- Residents allege ‘rip-off’
- We’ll clear backlog by December 2016 – Govt
Residents of Magboro, Arepo, Mowe and Ijoko areas of Ogun State, among others, have called for a probe of Governor Ibikunle Amosun’s 2013 Home Owner Charter initiative over what they described as a ‘rip-off’ by the state government.
The Point investigations revealed that the development is not unconnected with the inability of the government to deliver their Certificates of Occupancy within a year as promised by the governor at the launch of the initiative.
It is made worse against the backdrop of residents’ complaints that goverment’s promise of using proceeds made from the exercise to provide basic amenities across suburbs in the state had also not been fulfilled.
The state was alleged to have issued less than 10,000 C of O out of over 200,000 that are still pending, two years after the applicants had paid for the legal documents.
Critics argued that the state government was expected to have issued about 70 per cent of the documents or more to the applicants a year after the exercise was concluded.
Some of the aggrieved residents told our correspondent that they had written several letters to the ministry of urban and physical planning and the office of the state governor, demanding explanation for the delay in issuing the documents.
They expressed fears that if the issuance of the documents continued to be delayed, the situation that played out with a similar scheme under the immediate past administration of Otunba Gbenga Daniel, where only a mere 10 per cent of documents were signed and issued to homeowners in eight years, may re-occur. This is in spite of the fact that the then government received full payment for all documents it failed to issue.
A resident of Oyeleke Community Development Association, a suburb in Akute, Mr. Israel Akinjiyan, told The Point that he was disappointed with the way the government handled the entire scheme as it seemed to have taken the processing of the documents with levity.
He alleged that the state government had no intention of awarding the documents to at least 70 per cent of the applicants but used the scheme to fleece residents across the state.
“The exercise is a scam and should be probed. Most of the funds were actually raised to fund his last election. This administration is filled with deceits and my community has lost confidence in it. I was among the first set of people to apply for the home owner charter and the governor promised to issue the documents within a year shortly before the elections,” he said.
Contrary to claims of the state government that the proceeds made from the exercise would be used to provide basic amenities across suburbs in the state, the accountant said the administration had also faltered in this regards.
“The administration is not straight forward in its operations. The construction of bridges and roads it started across Akute and Agbado station have been abandon for close to two years and they are fast becoming death traps for road users. Expenses incurred on our car maintenance had risen by over 100 per cent because the roads are now worse than what it used to be,” he lamented.
He added that the scheme was another political gimmick used by the government to lure residents to subscribe to the exercise and divert the funds. “I was billed N800, 000 for my four flats of three bedroom building, I paid N250,000 because of tax compliance. “
HOMEOWNERS RECOUNT ORDEALS
Another property owner in Magboro, Mr Adeniyi Ajibade narrated how he got his fingers burnt several times while trying to obtain legal documents for his property. Ajibade did not only subscribed to the exercise but also mobilised some of his friends to regularise their building documents in the different schemes introduced by previous and present administrations.
Having concluded the application process for his building and survey plans within two months, like Akinjiyan, he thought his documents would be among the first batch to be released by the state government by the fourth quarter of 2014. But to his dismay, the electrical engineer has been waiting endlessly for about two years.
“During the immediate past administration, I and 10 of my friends in the community paid about N500, 000 each or more to the government to regularise our title documents but the present administration cancelled the exercise and introduced the OHOC. I mobilised my friends again to apply for the documents because the present administration started by constructing roads and drainage in Magboro and each of us paid an average of N450, 000. Today, we have not collected the documents and government has abandoned the road project in the community for about two years now. This government does not have the welfare of the people at heart,” he disclosed.
Though, the deadline for the exercise had elapsed since August 2014, a property owner in Sango Ota, another community in the state, Mr. Ebenezer Owoyemi revealed that he obtained the form last month (June). According to him, a staff in the Ministry of Urban and Physical Planning assisted him to purchase the form, which he paid N30, 000 for, as against the official N15, 000 fee.
When he enquired if the form will be treated along with the 200,000 applications approved by the state government, he was told not to bother about, that it will be sorted out. “To my surprise, another official called me before the end of the month that they were coming for inspection, which they did after collecting a tip of another N15,000,” he revealed.
A staff of the ministry, who pleaded anonymity, also confirmed that some of his colleagues still sell the application forms to interested property owners and even to some, who did not meet some requirements of the scheme. “Some of them inspected and captioned another person’s building and registered it in the applicant’s name because the former had not completed the building or have not lived in it for six months as stipulated by the requirement,” he disclosed.
OWNERSHIP VS OCCUPANCY
Other controversy that trails the scheme is the title on the legal documents issued by the state government. While some of the property owners, who had collected their documents claimed that the title on them are Certificate of Ownership and not Certificate of Occupancy or Governor’s consent as recognised by the law, others insist theirs read Certificate of Occupancy.
