REAL ESTATE

Lagos Moves To Curb Land Grabbing As Sanwo-Olu Directs Full Excision On Untitled Land

 

The incessant issue of land grabbing may become a thing of the past anytime soon in Lagos State, as Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu orders complete excision on untitled land across the State.

The Governor’s directive represents a major turning point in land administration in Lagos, as the exercise would enable the State Government to carry out documented delineation on communal land and land owned by the families. At the end of the exercise, the issues of land grabbing by thugs working for land owners are expected to be curbed.

Sanwo-Olu gave the order at the Lagos Real Estate Market Place Conference and Exhibitions organised by the Lagos State Real Estate Regulatory Authority (LASRERA) at the Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island. The two-day event with the theme: “Lagos: 21st Century Real Estate Investment Hub”, is the second edition to be held by the agency.

Land is a limited asset in Lagos, which is a coastal State. Activities of land-grabbers have created an unpredictable climate in land acquisition in Lagos, robbing private real estate investors and individuals of fortunes.

Sanwo-Olu said a technical committee will be set up to fine-tune the framework for the excision process on untitled land, with the objective to granting Certificate of Occupancy (C-of-O) to land owners for transparent sales of the asset.

The Governor condemned an effort by State officials to frustrate and sabotage the full take-off of the State’s Enterprise Geographic Information System (e-GIS) project initiated to automate approval of land surveys and allocation titles in one talk shop. Sanwo-Olu issued a stern warning, saying he would be ruthless in purging out saboteurs in the ranks of Government.

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He said: “One of the issues we are working on is the ownership of land. There is a large parcel of land across Lagos that doesn’t have the Government title.

“It is to announce to this gathering that I’ve made up my mind that we are going to do excision for untitled land. This process will kick off next year and we will set up a committee whose composition will represent all traditional divisions in Lagos. With equity and fairness, we will yield proper titles on all the land, so that the issue of land grabbing can be reduced to minimum.

“We will also be carrying out genuine reform in our Survey Department. We need to have our e-GIS platform up and running after 10 years that it was initiated. I’m expressing my disappointment in some Government officials sabotaging these efforts. I will look for the culprits and I will be ruthless in meting out punishment. I will ensure these saboteurs have no place in my Government.”

By next year, Sanwo-Olu said a new policy of monthly tenancy on property occupancy would kick off in Lagos. The concept, he said, is not to punish the landlord or reduce the expected revenue of the property owner.

He said monthly tenancy would ease off pressure of yearly rent on tenants, as the new policy is designed to make people pay their rents according to their monthly earnings. The policy, Sanwo-Olu said, emanated from an agreement reached by association of tenants, consortium of financiers and the Government.

Addressing the cause of high affordability of property in Lagos, the Governor said the State’s partnership with the private sector had raised the housing stock but added that non-availability of long-tenure mortgage bonds made it impossible for low-income earners to benefit.

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The Government, he said, is thinking out of the box to design a financing model that would reduce burden on mortgage applicants, while also charging real estate developers to reduce the cost of developing property by engaging local competence for skills outsourced to foreigners.

He said: “We should not just build property only for consumers, we must also build skills and integrate them in our built environment to showcase great output. Technical and vocational skills are things we must deliberately harness and reflect in our work. At the end of the day, we must be able to design a housing development and ownership model that is fit for our purpose and peculiar to our local needs.”

Special Adviser to the Governor on Housing, Mrs. Toke Benson-Awoyinka, said real estate remained the most sought after investment, noting that the market, apart from creating sustainable jobs, also has the highest potential of growing the economy of any nation.

She said the State Government realised the need for investors and consumers to know policies put in place and how the knowledge of all the policies could assist stakeholders in making informed decisions in investing in the real estate market.

Benson-Awoyinka said: “As a Government, we have realised this fact and as such, have been making business friendly policies that can assist would-be investors and consumers to operate in a conducive business environment. LASRERA has strengthened its efforts to make this sector more vibrant by ensuring that practitioners operate within the ambit of the law.

“The agency has registered over 100 individuals and organisations that approached the Government to regularise their operations with us. We have seen positive results from this undertaking, as the State, through the LASRERA, has resolved several reported cases of fraudulent practices brought to the attention of the agency in a very professional manner.”

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As regulator, the Special Adviser urged investors and consumers to make LASRERA their first point of contact before investing in real estate in any part of Lagos.

There was a panel discussion with the theme: “How the real estate sector can drive social implications and opportunities in Lagos”, moderated by the Commissioner for Economic Planning and Budget, Mr. Sam Egube.

Audience at the conference comprised stakeholders in the built industry, including property developers, landlords, market facilitators and potential property buyers.

The stakeholders agreed that the Government’s primary business in the real estate sector must be maintenance of rule of law and effective regulations to protect investors and consumers.

Stakeholders also called for improvement in housing finance and introduction of affordable insurance policy in the sector.

They said LASRERA, as the regulator, should be an enabler that must make the market happen and not be a police in the sector. They urged the Government to resolve issues around titling of property to bring back confidence in the real estate market.

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