Dr. Kennedy Okonkwo sits atop a growing real estate company, NEDCOMOAKS Limited, which develops, manages and consults for clients with a dream to bridge the gap in the housing sector in Nigeria starting with Lagos State. The debonair entrepreneur reflected on his baby-steps to greatness, the humbling but inspiring waltz out of despair and how his sector has benefitted from his emergence on the scene in this interview with LANRE ODUKOYA
Your company recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Forte Solar to enable inclusion of solar power distribution to the housing services you render. Could you shed more light on what the partnership entails?
Well, as you’ve already established, the partnership was with one of the leading energy service providers in Nigeria, Forte Oil with their Forte Solar Solution. The driving force behind it is the urgent need to start providing alternative power solutions to the houses that we build.
We have an upwardly mobile middle-income housing bracket that we serve. And to serve them you must be thinking of solutions that will outlive the houses, solutions that would last long and benefit the home buyers.
Over time we’ve had other companies provide such services but you’d end up with little or no after sales solution to support the kind of house we’ve built for the clients. In that light, we sought a new partnership and that is supposed to take us to the next level.
We want a situation whereby as we give warranties on those houses, those warranties are also extended to the solar solutions that are provided, and only a reputable company of that magnitude can provide the service.
Forte Solar has partnered with Jingli Solar, a leading solar equipment manufacturer, in the world today and it’s from China. The people who’d end up benefitting the most are our clients because we want them to experience no noises from generators.
If somebody buys a house from you and the DISCOs are able to provide about 12-hour power supply a day and you get your solar system harnessing some power during the day because we’ve got beautiful sunlight in Lagos especially, it’s the consumers that would end up benefitting.
NEDCOMOAKS Limited came into the real estate sector 10 years ago, how do you think the industry has fared this past decade?
I’ve witnessed a decade where we’d seen a lot of real estate companies go down. Some of the leading companies available 10 years ago are actually nonexistent. It’s just a fraction of them you can find today, but we’re grateful to God because today we have a much more robust industry.
We have more people coming into the sector because people are beginning to realise that the sector is a major contributor to the country’s GDP. So our sector provides about 7.2 percent of Nigeria’s GDP according to the Federal Office of Statistics. It goes a long way to show that the industry is growing and despite that, there’s still a huge gap of housing to fill both at the state and the federal levels.
There are so many new satellite villages that need to be connected via road infrastructure as we begin to say the Federal Government is embarking on housing model (building houses across the regions), most of those houses are coming up in satellite towns and districts. There’s a need to extend good road infrastructure, telecom infrastructure, water and power to those satellite towns.
As a starter in the industry, how were you able to earn the confidence of your first set of clients?
To build trust in the consumers doesn’t happen in one day. But one of the things we’d tried to do is to under promise and over deliver. Anytime we tell our clients we’d deliver a house in nine months, when they come in the seventh month, the house is built and tested. And that goes a long way to gain the confidence of the clients that we serve.
Weren’t you scared by the competition of the existing firms some of which might have been bigger?
There will always be competition but you’d realise that there’s always a place for everybody to play. This because in every sector you have the very big players, you have the upcoming ones too but with innovations, most importantly, with creativity there’s so much we’re doing as added value to the houses we provide.
Today we’re one of the very few firms that provide uninterrupted after sales support for the houses we’ve built. We’re one of those providing houses with extra values such as CCTV cameras, home audio systems, internet services and we’ve just added solar power system to boost the confidence of the subscribers. As innovation begins to come and the economy begins to evolve, we also want to do newer things that would make our subscribers feel better.
How did the sector fare before the officially announcement that Nigeria was out of economic recession?
When they say the economy is out of recession I ask, is government spending the way it used to spend? When you say we’re out of recession, is the dollar rate back to what it was before recession was announced? The answer is no.
Today they’d tell you we’re out of recession and the prices of cars and other commodities are double how much they used to cost. The prices of houses have not increased. What has happened is that the developers have lost their margins.
The number of houses that was churned out this year cannot be equated with what was churned out in this country last year. The reason is that the funds are not available. So, there’s no sector that didn’t feel the recession and the impact of exit from recession wouldn’t be felt in this country until most likely the second quarter of next year.
How did your company stay afloat?
This is the time for creativity. In those times when the economy was quaked to its root, only great men survived. So, we are a young dynamic organisation and we try to be creative in all we do. What we’ve newly added is part of what we do to better the lives of our subscribers.
But you could have taken advantage of the downturn like some claimed they’ve done. Some businessmen have said that the economic crisis like that offers fresh opportunities…
Like I told you earlier, this is a time for people who are innovative to show what they can do. This is the time to bring creativity to play and that’s what my team and I have been doing. We’re delivering our Victoria Crest Luxury apartments, this year, we’d flagged off our projects in Ikoyi, Oniru, Osbourne (Lagos); we’re doing the best we can to stay afloat.
