Navigant Builders revert Ogle land titles to NICIL
– says land should be reissued in a “transparent manner”
Navigant Builders Incorporated – the developers of the Windsor Estate housing community – have reverted several acres of land at Goedverwagting and Sparendaam on the East Coast of Demerara to the State to facilitate a “more transparent” process in issuing state lands.
In a statement on Thursday, Navigant Builders reminded that it had announced the postponement of plans to pursue its Ogle Development Project, and had cancelled all payments to the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) immediately after the March 2, 2020 elections, after controversies had arisen over the results.
In June, however, NICIL had gone ahead and vested the property to the developers, reportedly unbeknownst to the developers. This was despite the company indicating in writing to NICIL that it cannot move ahead with the project until the elections crisis was resolved.
As such, Navigant Builders, in a missive on Thursday, announced its intension to return the lands to the state. “In light of the cloud of uncertainty that surrounds the transfer of title, we hereby announce that we would like to rescind the Vesting Order and revert such title back to NICIL, thus to enable the Government of Guyana to reclaim all lands and reissue such properties in a more transparent manner,” the company stated.
The developers went on to reassure of their intention to still embark on a signature urban mixed-use development on the East Coast of Demerara featuring luxury residential properties and Class A office space in the near future. To this end, the housing developers have declared that they look forward to “working with NICIL and the Government of Guyana in this endeavour.”
Back in February 2020 – just three days before the March 2 elections – NICIL, along with officials from Navigant Builders Inc., had turned the symbolic sod for the sprawling Windsor Estate East Coast Project at former Sugar Plantation Ogle. The US$83 million 30-acre development feature, in addition to a man-made lake and multiple swimming pools, modern home designs along with a commercial zone to include banks, medical facilities, a shopping area and restaurants.
However, subsequent to the March 2 General Elections, the company said it made no attempts to initiate any transfer of lands or advance the project, and on March 6, announced that the project was suspended due to the political uncertainty at the time.
But then in June 2020, some 20 acres of land were transferred to Navigant Builders, and this was gazetted on June 30, 2020. The transfer was done by NICIL, and the order was signed by then caretaker Finance Minister Winston Jordan on June 11, 2020.
The company had subsequently reiterated its commitment to pause the project, saying, “In regard to the vesting order showing the pending transfer of 30 acres of land to Navigant Builders, we wish to state that we had no prior knowledge of this order. We received communication from NICIL on June 19th seeking full payment prior to publication in the Official Gazette (no payments have been made to date). In our response to NICIL on the said date, we indicated that we cannot proceed with this transaction until there is a credible resolution to the elections. We remain committed to working in Guyana.”
Meanwhile, more tracts of land have been transferred by the APNU/AFC coalition administration during its waning days in office.
There was the transfer of some 20 acres of land, also from Goedverwagting and Sparendaam, to American Marine and Services Incorporated. The company, located at Lot 215 Cross Street and Mandela Avenue Alexander Village, was granted the land by NICIL on the basis of a signed order by Jordan also on June 11, 2020.
Guyana Times had previously reported that Bosai Minerals Group also had a total of 1.427 acres of land transferred to it by NICIL through an order signed by Jordan.
While in Opposition, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic had cited corruption in the several land deals undertaken by the then Coalition Government and had indicated that the lands will be repossessed once it assumes office.
In fact, PPP/C’s Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha, last month announced that his Ministry will be revoking lands belonging to the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) that were vested to various private entities by NICIL.
A Special Purpose Unit (SPU) was established under NICIL to take over the divestment of GuySuCo’s assets that were earmarked for sale following the downsizing of the sugar corporation.
According to Mustapha, the Agriculture Ministry will ensure that the sale of lands by NICIL is immediately halted in an effort to ensure that the lands be used for the benefit of the people and country. He noted, too, that the Ministry will be collaborating with NICIL to have the lands that were sold reinstated to GuySuCo.
Meanwhile, in July, businessman Glen Lall had filed legal proceedings against the APNU/AFC Administration over its rush to finalise deals for some 130 acres of land on the East Coast of Demerara despite elections being held and the National Recount showing their loss at the polls.
The application alleged that the Finance Minister’s transfer of lands on June 11, 2020 was unlawful, ultra vires, null and void. However, High Court judge, Justice Sandra Kertzious, on August 20, 2020 dismissed the application in which Lall is asking for all the orders issued by the former Finance Minister to be quashed.
Nevertheless, the businessman has since appealed the decision, and the matter is currently pending in the Court of Appeal.