The rising demand for housing in Nigeria in general, and the federal capital city, Abuja, in particular, has placed a high premium on land as a key component in the house production process.
Experts in the housing and construction sectors have said Nigeria currently has a 28 million housing deficit, with Abuja accounting for 10 per cent of the deficit with the country’s rapid population growth and uncontrollable urbanisation sustaining the gap.
Thus, the demand for housing has translated into unhealthy competition among estate developers, cooperatives, and individuals to acquire land for various housing developments.
This scramble for one of the most valuable natural resources in the FCT has given rise to what is known as land racketeering-fraudulent activities involved in land acquisition process.
At least seven alleged land fraudsters were arrested in March at two separate sites in Guzape II by authorities of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCT).
But stakeholders in the built environment have outlined steps to take in order to avoid falling victim to land racketeers.
According to the Housing Development Advocacy Network (HDAN) Executive Director, Barr Festus Adebayo, when purchasing land in Abuja, there are five key documents to request before paying.
He said, “If you want to buy a plot from an estate developer, ask for the following and confirm them: Title document/allocation letter confirming that the seller/developer is the genuine owner.
“Two, survey plan/Technical Drawing Plan (TDP) showing the perimeter and survey data of the estate plot.
“Three, approved detail site development plan by urban and regional planning department and approved layout plan of the estate as well as the approved prototype house design for your house.”
Adebayo also advised the buyer to obtain a copy of the layout plan showing his or her plot location.
“Once these documents are made available to you, get an independent professional, for example, a surveyor or town planner, to verify these documents and ensure they are genuine and legitimate.
“Also, physically visit the site; read the agreement, and also the allocation letter terms and conditions before you start payment,” he added.
Meanwhile, the president of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers, Mr, Johnbull Amayaevbo, has said the cumbersome procedure in obtaining title documents, especially certificates of occupancy or governors’ consent, has aided land grabbing, racketeering, and other unscrupulous activities affecting land administration.
Amayaevbo, who stated this at the maiden award ceremony of the institution held in Abuja on Thursday night, called for the repeal of The Land Use Act and its removal from the constitution to allow for a speedy review.
He said the housing sector was in dire need of reforms in order to surmount the many challenges affecting it and improve its provision, delivery, infrastructure and social services.
The president maintained that the circumstances and factors that justified the enactment of the Land Use Act of 1978 have changed over the last 45 years, so its review is imminent in light of the current situation.
He added that the act has hampered developmental efforts by private investors in the sector.
“We would continue to be vocal in our call for the review of the Land Use Act which clearly inhibits housing provision. As a first step to achieving this, we are proposing that the Act should be removed from the constitution to allow for a speedy review.
“In the dynamic and rapidly changing world, we live in, the factors and circumstances which warranted the enactment of the Land Use Act of 1978 about 45 years ago have changed, hence the need for its review in line with the present realities.
“One of the areas of concern is the cumbersome procedure in obtaining a certificate of occupancy or governor’s consent, a necessary approval before exercising one’s statutory right of occupancy on the land.
“This has not only hampered developmental efforts by private investors but has given room for sharp and unscrupulous practices such as land grabbing, racketeering and housing scams,” he said.
The relevant agencies in charge of land administration in the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) last month arrested seven estate developers over illegal development and land grabbing in Guzape II, an upcoming district in Abuja, FCT.
The suspects were reportedly arrested at two sites and taken to the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) Mobile Court in Area 3 for prosecution on charges bordering on land degradation as they were caught doing earthworks on the sites.
Daily Trust gathered that the departments of Development Control, Urban and Regional Planning, Land Administration, and Abuja Geographical Information System (AGIS) carried out the raid in response to alarms raised on rising incidents of land racketeering in the FCT.
The Executive Secretary, Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA), Engr. Shehu Hadi Ahmed, during the raid, condemned the increasing cases of land fraud, saying, the agencies were tipped off by contractors handling ongoing infrastructure works in the district.
Represented by the Director, Survey and Mapping, Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA), Bashir Mahmood, disclosed that the sites were within the Guzape II layout, which had already been duly allocated to the rightful owners by the FCT Minister, Malam Muhammad Musa Bello.
Mahmood said, “They don’t have any layout to build on, so they are even more than land grabbers, because how can you go and start developing a place that was not given to you?
“And there is infrastructure going on there since two years ago, and the contractors are complaining about the illegal activities there, which development control needed to go and do verification.”
The Director, Development Control Department, Mukhtar Galadima, stressed that building without approval is illegal according to the FCT Act of 1976 and Nigeria Urban and Regional Planning Law.
He added that the suspects were caught in possession of a layout purported to be from AMAC showing Kpegyi which is located along Karshi-Jikwoyi road.
“We are prosecuting them before the AEPB Mobile Court for offences bordering on land and environmental degradation for claiming and developing what is not theirs,” he stressed.
The Director, FCT Land Administration, Adamu Hussaini, called on the public to ensure that whatever they do on any land, they should do due diligence about the land documents, and avoid falling prey to people advertising land on social media.