Incessant cases of collapsed buildings in Lagos made the state clampdown on in the recent past; would you say the new legislation has strengthened the sector with regards to quality control?
There is so much the government is doing now in trying to curb the influx of quacks into the industry and standardize the processes. The Lagos State Government has employed over 2000 people in the Lagos State Building Control, they’re supposed to be monitoring officers going from site to site because the state is big and the level of constructions going on in the state is not the same with any other part of the federation.
So, the government has institutions working, it has material testing laboratory as an agency of the state going around to do non-destructive tests while construction is going to ascertain the structural stability of the building.
Today, we have the building control agents going round to ensure that what is approved by physical planning is what is being built. We also now have the other agencies such as the Lagos State Safety Commission responsible for ensuring that you’re building in a safe way, in a safe environment and that your construction processes are safe for those who will live in it and those living around your construction sites. There are so many steps the state government is taking, and I know that other states will soon start to emulate Lagos State.
Does your company portfolio accommodate developing, management and consultancy for individuals and corporations?
No, we only build our own projects. We only build houses and sell. We don’t do constructions for other people.
What actually drives your innovation?
I’m passionate about our industry, I had a privilege of reading a report some years back and in it they said that, Nigeria needs $363billion to fill its housing deficit. In that alone, I’ve come to realise that there’s so much money in the industry.
If you look at what we had when I studied Psychology at the University of Ibadan, Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needshousing is seen as an existential need, a survival need, when you have food, the next thing you’re looking for is shelter.
So, food, clothing and shelter are the greatest of human needs. So, I saw that anybody who is selling foods or providing accommodation cannot go wrong because everybody must live in a place, even the birds retire to their nests.
I believe there is so much job opportunities in this industry because it provides a great deal of workforce. There’s a huge employment opportunities in it for the under-employed. We provide work for artisans, skilled labourers and unskilled labourers.
Were you inspired in your formative years by some architectural wonders you came in contact with?
When we were growing up we used to come to those houses that were built by the likes of G-Cappa, Cappa and Dalbato, we would cross the Marina from school back then and we would trek to Oyinkan Abayomi Drive and you’d see those beautiful houses being built by the waterside.
They were wonders to behold. I was born in Lagos and I grew up in Lagos too. I knew that I wasn’t going to live on the mainland for a long time because I felt that I wanted to live closer to the water. I knew people who live on the islands don’t have two heads.
When exactly did you decide to become a builder especially because you studied Psychology in school?
At some point in my life, my family was kicked out of a shop that we called a house. This was in Ikeja when I lost my dad. We used to live in the shop and that was my mum’s restaurant in the daytime.
At some point in my life we didn’t have a house and we were kicked outthat was in 1994. I was about to get into the university and I had to go and live with my elder sister from there I went to live with a cousin of mine who trained me in school.
I remember that we didn’t have a house and we had to stay under the Ikeja Bridge for a few weeks before a pastor, Pastor David, said we should come and live in the boy’s quarter of our church.
And seeing my family there, I knew that I needed to do something a lot better after graduating from the university to take care of my family. I had to go and rent a house for them. I knew the future for me required t h a t I work hard.
I had a privilege of working when I lived in Oniru, I got my first set of leases from the Oniru family on 15 to 17-year lease for bungalows that were developed then. I used to have a cousin who was doing contracts with the Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON) and I was supervising some works for him as holiday jobs. And I enjoyed seeing the projects that he was doing.
When I finished school and that wasn’t there anymore, I did my first major business which was as a real estate agent and I made about N280, 000. I bought my first car and used the rest to take care of myself.
So, when I did that in 2001 fresh from the university, I knew there was an opportunity in this sector, that I was going to make money from it. So, while I was working, I still had my eyes on the sector. I was still doing stuffs like agency, build, design and transfer which was where we started from. We would take long leases, we build house and transfer the houses to the owners after a period of time.
What are the projects you have at hand at the moment?
We just decided to do the Phase 3 of our Victoria Crest Service, it comprises 4-bedroon semi-detached houses, 32 in number, 14 number of 4-bedroom terrace houses, as well as a total of 69 3-bedroom terrace houses and everything in total is 115 units of houses.
They are situated at Lafiaji Lekki-Peninsula, we’ve also decided to touch it up a little bit and it comes with a swimming pool, a club house for residents where they can seat, relax and unwind. It also has gym facility with a 5-aside pitch at the Victoria Crest three.
