OGUN HOMEOWNERS CHARTER: A RUSE?
The Ogun Home Owner Charter is a scheme designed by Ogun state government to allow property owners in the state obtain requisite legal backing for their properties.
According to the Ogun State Ministry of Urban Planning, the program enables owners of properties built without government approval to regularise their title documents through a window of opportunity to obtain building plan approval and certificates of occupancy (C-of Os).
All penalties and fees would be waived while fees are discounted to enable a large percentage of residents to benefit.
By schedule, home owners are expected to make initial non-refundable deposit of N5,000, payable with the submission of the completed application form.
Application ends 31st April, 2014 barring any further extension.
There are however growing concerns about the efficacy and successful administration of the scheme.
This programme has been on for over one year.
There reports that over fifty thousand applications (50,000) have been received across the state but it is disheartening to note that only ten (10) C of Os has been issued thus far.
The understanding at the inception of this programme was that it is a fast-track, easy-to-access process but the reality on ground totally negates this notion.
Government's foot-dragging on the ratification of applicants' properties is a downer to the programme and potentially portray the whole process as a charade designed to hoodwink the masses.
One stands to be corrected though.
In this era of frequent policy somersault where duration of a policy is as durable as the lifespan of the initiating government, what assurances have we that this process will not end in dashed hopes for applicants since the tenure of this present governor ends barely a year away and there are no guarantees in political calculations.
Of course one knows that government is a continuum yet one is well aware that this is Nigeria where everything rises and falls on the "Oga at the top" and the next minute he is out of office, whatever idea however germane or novel it is, holds no water anymore.
One can now only hope against hope that the governor and his apparatus double up on the issuance of C of Os to successful applicants before the expiration of his tenure.
There are also fears (and justifiably so) that the real intent of government in floating this campaign is revenue generation.
Insinuations has it that the state government is terribly broke and barely struggling to breathe due to the overwhelming burden of debts it has incurred over a short time.
Hence the desperation to rake in funds from any available or achievable means such as extreme taxation of workers, arbitrary deductions and programme such as this.
Or how else do we explain that only a completely negligible fraction (most of whom are allegedly known party members) out of the hundreds of thousand applicants have benefited from the scheme.
The pomp and media hype with which the paltry ten C of Os are presented to the lucky beneficiaries at a time when application is about to close suggests a surreptitious approach at harrying prospective applicants to commit their funds to the uncertain scheme.
Majority of residential properties are not sited in cosmopolitan environment where chances of profiteering through mortgaging or other real estate operations expectedly thrive.
Home Owners basically use their properties primarily as their only means of shelter thus any attempt by the government to use the Home Owner Charter as a means of radically shoring up its revenue deficit will be unjust and unfair.
One major selling point being flaunted by government agents is that successful applicants stands to markedly improve the value and transferability of their properties upon regularisation of their documents.
It was indeed stated in one of their publication that: 'The value of the property will be enhanced and become more marketable as buyers can confidently buy when they know that title documentation is available; property with correct legal status and documents can be used as collateral for bank loans and other business transactions; disputes over ownership will be minimized in the event of death as heirs are sure of a valid inheritance; property related fraud and problems would be reduced, and residential areas will benefit from the state government's urban renewal policy through effective planning for facilities'.
Juxtaposing this claim however with the Land Use Decree of 1978 reveals appreciable variance with the provision of that decree.
Essentially, the claim is not as rosy as it looks as Certified properties readily attracts its own bureaucracy in terms of transfer or sale.
Worse still, it is highly doubtable if the documents obtained via this scheme are tenable as collateral for bank facilities.
Let us look closer at the Land Use Decree.
The Land Use Decree 1978 (later renamed Land Use Act) vested the right to land in the state.
The power to administer land was given to state governors.
The only right individuals have is right to lease and occupy land, a right that is signified by the certificate of occupancy issued by the governor.
Even in cases where there is no express issuance of right of occupancy, in the eyes of the law, the land is deemed to belong to the state.
For instance, those who were living on the land as at the time the Decree was promulgated are deemed to qualify for a Customary Right of Occupancy.
But probably the most significant portion of the Act, which also happens to be the most consequential for the development of a vibrant real estate market, concerns the transference of land through mortgage or assignment.
Before holders of C of O, both statutory and customary, can transfer it, the state governor has to give his consent.
This makes it difficult to attract investment in real estate, as the tedious process of acquiring the consent of the governor to acquire and sell real estate is usually frustrating and costly.
It is one's wish that government will rise up and address these concerns even as the application process winds up.
One also hope that the good people of Ogun state will be vigilant enough to ensure that government sees this policy through.
Land and property matters are traditionally very sensitive among our people thus we cannot afford a wishy-washy approach to its acquisition, administration,ratification or regularisation.
God bless Ogun State.
Written By Adénẹ́kàn John [email protected]
com witter: @leftistjohn