• Monday, July 22, 2024
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Housing delivery and the enduring legacy of criminal ratifications


Housing is a major need to man. It is really not a convenient option. It is a necessity. From the beginning of man’s existence; occupying a delineated place, cut out, prepared and secured was a major consideration. Today, this same need has never diminished in its necessity or importance. It is therefore not an irony why such an important factor to man has become so contentious. It has become a do-or-die affair. From the village square to the Arbitration point and on to the court of law, this singular factor has assumed a dimension of very fierce contest. This is the importance of Housing.

Sometimes in 2015, we ran about two editions on ‘The Menace of land grabbers’. It was well received and the readers’ feedback was overwhelmingly monumental. We even had readers suggesting that we should use our platform to advance Representations at various Houses of Assemblies to come up with legislations that will reduce, if not totally eliminate the menace these calibers of persons have become to the Housing sub-sector in particular and the Nigerian society in general. Well, we have no doubt that the people who are saddled with the responsibility of law making in the land, whether at federal or state level all read our articles. Our platform; the Nigeria’s No. 1 Financial Daily; BusinessDay gets to the table of almost every one that matters in the society. So, we are reaching them. It is therefore a different ball game if they choose not to act on our ever informative write-ups. However, I can say for sure that the people’s Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosu, FCA, the ever winning Governor of Ogun State, South-West Nigeria listens to us and acts very promptly when we sneeze. The Mowe-Ofada Road currently undergoing massive construction in the State is a testimony to this. For those that live on that Axis, it has been celebration galore as the Contractor has already delivered a Lane of the Dual Carriage road to the community while work is currently ongoing on the other lane.  We say kudos to the Governor of Ogun state for putting his foot down to ensure the people of the state enjoy the dividends of Democracy while some other state governors are up in arms against their workforce over unpaid salaries and threats of job-cut.

Talking of Ogun State; South West of Nigeria; those that understand land topology and the geographical peculiarity of Nigeria will know that Ogun State is always a huge challenge to its leadership. The state has a vast land mass and every aspect of the land has clear evidence of human occupation. It therefore becomes very important for social amenities to be spread to such communities.  A friend told me that driving from Nestle in Shagamu Interchange to Nestle in Agbara is like traveling from Ekpoma in Edo state to Okene in Kogi state. Unlike the Ekpoma-Okene comparison which has mass lands unoccupied, Shagamu-Agbara are densely populated with huge number of people that make it very compelling for developmental activities to be evenly spread across these bubbling communities. This is just a tip of the iceberg. It is therefore not out of place or a temptation to praise-sing when we single out Ogun state for mention. Talking about people, at PropertyLogic, we are on the opinion that the Tax laws which make it compelling for people to pay taxes where they work instead of where they live should be revisited. It is on record that over forty percent of Ogun Residents work in Lagos state. We are eagerly waiting to be contradicted on this fact. However, if you are in doubt of this, just take a walk to the Agbado-Iddo Rail Terminus early in the morning or late in the evening. You will be shocked at the huge number of men and women that are moved in and out of Lagos state in the morning and evening from Ogun to Lagos state. We are not talking of the vehicular traffic from Ogun communities to Lagos in the morning and from Lagos back to various communities in Ogun State every evening. Now, can we say it is ‘bamboo-monkey’ situation? You; the reader are the judge. We very hopefully look forward to the prompt correction of this abnormally soon.

Back to our Housing contention story, we have had our hand full of the various agonizing experiences of both individual and institutional developers in the Housing subsector. Particularly in the south west and now the south eastern parts of the country. A friend lost his father in Lagos state sometime in the last week of December, 2015. The man died after a long battle with ill health. The news of his sickness was not kept away from his siblings anyway. He passed on in his sixties. As traditionally required from his homestead, my friend prepared the corps for final homeward journey early January. All arrangements were made. The kindred in Lagos were duly informed and those back at home were notified. To make the stress less burdensome, my friend moved the corps to a Mortuary in his state capital a few days earlier than the ceremony date. This was intended to make all social activities that would accompany the burial synchronize with the traditional requirements of having the body interred in the early hours of the day. After depositing the body in the Morgue in his state capital, he decided to take a forwarding trip home to enable him assess the renovation work he had directed on his father’s bungalow back in the country home to be sure all was set for the final journey home of his departed beloved father. To his consternation, all he met were the hips of sharp sand, the bags of cement and the number of blocks that were bought in his presence two weeks earlier when he was home to assess the extend of repairs to be done and the accompanying cost. He quickly dashed to his elder sister who lives less than an hour drive away from his own community to enquire why the work had been rudely abandoned. He was further shocked when his sister informed him that his paternal uncle; his late father’s immediate elder brother stopped the renovation work. His grounds were that the land on which the bungalow was built by his father about twenty-five years ago belongs to him and not my friend’s father, and the land was taken without his consent. He claimed the ownership of the land devolved to him by inheritance from my friend’s grandfather. To him, such claim was bizarre and wicked. Why would a so-called uncle wait for the demise of his younger brother before laying claim to a land that has a building almost as old as him? Why would he even have to register such claim at this critical point that the family is mourning the departure of his darling father? It was question upon question. In company of his elder sister; they headed for his uncle’s to clarify issues. The uncle had heard of his arrival and was ready for him. As soon as the old man saw him with his sister aligning from the car, he advanced towards him and said; ‘Uche, you can discuss any other issue but the land matter’. My friend’s lips dropped on his chin. He managed to ask after a while; ‘uncle, what is my father’s offence?’ well, the long and short of this shocking story is that my good friend had to pact with a whooping One Hundred and Fifty Thousand Naira to his uncle to repurchase the land his grandfather gave to his father over twenty-five years earlier that has a bungalow of over twenty five years on it. He insisted on a receipt of payment and his uncle gladly gave him one and thereafter parted his back and called him a wiser son than his father. This is the callosity with which land tussle has assumed an inimical dimension in some parts of our beloved society.

As we said in a Forum where we presented papers in December 2015; the onus rest on State Assemblies to come up with Acts that will check such treachery. My friend’s experience is just one in many. Developers loose millions as Ratifications to Counter-claims to Lands and Properties that were duly bought from owners. You see family members of sellers rising against their interest and making possession a hell for such buyers. To avoid loosing their investments, such buyers are made to go through repurchasing such properties from the adverse Claimants. They end up paying huge sums of money to ratify their ownership. Where such buyers put their foot down to resist such exploitation, the grabbers rush to courts to slam them with civil claims and promptly secure interim injunctions to restrain them from further development pending the determination of Motion on Notice. What now happens if the funds invested in the purchase is a facility from a bank? Your answer is as good as mine! At the long run, all these costs are factored into the ultimate delivery cost thereby making Housing non-affordable to the man on the street that truly desires it. Something urgent needs to be done to rescue this situation if the desire of Government to arrest the current ugly Housing deficit must be realized.

Akhigbe Dominic