We’re also completing and handing over our Victoria Crest Luxury Apartments comprising 30 luxury flats that we built by the Pinnock Beach Estate, off the road that leads to the Circle Mall. Clients have taken possession of that on November 1 and we’re handing over that already.
It also comes with a swimming pool and we just have a few units left in that investment. Work is also ongoing on about 500 meters of road network to link up with the existing roads so that people who buy those properties don’t have to drive on untarred roads.
What other things excite you about life?
It’s my family, I think that’s one of the most fascinating gifts God has given me. I have a young family and I love to spent time with them. The greatest thing that gives me joy is the moment I share with my kids and my wife. Those are moments that even a billion dollars cannot buy.
How often do you go on holidays a year?
In a year, being an entrepreneur gives me the opportunity of choosing how I work and what time I work. I can work three months stretch and not have a holiday and sometimes after three months I take a week or two to recuperate. I realise that for each holiday you take, it rejuvenates the mind and you come back fresher with more brilliant ideas to forge forward.
What is actually your favourite fashion accessory?
I love wrist watches and shoes.
What are your best brands?
I have them in varieties- from AP, Rolex, Patek Philippe and so on- what I’m wearing is all a function of what I’m doing at a particular time.
NONE OF MY SCANDALS AFFECTED ME –SAMMIE OKPOSO
Upwardly mobile vocalist and gospel singer, Sammie Okposo, remains one of the most sought-after in his industry two decades after making it to stardom. In this interview with LANRE ODUKOYA, the Globacom ambassador and highly influential artiste speaks about his career, surviving scandals, marriage among sundry issues.
What has been the secret of your staying power as one of Nigeria’s leading vocalists and gospel singer?
You have to be able to identify your race, chose your space and run on your lane. I understand that I am a gospel music artiste and I didn’t derail. When I came out with Welu Welu, the sound was not available at that time. People questioned why I did a traditional gospel music. But after a while, the song became almost as popular as our national anthem. For me, I look at the industry and I move with the trend.
I don’t just stay in one place because our industry is dynamic. For you to remain relevant, you have to be dynamic as well regardless of whether the sound changes or not. Whenever there is a new development, I look at it and apply it to what I am doing.
Why did you reduce the tempo at which you churn out hit songs?
I am still very active in music. My fifth album came out on October 1 last year. From the days I started music, I don’t just release an album like others. I take my time to record songs and make sure I am satisfied with what I want to feed the public.
When I needed to go on tour, I could tour for three or four years and I would bring out an album after each tour. So, I have never fallen into the temptation of doing one album every six months or one single every three months.
Many things had been written and said about you, including affairs with women; how have you coped with controversies?
Everyone has controversies, but the way you handle things matter a lot. I don’t let negative things to put me in a corner because it is part of life. Whether we like it or not, certain things are meant to happen. When those things happen, you handle or deal with them well and move on. Even as read in the Bible, Jesus was crucified during his lifetime but he never gave up because of tha.t
Has there been any particular event that almost broke you?
I am stronger than that; none of them affected me. I don’t regret anything in life as well. All the things I must have faced are part of my life as an individual. Given another chance to come back to this world, I wouldn’t change anything about me. What you see today is a product of everything I have experienced.
When did you give your life to Christ?
I was born into a strong Christian home, but I wanted to taste things as a youth. That is common with young people. I got born again in June 2000. I think it is good for a youth to go see the world, especially when he or she thinks the parents are lying whenever they try to direct his or her path.
I misbehaved because I felt I could take care of myself. After seeing what the world had to offer, I understood the whole difference between being under the advice of your parents and being left alone.
What were those things that attracted you to the world?
Like I said earlier since I was a youth, I wanted to experience certain things. I am not a saint; have done it all. I tell people never to think I woke up and I became who I am today or I have always been like this. My parents were happy when I turned a new leaf. But they still didn’t really like the fact that I was doing music. My father wanted me to be an accountant. When I started music 20 years ago, you couldn’t tell your parents boldly that you wanted to become a musician.
Then, our parents decided our destinies; they wanted their children to be lawyers, doctors and accountants. They didn’t even care if it was something you wanted or not. But the biggest award I have received so far was when my father looked at me before he died and said he was proud of me.
He said he could see and he liked what I was doing. He said people were always hailing him and he often saw me on the television.
Why did you settle for music?
I started playing the piano when I was 9-year-old. Do you know how it feels when you do something and you are happy about it? I saw that there was no way I could do anything else as music gave me joy. I didn’t think of making money from it, but I wanted to be happy.
I didn’t want to become a frustrated accountant who would be counting money for people. If I had become an accountant, I would have embezzled money from the bank out of frustration. Music makes me happy and I have sacrificed my whole life to it. Do you think it is easy to be the only gospel artiste in Nigeria that has ever been endorsed by a big brand like Globacom?