“When I saw certificate of ownership, it didn’t occur to me that it is different from occupancy. It was a cousin that made the observation and I lodged a complaint at the ministry but to no avail. An official of the ministry told me to come back later that it was an error but that has not been done till now,” Mr. Micheal Okofu, one of the first batch of property owners to collect their documents, revealed.
AMOSUN MADE FORTUNES FROM THE INITIATIVE
Findings by The Point showed that of about seven million properties targeted in Arepo, Magboro, Ibafo, Asese, Mowe, Sango areas of the state, about 300,000 homeowners participated in the exercise and that 200,000 of them were approved by the government.
Each homeowner was required to pay N15, 000 to obtain the form. The final bill depended on the size of the property and the location. However, a four-bedroom bungalow on a single plot of land attracted N95, 000, totaling N110, 000 instead of the normal price of N430,000 or more. If 200,000 of the property owners in the areas listed above participated in the scheme, the state government would have boosted its Internally Generated Revenue by an average of N22 billion or more, as proceeds from the initiative from those areas.
Surveyors and industry watchers have warned applicants and potential applicants to look at every document handed to them by the state government as they observed discrepancies and illegalities surrounding the issuance of the C of Os under the home owners’ charter.
A practicing surveyor in the state, Mr. Seun Banjo, told The Point that a group of professionals had sued the government to court over what they referred to as “discrepancies and illegalities” surrounding the issuance of C of Os under the Home Owners scheme.
According to him, the aggrieved professionals had started a legal proceeding against Ogun State Government, which is pending for hearing at a Federal High Court, Abeokuta.
“The sketch plans under the Charter do not have the particulars of any registered surveyor and are only endorsed with the scanned signature of Surveyor-General of the State and that is contrary to the law of survey plan in Nigeria,” he said.
Like Banjo, managing director, Kunle Eludire & Co, Mr. Kunle Eludire, an estate surveyor and valuer, blamed the Amosun-led administration for the delay in handing over the documents to the applicants.
“The government attracted people to the exercise by offering 78 per cent discount on processing fees and a promise of delivering the documents within a year. The first batch got their C of O seven months after payment. I don’t understand why this is delayed,” he said.
As the group of surveyors’ frowned at what they described as illegalities surrounding the documents, the Nigerian Institution of Surveyors also picked holes in the home owner charter.
The body argued that the Surveyor- General of the state has no power to disregard the relevant laws and regulation governing the practice of land survey in Nigeria. The body insisted that it would contest the various non-compliance with the relevant laws and regulations governing the practice of land in Nigeria and render the survey plans under the charter null and void and liable to be set aside by the court.
“Every plan in Nigeria, including Ogun State, is required by law to be endorsed with the name, date of execution, live signature and seal of the registered surveyor that carried out the survey exercise in the case of a private parcel. And name, designation of the survey officer who carried out the site work, the date of such work and live counter signature of the surveyor general and the date of such signature to be endorsed in the case of government layout,” NIS said.
BACKLOG WILL BE TREATED BY DECEMBER 2016
However, the Commissioner for Urban and Physical Planning, Chief Adebola Adeife refuted the allegations of scam by applicants. He told The Point that Governor Amosun has directed his ministry to treat the backlog of C of O on or before the end of December 2016.
Contrary to the allegation that the state had issued only 10,000 C of O to homeowners, the commissioner disclosed that it has issued about 26,000 documents to applicants and that the governor had instructed the ministry to ensure it issues 3,000 C of O to property owners every month starting from July in order to meet up with the December deadline.
Adeife attributed the delay of the documents to the unavailability of the applicants as they are fond of rescheduling their property capturing appointments.
To him, this is responsible for majority of the problems hampering the speedy process of their applications.
“With the governor’s mandate, we would deliver on or before December 2016. My house and my mother’s house are also affected and that means nobody from the government’s end is intentionally causing any delay.
“Most of the houses in Magboro and Akute are under acquisition because they are built on government lands. Instead of demolishing them, the Amosunled administration has decided to ask them to pay a token and get their property documents. That is because the government cares for the people and promised to ensure it has a proper layout in order to provide basic amenities to residents in the areas,” the commissioner added.
To boost its IGR, the state government through the ministry of urban and physical planning, offered the irresistible discount rate to attract millions of homeowners in the state.
The Point gathered that majority of the properties in the state are either built on government acquired land or do not have required documents.
Meanwhile, Adeife, explained that the documentation will confirm the true status of property owners, enabling them to enjoy significant discount and in the process obtain proper legal titles – C-of-O, Deed of Sublease – and building plan approval.
“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 disputes over ownership will be minimised in the event of death as heirs are sure of a valid inheritance; propertyrelated fraud and problems will be reduced; and residential areas will benefit from the state government’s urban renewal policy through effective planning for facilities,” he assured.