to land whether developed or undeveloped held by the federal government or any agency of the federal government at the commencement of this Act and, accordingly, any such land shall continue to vest in the federal government or the agency concerned. (2) In this section, “agency” includes any statutory corporation or any other statutory body (whether corporate or unincorporated) or any company wholly-owned by the federal government”. 

Again section 51 of Part VIII states, “The powers of a governor under this Act shall, in respect of land comprised in the Federal Capital Territory or any land held or vested in the federal government in any state, be exercisable by the Head of the Federal Military Government or any federal commissioner designated by him in that behalf and references in this Act to Governor shall be construed accordingly”. 

Literally, the University of Nigeria Act and its provisions is explicit that a state governor has no locus standi to revoke the title of the land belonging to the Federal Government or its statutory agencies.
Nevertheless, it is only the judiciary that can interpret the Act as stated in Part VII, which gives “Jurisdiction of High Courts and other Courts” to adjudicate and provide legal interpretation of the Act.  

So, why should the Kaduna state government under the governorship of Malam Nasiru El-Rufa’I and ABU Zaria have to go to Court on the land matter? A land that rightly belongs to ABU Zaria which is being used to train agricultural students on pratical. 

The land is certainly serving the public interests. The University of Nigeria Act confers power to the Federal Government to compulsorily acquire land for university when the need arises.

The Act, University of Nigeria Act (Miscellaneous) CAP U11, Section 20 (Compulsory Acquisition of Land) states, “For the purpose of the Land Use Act (which provides for the compulsory acquisition of Land for Public purposes) the purposes of the university shall be public purposes of the Federation and when an estate or interest in land is acquired by the President in pursuance of this section, the President may, by a certificate under the Land and Seal of the Registrar of Deeds transfer it to the university”.  So, I urge El-Rufa’I to rethink his decision and leave ABU land alone.

Morally, ABU Zaria contributed immensely to what El-Rufa’I has been in the last four decades. It offered him First Class degree honor (BSc) in quantity surveying, the degree that became his stepping-stone to a prosperous future.
Today, he is one of the most successful and celebrated political personalities in Nigeria. Agreed, El-Rufa’I deserved the class of the degree offered to him without favor. It was a product of intelligence, hard work, and perseverance. 

Rightly, El-Rufa’I has always been proud to mention the class of his degree to the envy of his listeners. However, how many first-class degree candidates are roaming the streets of Nigeria as beggars (Almajirai)? Was it not a privilege to be in the university, then and now? 

The university degree is awarded for character and learning, and part of the character is giving back to society especially the Alma Mater. El-Rufa’I, nicknamed “the Giant” by his university friends and colleagues used to lecture in ABU Zaria as gratis for many years before he joint politics and it was certainly a payback to the university. What is the difference between then and now? El-Rufa’I should rethink his decision.

Today, ABU Zaria needs the contribution and support of its Alumni because of its size (more than 10,000 workforces and about 80,000 students) and meager financial resources. The monthly electricity bill of the university alone is more than N60 million and the university is just keeping its head above the water. In 2016, ABU Zaria had more than 30 governors, ministers, and deputy governors as members of the Alumni but with exception of very few (less than five), we are yet to see the contributions of these important personalities to the development of their Alma Mater. 

Surprisingly, two outstanding businessmen who are not members of the Alumni; Dangote and Abdusamad (both from Kano) contributed infrastructural development worth over two and one billion Naira, respectively. 

Can the Alumni emulate these philanthropists to make ABU Zaria develop all its land resources to enhance teaching and research? This is a wake-up call to all stakeholders.
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