How did you feel when you became Glo ambassador?
I was so happy. I felt my hard work has not been in vain. But I didn’t see it coming; I was just working and being unique. With the endorsement, there is nothing impossible in this life.
Are you aware that certain people felt you were not appointed an ambassador on merit?
If you remember how huge Welu Welu was when it came out, you will not disturb yourself about such claims.
How did you come about the Welu Welu?
As pointed earlier, I left home to experience the world. I could have died like some of my friends, but God was merciful to me. When making the song, I wasn’t special but God treated me specially. If you listen to the part where I said: “I no know werin I do wey make you love me so.” It was a song of gratitude to God from the deepest part of my heart. The song resonated with many people because they started looking back at their situations. People became thankful to God for the gift of life even though they were not billionaires yet
Were you thinking of death when you made the song?
No, I was not thinking of death. When I was making the song, they couldn’t understand why I was making such sound. It was the period everyone wanted to be a Michael Jackson or an R Kelly. But I told my friends that I liked the sound and I had much confidence in it. And when I released the song, things changed for me. Till today, regardless of how much songs I perform at an event, I must perform Welu Welu before people get satisfied. The song has not left me since 20 years ago.
Don’t you feel bad that most people don’t know many of your songs like they know Welu Welu?
I don’t feel bad because every artiste needs that one song. If you don’t have a song like that, then there is a problem. I have made other hit songs that have given me a lot of money from You- Tube, iTunes and other platforms. For people to pay money to listen to your songs, it is a big deal.
The whole dynamics of music have changed with the advent of social media. In the past, it was very easy to become popular as an artiste. We only had NTA, MBI and AIT; so, to promote your music was not hard.
But now, only in Lagos, I cannot name all the radio and television stations. Also, the attention is on social media and I know in the next 10 years people will not watch TV any longer. As a gospel musician, we now make music for the church because the church is our immediate environment. If the church is not using your music for praise and worship or a special number, you have failed. We now target churches.
Has marriage changed anything about you?
Marriage has given me a sort of balance and it has made me stay focused. My wife loves good music; that is why she could marry me. She is a huge support system for me. I sang for her on our wedding day eight years ago. Marriage is something every man needs to experience. But you should enter it when one is ready because it is a serious business.
SARAH BOULOS: I GOT THE IDEA OF MY DANCE SCHOOL FROM GOD IN A DREAM
Mrs. Sarah Boulos is born of a Lebanese father and French mother. She told FLORA ONWUDIWE how God revealed to her to establish Society for the Performing Arts in Nigeria, SPAN in 2005. She revealed how her non-profit organisation has taken Nigerian youths out of the streets of Lagos. The mother of four who holds a degree in Biology/Chemistry is married to a Lebanese.
What informed establishing SPAN in Nigeria?
I saw a need for the performing art community; God gave me the vision to open a performing art centre for Nigeria. So since 2005, we have raised over 650 job opportunities through performing art.
Could you describe how God revealed to you that you should establish dance school?
It started at a Bible study; a lady was praying with me and she asked me if I dance. I told her I dance at parties and she said no, do you dance for a purpose and I said not really, I don’t know what you are talking about.
A few days later, a friend gave me a book and I was able to find a bible study in Lagos from that book. I was reading a few chapters, I was reluctant to wake up and that was how everything came to me about the foundation (school) in my dream and I knew it was God.
He showed me performing art centre, He showed me a building where people were dancing, acting, painting and all kinds of things. It was very interesting to see that, so I took on the challenge. I was waiting on God to send me the people and He sent me great people to start the foundation. That was SPAN started like a community.
Don’t you think it will be difficult to convince people it has spiritual link with God?
I don’t need to convince anybody because the successes is evidence. When you are passionate about something and you are driven by purpose, there is always something bigger than you that drives it. My proof is my act, many people talk about what they want to do about the city, they will not do anything, they just talk but I have been able to do something by the grace of God that has been carrying me along. I was driven by His way to carry others.
Any formal training?
When I received the vision, I went on research. I was at Ballerina at the age of 16 and so what I did was used my talent and went back to school. I travelled to Summer Camp Workshop in France, Chateauroux, where I studied Ballet dance, leaders in the industry of dance, to come and give workshop here in Nigeria. I took my group, that I trained to France and study the art of dance.
How were able to assemble the local drums, and foreign instruments to get the desired rhythms?
Well, we have 50 drums that we use. It is a mixture of dance, style and technique that we use to teach the society on the art of dance. So, in choreography you can use drums and all kinds of instruments. When we go to school we use our speaker; we can use drums or regular instruments, IPod to teach music. We had performances in SPAN Festival, we used drums and the dance is based on drums.
