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Sunday, November 27, 2022

Octogenarian describes how FHA squandered his life savings, leaving him homeless.

Octogenarian describes how FHA squandered his life savings, leaving him homeless.

Pa Daniel Awodoye’s intention when he retired as a Deputy Director in the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture in 1998 was to find a suitable place to live and enjoy the fruits of his 35 years of dedicated service to the country.

To make his idea a reality, the octogenarian depleted his funds and paid N622, 400 to the Federal Housing Authority, FHA, an agency of the Ministry of Works and Housing that oversees the allocations, for a three-bedroom flat in Isheri Olofin Estate, Lagos, in the year leading up to his retirement.

Shortly after paying the money, the late Alhaji Lateef Jakande, the then Minister of Works and Housing, resigned and was replaced by Major-General Abdulkareem Adisa. On taking power, Adisa increased the housing plan subscription cost on the grounds that it was too low. He upped the payment by N155, 600, bringing the total to N778, 000.

“All my money was what I used to pay for the house since I just needed a humble flat to rest my head as a retirement home, after serving my country meritoriously,” Pa Awodoye told Encounter about the anguish of obtaining more funds to pay for the increased rate.

So, I didn’t have any other money when Adisa increased it, but my late wife rose to the occasion; she sold her personal effects to raise the money and I paid.

AIHS 2022

“Having paid, on April 28, 1997, I was given a letter of provisional allocation of a House at Isheri Olofin 111 Estate, Lagos. Later on August 6, 1997, the FHA gave me another letter of allocation of a unit of house at Isheri Olofin 111, House No. 4. Unfortunately, when I got to the estate, there was no house to be allocated. It was an empty space.”

Resident sold
Because Pa Awodoye could neither get his money back nor the promised apartment upon his retirement in 1998, he remained in the house allocated to him by the Federal Government as a senior civil servant in Apapa.

For 25 years, Pa Awodoye is yet to get either, despite several appeals to the Head of Service, Ministers, Managing Director of the FHA, including several visits to their Abuja office and a court victory, ordering the FHA to allocate the house to him.

As if those were not enough ordeals for the old man, the government sold the house where he is living in Apapa to a popular businessman, thereby putting him in danger of imminent eviction.

Narrating his ordeal, Pa Awodoye said: “When there was no house for me, I went to the Head of Service, who instructed the Ministry of Housing to look into it, but they didn’t do anything.

I wrote to the Ministry of Labour and Productivity on January 4, 2000. They didn’t respond. Then I went to court. I was suffering in silence and talking to God. Due to the trauma, my wife who raised the last part of the money passed on.

“Ironically, while parties were in court and an injunction was ordered against the defendants, they went and sold the property where I live. These problems have strengthened my faith.

I accepted my sufferings and persevered in the hope that God would step into my matter. Whether I am alive or dead, God will step into my situation. It has not been easy because I am suffering emotional torment, but my faith has kept me going.”

Outstanding service record
Pa Awodoye started work with the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture in 1972 as a cultural officer, but before that time, he was a broadcaster in Broadcasting Company of Northern Nigeria, BCNN, Kaduna, which is now Nigerian Television Authority, NTA. From there, he facilitated the establishment of the North-Central State Arts Council.

On account of his performance, the Federal Government asked him to set up the Department of Culture in the ministry. Prior to that time, he was the secretary of Nigeria Arts Council. It was after the Department of Culture was set up that he facilitated the establishment of the Art Council as a parastatal of its own.

Pa Awodoye lamented that if he had indulged in self-aggrandisement while in office, he wouldn’t have had the need to worry about a three-bedroom flat in Isheri, Lagos for 25 years, when many of his mates have posh apartments across state capitals, including Abuja.

He said: “I rejected all entreaties to allocate apartments to myself at the end of the FESTAC 77 as a member of the allocation committee or to acquire any through proxies due to my strong aversion for corruption and dishonesty.”

Court intervention
Following a suit Pa Awodoye filed against FHA, Minister of Works and Housing, Attorney-General of the Federation and Chief Obianodo Vincent over the matter, a Federal High Court, Lagos on June 16, 2017, ordered the FHA to provide the accommodation he paid for.

The trial judge, John Tsoho in his decision in respect of relief sought by Pa Awodoye held: “It is for an order of specific performance against the 2nd defendant, FHA, in respect of the contract to provide the plaintiff with a 3-bedroom bungalow or provide the plaintiff with an alternative suitable accommodation comparable to the allocated 3-bedroom bungalow house. It is granted accordingly, not having been disputed.”

FHA ignores court order
Five years after the court decision, FHA is yet to comply. Consequent upon the need to comply, counsel to the plaintiff, Dr. Abiodun Layonu, SAN, who had stood in for the octogenarian on pro bono basis and his law firm wrote the Managing Director of the FHA, Abuja on March 19, 2018, urging him to ensure prompt compliance with the judgment.

