• Saturday, May 18, 2024
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BusinessDay

Why over 60% of Nigeria’s land lacks titles

How Edo can end activities of land grabbers – Estate developer

It is estimated that over 60 percent of Nigeria’s total land area measuring 923,000 square kilometres are without formal titles, making that huge size of the country’s land area what Andrew Nevin, chief economist at PwC, calls dead capital.

This means, in economic sense, that that land is neither tradable nor bankable, meaning too that the country and owners of properties on that size of land cannot use their property to get loans from the banks.

The Nigeria Living Standards Survey (NLSS) report of 2018-2019 conducted and published by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) shows that as high as 71.4 percent of landlords sampled across the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) are without titles.

The report shows further that while 13.2 per cent of the country’s property owners have title deeds, only 8.1 per cent have the certificate of occupancy (C-of-O) issued by both federal and state government authorities.

Experts attribute this pathetic situation which slows growth of the real estate sector to a number of factors, including high documentation cost, rigorous processes, official corruption, long duration, leading to increased property values and unaffordability for the urban poor.

For these reasons, property registration at both the federal and state levels have been so sluggish that between 2018 and 2023, the Federal Government approved 7,985 titles and as at October 25,2018, it approved and issued 1,300 certificates to buyers of verified federal government land.

Babatunde Fashola, former minister of works and housing, who inaugurated e-C-of-O, before the end of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, said the government signed about 6,685 in their eight-year tenure of Buhari.

Though some state governments are doing some things such as introducing e-application for land documentation to improve their process, not cost, which is increasing instead, the result has not been as encouraging as expected, especially in terms of reducing time of perfecting the titles.

In Edo State, for instance, BusinessDay finding shows that a series of reforms have been undertaken by Governor Godwin Obaseki to sanitise land management system which is now being implemented through the Edo State Geographic Information Service (EdoGIS) for people to register and access Certificate-of-Occupancy (C-of-O).

Tunde Eigbiremolen, media director at EdoGIS, told our reporter that the current administration’s reform has made it easier to do business, made acquisition and registration faster, noting that the period to get C-of-O was within 30 working days provided all necessary documents had been provided.

But Cecilia Atohengbe, a chartered architect and developer, said there were still some delays because of the assessment procedures.

In Ogun State, the government issued only 4,000 C-of-O to landowners as of 2022, while in Lagos, the Akinwunmi Ambode administration signed a total of 5,172 certificates in three years and from May 2019 to May 2022, 727 electronic C-of-O were signed by the Babajide Sanwo-Olu administration, apart from those for regularisation.

In Borno, our findings reveal that Governor Babagana Zulum issued 775 C-of-O in his first term in office. Over the years, residents’ attitude to the process has been lukewarm as a result of the observed encumbrances in the procedures.

In Enugu State where the issuance of C-of-O is on hold at the moment, land buyers are discouraged from registering their properties by the high fee demanded by the state government which, according to our findings, depends mainly on the location of the properties and their value.

An estate agent who spoke to BusinessDay, pleading anonymity, said that fees ranged from N30,000 in some remote areas to 500,000 and above in the GRA and Independence Layout zone.

A property lawyer who introduced herself simply as Barrister Patience told our reporter in Abuja that registering a property in the federal capital territory involved a long and cumbersome process just as it was expensive.

“When registering land, buyers are advised to visit the Abuja geographic information system (GIS) office, where they are taken through the various documentation processes; forms for land that will be used for commercial purposes cost N100,000, while that for residential property goes for N50,000,” the lawyer said.

Gladstone Opara, President, International Real Estate Federation (FIABCI), was quoted as saying recently that the hiccups in obtaining titles for properties is a major impediment to real estate development.

He cited Lagos State government which, he noted, “has not been magnanimous enough in giving title ownership because they keep increasing the cost, sometimes up to the value at which you bought a property and, most times, people are discouraged from doing their documentation.”

Similarly, Adedotun Bamigbola, former chairman, Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV), Lagos branch, noted that, in some states, it takes as long as four years to process land title, pointing out that the cost and time required to have access, as well as the documentation is discouraging many property owners from going for registration.