The ballet is the foundation of SPAN; where does Nigeria local instruments come in?
Ballet has its own classical music; ballet movement is a way of strengthening your body and curves to be able to be able to do African dances in a different way. So when a student in Lagos is exposed to different dance styles, he c a n create a new dance style and use drums to create the steps. Those techniques of dance coming from the West and other places just add value to local dance and make it even richer. So the choreography work becomes different because you can fuse all together.
You studied Biology/Chemistry; it is far removed from what SPAN does…
My Biology and public health background has made me a more organised person. In setting up my foundation, it helped me to understand how the body system works. My Biology has also helped me how to understand injuries in the art field of dance because I understand how the muscle works. So Biology is a science that helps you in improving your own artistic techniques.
You said you have raised over 650 job employment opportunities for the youths…
Most products of SPAN Academy are founders of other organisations and they are also registered with the Lagos State g o v e r n – me n t ; t h e y a r e performers for Lagos Tourism and we have records of those located in Abuja, some are in Port Harcourt. We have seven dance studios that are being inspired by SPAN.
What are the criteria for selection into the Academy?
We have open audition and we invite people that are interested. We have open audition in September and January.
You‘ve had SPANFEST three times in Nigeria; what plans do you have to showcase the talents to the outside world?
It is an interesting question; this year we are working on open application. By September, people will be able to apply on the website if they want to showcase their talents in SPANFEST and present their production and people will see the quality of the production. They can also apply in person. There will be a long process of review and we will decide how we are going to go about it and this year we are working on family and children events. The family and children event is geared toward education and to challenge the status quo.
When you say that Ballet is a fusion of both local and foreign dances, what are the local dances from Nigeria fused into the ballet dance?
It is very interesting actually; most of the people that have come to apply are mainly of the Yoruba origin but we have also people coming from different cultures. However, right now the last performance was more Yoruba oriented.
Who are your mentors?
I have many mentors who I have come across but my best mentor is Jesus Christ because I work to be better person every day and in order to become a better person I have go to follow Christ.
The late Thomas Sankara seems to have influenced your philosophy of life and why?
I was born in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, in 1970 and when the revolution happened which I was 13 years old and I was in my father’s hotel. What happened was that when we arrived the hotel we heard gunfire, there was shouting that there was a revolution and we heard that they had taken over the country. After that I followed him and I was a young teenager. He came to visit my family, he knew my father and he was a gentleman. Another man who was my mentor was Vincent Sigue. He was the one that removed my fear and I was able to hold that pride. He was able to conquer my fear.
Thomas Sankara was an activist for women; is that why he is your mentor?
He was activist for woman, 60 percent of his cabinet was made up of women. He abolished female circumcision and brought all the girls that were pregnant back to school. He declared compulsory education for all females. And so no one can say that Thomas Sankara did not contribute to the improvement of the country. Rwanda has followed in the footsteps of Thomas Sankara’s government, drawn inspiration from his philosophy in order to become what they are today. He believed in his country and made sure that it could survive without the West. And he was able to develop something that made Burkina Faso a self-sustaining system country without international aid.
What are the qualities you admired in him that seem to be working for you?
He was fearless, compassionate, gentle, hard, disciplined and fierce warrior.
You could be mistaken for white woman?
I am not white, although my skin is white. I was born in Burkina Faso; I was raised in Africa. I am a citizen of Africa, Burkina Faso and I am now in Nigeria for the past 24 years.
So how did you come to be living in Nigeria?
My father bought SCOA PLC and when he did, he told us that we should run it in Nigeria. So we are the custodians of SCOA.
What are your experiences of both countries?
There is something about the land of Africa; there is something special when you are talking about the people of Burkina Faso and you now encounter Nigeria. The population of Burkina Faso is not as much as that of Nigeria but there is something here that is so spectacular.
There is royalty, Nigerian blood is royal and when children in Nigeria realise that they are kings they can change their country and begin to impact their country positively. There will be total transformation and there are many leaders out there doing great things and they just have to be encouraged and I am excited to meet them every day.
So what drives me is to have the privilege of serving here in Lagos, serving in Nigeria because Nigeria has welcomed me. It has opened its doors for me, it has done so for many expatriates, many white people. We ought to respect that and work with to make it greater.
Is the Lagos State government aware that your academy is playing a vital role in taking youths off the streets?
Definitely yes. The governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, is aware of what I am doing and I am also registered with the Ministry of Culture in Lagos. So, I do believe that they are aware of what I am doing. And they are supporting because SPANFEST is now on the Lagos tourism calendar.