The letter, which was signed by Oluwatosin Anudo of the firm, indicated in its acknowledgment copy that the office of the MD, FHA, received it on March 27, 2018. They did not respond thereafter.

Nine months later, specifically, December 14, 2018, the law firm did a follow up letter to the MD, FHA, which was received by the office on December 20, 2018. Again, no response!

On January 25, 2021, the law firm again wrote to MD, FHA indicating the willingness of its client to take alternative property in the city of Abuja that is suitable and comparable in value to the one in Isheri.

The letter reads in part: “In consideration of the possibility that the exact property may no longer be available after 23 years when our client paid for it without any allocation till date, we have our clients instruction to accept any alternative property in the city of Abuja that is suitable and comparable in value to the one in Isheri that our client paid for as clearly stated by the judgment of the court.

“That in a bid to be proactive in the matter, we have made enquiries that showed that the current market value for a three-bedroom bungalow in Isheri is approximately N40 million as at today.

“That in light of the information above, we would humbly ask that the alternative property (whether completed or otherwise) proposed by the Authority in the city of Abuja should not be less in value than N50 million to compensate our client for the loss of time and resources in prosecuting this matter and more importantly, to enable our client sell quickly the alternative property in Abuja and purchase a suitable property in Lagos, where he lives and desires to continue living.

“That the authority would be granting a fair and just execution of the court’s judgment by granting our client a property in the city of Abuja worth N50 million or above as an alternative to the specific performance of the order of court and this will serve as a full and fair settlement of the matter at hand, which we have been imploring the Authority to resolve for over two years after the judgment was granted to our client.”

Notwithstanding these appeals, the Authority still didn’t respond.
The law firm wrote another letter on October 20, 2021, reminding the organisation that their client is not asking for a favour, but demanding what rightly belonged to him, adding that a court of competent jurisdiction had specifically ordered them to so act. The Authority received the letter on October 22, 2021.

“We, therefore, find it difficult to comprehend why FHA is not giving this matter the seriousness it deserves, taking into account the age of our client and the circumstances of this matter.

In this circumstance, having regards to the unconscionable manner you have been treating this matter, it thus appears to us that FHA is perhaps waiting for the death of our client,” the firm wrote, threatening to reopen contempt proceedings against the organisation.

FHA makes counter offer
About a month later, specifically November 30, 2021, FHA wrote the law firm and offered to give the plaintiff a two-bedroom flat at FHA Zuba Estate, Abuja and a monetary compensation of N7 million.

The letter endorsed by Assistant Chief Legal Officer, N. Oriaku stated: “If this offer is acceptable to the plaintiff, kindly forward an acceptance letter to the Authority within 14 days from the date of this letter, to enable the preparation for out-of-court settlement terms, for endorsement by the parties.”

Pa Awodoye rejects ‘insulting’ offer
Seven days after receiving the letter, precisely December 7, 2021, Pa Awodoye through his counsel wrote back to FHA, rejecting the offer.

According to him, the offer is “most insulting, demeaning and uncharitable,” in the sense that it does not compare with the market value of the Isheri, Lagos Estate, assessed as N40 million for a 3-bedroom flat.

He argued through his lawyers that since the value for a 2-bedroom flat at Zuba is N8.5 million, it means that it was offering a total sum of N15.5 million for full and final settlement of the matter.

“To our mind, this is a show of utter callousness and most ignominious having regard to the circumstances of this matter,” his lawyers declared.

Having declared the offer unacceptable, the law firm proposed, “that your agency provides our client with three of those 2-bedroom flats at Zuba, Abuja, in addition to N10 million; that your agency provides our client with two of those 2-bedroom flats at Zuba plus N20 million or comply fully with the subsisting judgment by providing our client with the 3-bedroom bungalow at Isheri, Lagos.” The Agency is yet to respond to the counter-offer.

FHA reacts
At the FHA, a top official in the agency’s Public Affairs Department, who spoke on condition of anonymity said, although he is not really acquainted with Pa Awodoye’s case, confirmed that the Isheri Olofin Housing Scheme, which he (Pa Awodoye) subscribed to, failed.

According to the official, “the scheme failed because the supervising Ministry of Works and Housing grossly undervalued it.

“Consequently, when some of the subscriptions were exhausted, it could not continue,” adding that some lucky persons who subscribed to the scheme got the house, while others were sorted out.

He explained further that it was out of magnanimity that the FHA commenced the refunds of monies for those who could not get the housing unit and others who were re-allocated to similar available estates. He further declared that if anybody had gone to court and was allocated a 2-bedroom, given the present circumstance, it would be advisable to take it.

When asked about the differential in the value of the two housing units they are offering, he responded with the question of whether that valuation was a joint valuation. He, however, declined to speak further and suggested any further clarification should be gotten from the Legal Department, since the matter has been to court.

A top official of the Legal Department confirmed knowledge of the matter but refused to speak because “it would be prejudiced to speak on a matter that is already in court.”

Read Original Story From Vanguard.

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