• Sunday, May 19, 2024
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Grenadines Homes boss points way forward for cost-efficient housing delivery

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As the search for solution to Nigeria’s housing deficit estimated at 17 million units continues to agitate the minds of industry stakeholders, opinions and suggestions are being brought to the fore by experts who speak or make paper presentations at seminars, fora and conferences.

Noimot Olatunji, managing director of Grenadines Homes Limited, a real estate investment and development firm, says government at all levels must urgently put measures in place that will simplify the approval processes of land titles as a way of fast-tracking timely and cost efficient housing delivery in the country.

Olatunji also canvasses the resolution of perennial conflicts that often arise among inter-governmental agencies over which of them has the supreme authority on the approval of procedures and perfection of titles, decrying multiplicity of regulatory bodies that hinders business growth and create room for corruption.

‘‘The real estate sector needs a one-stop shop in order to remove ambiguity, overlapping or contradicting laws and functions and to take into consideration the pressing development needs of a fast urbanising nation; it is imperative, therefore, that the federal and state building laws are consolidated in a simpler format and streamlined according to the current needs and trends,’’ she suggests.

Olatunji, who spoke at a panel session on ‘Reducing Red Tape’ at the just-ended Real Estate Unite Conference 2014, in Lagos, says that though there was nothing wrong in setting rules and regulations, undue bureaucratic bottleneck encountered in the course of seeking approval was the bane of the Nigeria’s real estate sector growth.

According to her, the condition under which players and investors in the real estate sector operate currently “is unfriendly, cumbersome, anti-business and generally very ambiguous,’’ notable among which is red tape, a major cause of slowdown in project delivery timeline.

“Rules and processes are in place for the protection of the real estate sector, but what we actually want is for somebody to give us timely updates on the approval process. We want to know if the title applications are being processed or if there are issues. We want to know if the designs meet the specifications; we want to know if everything is okay. What we don’t want is to go half way down the development journey only to find out that there are issues,” she says.

The Grenadines Homes boss further notes that the practice of non-delegation of authority and consequent needless long wait in the absence of some officials in charge of approvals was a setback in the running of government business.

“They will tell you the governor has sent the engineer somewhere and so this week nothing is happening and these are the things that really do frustrate us. When we are being stalled by the government processes, it becomes an integrity issue for us because we keep giving clients one excuse or the other because of the engineer who has personalised the office,’’ she laments.

Olatunji also drew a link between red tape and corruption, advocating that such behaviour was not good for any economy. She urged government and concerned stakeholders to address corruption in all facets of our national life.

According to her, ‘‘the solution to dealing with this thorny issue is to make the processes very clear from the outset. What the sector really needs are concise guidelines on what we have to do, how much it will cost and how long it will take. If we have that, then we are on a good starting point and will prevent unscrupulous people from defrauding the system.”

She further advocates the setting up of parameters for measurement which will allow for effective planning. ‘‘The industry will be better served when those responsible for processing applications are held up to a high standard where they can state periodically how many applications they receive, how many have been processed and how many are pending; and the time frame it will take or it has taken to process them. Then the sector can be taken seriously,’’ Olatunji posits.

Earlier, while declaring the conference open, Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashola admitted that red tape could pose a problem to the real estate sector and indeed other sectors of the economy considering the huge number of people who need government services.

He reveals that his administration, in particular, has encouraged all tiers of government to automate their processes so that ‘‘we can respond to more people in quicker time,’’ saying the state was making great strides in terms of land processing. “I am happy to say that our automation experiments are beginning to bear fruits. I can now sign Certificates of Occupancy electronically; I can do so outside Nigeria,” according to him.

CHUKA UROKO