LAND USE ACT: MEANSTO EXPLOIT HAPLESS PUBLIC
Fettered with institutional failure, dearth of political will and inherent defects, the Land Use Act seems to have lost its salt by becoming an exploitative tool in the hand of state governors 40 years after. DA YO AYEYEMI reports.
When the Land Use Act was enacted in 1978, the intension was to remove bitter controversies that arose over title to land. It was specifically meant to assist the citizenry, irrespective of status, to realise the ambition and aspiration of owning land for housing provision within the country.
The intent, according to those in the know, was also to assist the government in the exercise of power or power to compulsorily acquire land for public purposes. However, 40 years after the enactment and operation of the Land Use Act (LUA), more Nigerians have been denied access to land, while over 17 million people are without roofs over their heads.
Some Nigerians, who shared their experiences on how LUA has denied them easy access to land for development, are calling for the repeal of the Act or its review and subsequent amendment. According to a Lagos-based developer, Sunday Afilaka, the Act has made the cost of land expensive unlike in the past, when one could buy a piece of land from either the community, an individual or from a company and register the title at the Land Registry.
“Once it is registered, it becomes a bankable document. The LUA has made land acquisition so expensive,” he said. He narrated how he acquired some hectares of land at Mowe-Ofada axis of Ogun State from family land owners and surveyed it for housing development. He was in the process of securing the Certificate of Occupancy (C-of-O), he said, when the state government came out with a new policy that all land in the axis was under acquisition, asking developers to come forward to repurchase the land from government.
This singular policy and directive, he narrated, made him abandoned the estate’s project and opted for another location in Lekki, due to high cost of regularisation from the Ogun State Government.
“Up till today the project is still there, subscribers to our estate could not develop, while people’s money are tied down,” he said Also, some of the identified challenges before the enactment of LUA, Afilaka said were still much in operations, while land acquisitions among Nigerians for housing and development purposes have become an herculean task.
Taiwo Ogunbodede had a similar experience too. Just like Afilaka, when it became obvious that Ogun State Government, under former governor Gbenga Daniel, was bent on developers to repurchase the land, he abandoned the estate and moved to Lekki, Lagos, to start a new project. Ogunbodede noted that one of the biggest problems around the Land Use Act was the process of acquiring the C-of-O from a state governor or the President in the case of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, who exercises this power through the Minister of the FCT.
As a result of the sensitivity of the document, many other developers said it had given birth to high-level corruption in the ministry that processes the C-of-O. The process of acquiring the document, they said, had suffered both political and social abuse over the years. Saturday Telegraph gathered that in 2016, the Delta State Government reduced the cost of procuring the C-of-O from N425,000 to N200,000 per plot of land.
This is not limited to Delta State alone. Other state governments also see application of LUA as a means to exploit the hapless public. Despite various criticisms that have trailed the provisions of some sections of the land law in the last four decades by built environment experts, who have been calling for its review, successive state governors have held on to the law, using it as a tool to jack up their revenue.
In Lagos State for example, and despite the huge housing deficit of over four million, the state Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, only signed 5,172 C-of- O in the last three years of his administration. Yet, the state raked in N20 billion and N10 billion in land transaction in 2016 and 2017 respectively. This may have been the reason some professionals described the LUA as a clog in the wheel of progress of development in the country.
While some have called for its review and amendment, describing the law as “obnoxious”, others are seeking its total abrogation. It would be recalled that efforts to amend the LUA in the past hit the brick wall due to the fact that it was part of the Nigerian Constitution. Late President Umaru Yar’Adua was proactive in his attempt to amend/reform the Land Use Act but he was not successful.
He failed because he realised rather too late that the Act is part of Nigeria’s statute books. Similarly, Goodluck Jonathan, during his administration, inaugurated another Land Reform Committee but all his efforts did not yield the expected results as a direct result of the inherent bottlenecks involved in amending the constitution. Experts in Nigeria have repeatedly called for the Land Use Act to be expunged from the constitution to make its amendment more realistic and less cumbersome.
They have argued that there will be no meaningful growth in the real sector if land continues to be under the firm grips of state governors. According to former President, Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP) and Association of Professional Bodies of Nigeria (APBN), Dr. Bunmi Ajayi, the LUA should be removed from the constitution to give room for its amendment.
Ajayi stated that critical parts of the law that hampered business transactions should be looked into. He mentioned that such aspects that have to do with a governor’s consent, revocation of land and compensation, have to be amended.
He said: “The LUA did not request me to take Governor’s Consent before I bought my land. It is wrong for it to now ask me to take governor’s consent before I sell or transact business with the land. Also, in the aspect of Power of Revocation, this must be removed.
The law must clearly state your offence before revocation of your land. If the law says the governor can revoke my land and does not say what my offence is, this has made nonsense of my C-of-O.”
