A NEW effort that will solve the problems surrounding lack of clearly-defined ownership of lands, unlock the potential of property owners to create wealth and enhance the development of Ogun state’s housing market is underwa.
The new scheme known as Ogun State Homeowners’ Charter Programme is being promoted by Ibikunle Amosun administration through the Ministry of Urban and Physical Planning. It allows homeowners to obtain government’s land titles, regularize and document their properties.
Under the programme, owners of eligible properties built without the required approvals, or houses that are built illegally on land belonging to Ogun State will be given a window of opportunity to obtain building plan approval, Certificates of Occupancy and other documents that will clearly establish their ownership to the properties.
With the initiative, all penalties and fines that are normally levied against those who build houses without approvals and without Certificates of Occupancy will be waived. The documentation requirements have also been relaxed, and the fees discounted so that many residents, especially those who would otherwise not be able to afford it, can benefit from the programme.
Essentially, the scheme provides for an initial deposit of N5, 000, and each property owner will have to submit documents that can be used to establish their ownership of the property. These would include land purchase agreements, deed of gift or sublease, receipts, and survey plan. “It is quite evident that without these documents, it would be extremely difficult to establish claims to ownership of properties,” according to a senior government official.
The Guardian learnt that the State’s Homeowners’ Charter staff will undertake an initial visit to the site to confirm that the property is indeed eligible for the programme, and that the information that was provided on the form is accurate. Properties that are not eligible are those that are built under Power Holding Company of Nigeria high tension cables, those occupying Right-of-way of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Pipeline, those on the ‘set-back’ of roads, water bodies and gullies, as well as those built on flood plans or areas that are committed acquisitions, or that are substandard or defective, will not be eligible for the programme.
“Once the value has been determined, a decision notice, typically a formal offer to regularise the status of the property and to obtain the documentation at a discount, is issued. The owner of the property will also receive an invoice of the final payable amount. The whole process will take eight weeks, and the property owner will have six months from the date of the notification to honour the invoice. Those who built property on land that has been acquired by the government will also be given an opportunity to purchase the land as a deeply discounted rate.”
The Guardian gathered that the new initiative will bring untold benefits to communities such as Sango, Sango-Ota, Magboro, Ifo, Ogijo, Ojodu, Alagbole, Ado Odo Ota, Oke Odan, Akute, Agbado, Agbara, and Ijoko as well as other inhabitants, mostly entrepreneurial as many of them will find it easier to use their houses to secure bank loans. Some partner banks already picked for the scheme are First Bank, FCMB, GTB, Keystone Bank, Skye Bank, Sterling Bank, Wema Bank, Lavendar Microfinance, Trust Microfinance, Gateway Savings and Loans.
“The government understands that it might be difficult for some property owners to make the full payment at once. It has therefore made it possible for those who cannot do so to pay in instalment – as long as the final payment is made by the final deadline of August 31, 2014. The government has also been able to secure the cooperation of a number of the partner banks in offering loans with two-year tenure.
“The programme can be considered as a reprieve for those who have built on government lands, or those who have built on private lands without obtaining building plan permits. People in these categories otherwise have no possibility of obtaining Certificates of Occupancy; and without this programme those living in these buildings would continue living under the uncertainty of whether or not their building will be demolished at any point. Those who take advantage of the programme will automatically be issued with Certificates of Occupancy, removing the uncertainty, and increasing their possibility to participate fully in democratic citizenship,” sources said.
It was also learnt that government surveyors and town planners will also assess the property to determine the value. Factors that will be considered are the size and the area in which it is located. The determination of the value will then determine what the process of establishing legal ownership to the property will cost the owner. For instance, the typical family bungalow, which consists of four bedrooms on a single plot of land, will incur only N95,000, compared to the normal price of N430,000. That is a discount of 78 per cent.
According to sources, “anybody who chooses to participate in the programme automatically has their status as the owner of their property confirmed. Once the legal ownership of the property is confirmed, they become recognised as assets that can be used as collateral for bank loans and other business transactions. There is probably no need to underscore the fact that the reason many businesspersons are unable to expand their businesses is the lack of recognised and acceptable collateral for loans. Such problems cease to exist for those who participate in this programme – at least to the tune of the amount of loan their property can secure.
“Probably the most problematic issue for those thinking about their future and what they leave behind for their children is the issue of transference of inheritance to heirs. The occasions of dispute at ones demise between (members of) families and the heirs of property owners reduces drastically, as ownership of properties are clearly stated and confirmed by a Certificate of Occupancy issued by the government, and in government records. By extension, property frauds by so-called Omoniles and Ajagungbales will also be significantly reduced.
“Also, the act of having the properties in an area properly documented drastically increases the benefits derived from the Government’s urban renewal policy, since the allocation of educational, health care, and other essential amenities become easy to do. In general, this is a programme whose broad-based adoption promises to improve trust levels and greatly reduce the potential for conflict.”