In one of the Annual Adekumle Kukoyi Memorial Lectures organised by the Nigerian Institution of Surveying, Chief Afe Babalola, simply described some of the provisions of the LUA as “robbing Peter to pay Paul”, while calling for its review and amendment.
Taking critical look at the performance of the Act in the last 40 years, while calling for its abrogation, an estate surveyor and Principal Partner at Ubosi Eleh & Co, Chudi Ubosi, said that LUA had failed in its objectives and made land ownership and title transfer even tougher than before. According to him, continuous numerous calls from many quarters to amend the Act with plausible arguments that it has apparently failed in its objectives was an indicator as to the success of the Act.
He noted that one of the sevenpoint agenda of Yar’Adua’s short-lived government was an amendment of the Land Use Act. Ubosi said: “It is worth showing how the Act has failed in its objectives and made land ownership and title transfer even tougher.
For starters, bitter controversies and conflicts still arise or exist over title to land; the Act has definitely not made it any easier for citizens to own land.” Ubosi said these provisions in section 21-22 of the Act have resulted in a plethora of issues relating to delay in transfer of property transactions, coupled with the confusing provision that the consent of the governor should be obtained before the transaction is consummated. “Firstly, the process of obtaining the governor’s consent is expensive.
“Many states have seen it primarily as a revenue generating activity and so the total cost of that exercise is sometimes as high as 15 per cent of the deemed value of the subject property. Further, even though there have been improvements to the process in some states, it still takes a long time to obtain the consent, which significantly delays the completion of land related transactions.”
He added that the requirement to seek the governor’s consent for mortgage transactions has proven to be an impediment in the introduction of fi-nancial tools such as mortgage backed securitisation.
This requires an element of certainty in terms of the rights to the underlying securities in the mortgages to be securitised. Citing a survey carried out in 2012, he stated that the second greatest challenge facing 22 per cent of Nigerians that wanted to invest in real estate was the difficulty in obtaining titles.
“This lack of understanding of the laws and procedures surrounding real estate and real estate transactions is borne primarily out of the poor workability of the Land Use Act,” he said. According to Ubosi, data from the World Banks Ease of Doing Business 2017 indicated that regarding property registration in Nigeria, it will take an average of 77 days to achieve. 59.7 days in sub-Saharan Africa and 22.4 days in high income Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries. He added that registering properties in sub-Saharan Africa in general and Nigeria in particular was evidently tough as demonstrated by the report.
“At an average of 10.10 per cent, Nigeria is among sub-Saharan Africa countries with the highest cost of registration as a percentage of property value. The average in sub-Saharan Africa is 8.00 per cent and 4.20 per cent in high income OECD countries. “A quick scan of the report further reveals that property registration in some select countries – Nigeria ranked 182 out of 190 in 2016 and 182 in 2017, which shows there has been no appreciable improvement in the ease of registering properties in Africa’s most populous nation.”
Comparing Nigeria to other in terms of property registration, Ubosi said that in 2016, Kenya ranked 122 of 190, China 42, South Africa 100, Ghana 76, India 140, and Brazil 130. In 2017, he recalled that Kenya moved a step up to 121, China stayed at 42, South Africa went southwards to 105, Ghana came down to 77, India improved by two places to 138 and Brazil also improved by two places to 128. A cursory study of the data, he said, had indicated how much work needs to done to improve and make the regulatory framework conducive for registering property. “Yet, this is a country, based on United Nations data, has a housing deficit of over 17 million units.
To bridge this shortfall, 900,000 units must be added to the housing stock annually. But based on available data (National Bureau of Statistics) less than 100,000 are supplied,” he said. Corroborating the above speakers, another estate surveyor and Principal Partner, Kola Akomolede and Co. Chief Kola Akomolede, called on the National Assembly to take a serious look at the law and set in motion the machinery to carry out a review of the act. Besides, for easy amendment, he urged the lawmakers to remove the LUA from the constitution to make it amenable to review when the need arises.
Akomolede noted that since the promulgation of the decree, banks and other financial institutions have not been accepting bare land (no matter the size and value) as collateral for loans and advances, despite high price paid to purchase same.
He said: “This is as a result of the compensation clause which has nothing for the owner of bare land if C-of-O is revoked. This has been a source of serious problem for those who have land and will like to use it as collateral for loans either to develop the land or for other businesses.
“The value of the land can be greater than the value of the development on the land in most high end locations. It is therefore not right to ignore the value of the land and pay compensations only on the land. As private citizens, this is one more way that the Land Use Act is unfavourable towards the housing development in the country.”
Section 15 of the Act provides that during the term of a Statutory Right of Occupancy, the holder shall have the sole right to and absolute possession of all the improvements on the land. Such right and possession, Ubosi stated, only related to improvements that the holder could not transfer, assign or mortgage without the prior consent of the governor “or would lose if in breach of terms and conditions of the C-of-O,” he said.
This provision, he noted, had clearly created a problem of security of title “because it is conventional in Nigeria to grant a C-of-O for a period of 99 years. There is nothing in the Act that prevents the governor from granting an interest of a lesser period. “Section 8 of the Act only enjoins the governor to grant a right of occupancy for a definite or fixed term.
Where the right covers a short term then it amounts to economic risk to embark on massive improvements because of the atmosphere of uncertainty induced by the Section 16,” Ubosi noted. He pointed out that the LUA has also failed to curtail the activities of land speculators as one of its objectives, but said that large tracts of undeveloped lands are still not under the control of the governors of the states.
Ubosi said that land speculators had been cashing in on this seeming lapse by holding down vast land out of use until such a time as it would be very profitable to dispose on the market – a practice that hampers development in diverse ways.
He said: “Ruling family members in many communities (popularly called omo Onile) who control large traditional land engage in land profiteering. They also create undue conflicts that result in costly land litigations and in many cases, physical clashes leading to deaths and sacking of villages.
This is the situation the Act was meant to curtail but has not helped in any way. The result is that the cost of land continues to rise astronomically and land speculation has become even rifer. “The fact that all land in the state is vested in the governor of the state makes it very easy for land and title revocation (Section 28) to be used as a political weapon not minding the investments on same or the adverse consequences of such a decision on the investment climate of the country, state, economy or financial sector.
“This singular power in Sections 1 and 28 of the Land Use Act has made many financial institutions wary of accepting real estate as a collateral asset in extending facilities to their customers.”
The true and committed resolution of these issues, the estate surveyor said, must start with amendments to the Land Use Act. The amount of compensation and method of calculation of same under the Act, he also said, had left a lot to be desired. “Section 29 (4) (a) allows for an amount equal to the rent paid to the government as well as cost of improvements to the land. This negates or ignores the fact that the allottee could have acquired the land from its original allottee at a huge cost on the open market.”
The objectives of the Land Use Act have turned out to be defective in many respects. The time for a review in tune with current realities is long overdue. The Presidential Technical Committee on Land Reform, Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, that is muting National Stakeholders Dialogue on Land Reform later in the year, noted that Nigeria does not have, and has never had, a National Land Policy which should have set out the broad guidelines for land governance, land use and tenure arrangements, among others.
According to the committee, what was obtainable was a national land law, the Land Use Act, 1978, which was enacted as a military decree in 1978 to place all land in the country under state control and thus unify the land tenure system.
The committee said that the Land Use Act would clearly require advancement because of the absence of regulations necessary to deal with the issues of possessory rights, tenure security, assignment of rights, land registries, lease, devolution of interests and mortgages among other related issues.
“The Act is a federal law but it practically has no role for the Federal Government. Whereas it provided for the establishment of a Land Use Allocation Committee (LUAC) and a Land Allocation Advisory Committee (LAAC) as implementing organs in the states and local governments respectively, there is no central or national institutional arrangement for the monitoring, evaluation, research and provision of technical support and general policy guidance to the federating units on the implementation of the Act.”
The Act which was meant to provide solutions appears to have introduced new sets of problems, thus rendering the entire land governance system almost unworkable. Land Use Act as promulgated March 27, 1978 is an Act to vest all Land compromised in the territory of each state (except land vested in the federal government or its agencies) solely in the governor of the state.
They would hold such land in trust for the people and would henceforth be responsible for allocation of land in all urban areas to individuals’ resident in the state and to organisations for residential, agriculture, commercial and other purposes.
Similar powers will with respect to non-urban areas are conferred on local governments. Extracts from that provision state that “subject to the provisions of this Act, all land comprised in the territory of each state in the federation are hereby vested in the governor of that state and such land shall be held in trust and administered for the use and common benefit of all Nigerians in accordance with the provisions of this Act.
“The Land Use and Allocation Committee shall be presided over by such one of its members as may be designated by the governor and, subject to such directions as may be given in the regard by the governor, shall have power to regulate its proceedings.
“There shall also be established for each local government a body to be known as “the Land Allocation Advisory Committee” which shall consist of such persons as may be determined by the governor acting after consultation with the local government and shall have responsibility for advising the local government on any matter connected with the management of land to which paragraph (b) of subsection (1) above relates.
“Subject to such general conditions as may be specified in that behalf by the National Council of States, the governor may for the purposes of this Act by order published in the State Gazette designate the parts of the area of the territory of the State constituting land in an urban area.”
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