Lagos, Kano ahead on ease of land acquisition in Nigerian cities

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Lagos and Kano are leading the 34 other states of Nigeria and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja on ease of registering land with their respective states’ land bureaus, a BusinessDay survey has revealed.

According to the survey, the ease and speed of land registration in Lagos are such that it takes just 30 days for an applicant who has met the necessary requirements, including payment of all relevant fees, to pick up his/her Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) from the government. In Kano, it takes an applicant six weeks to complete the same transaction.

In Lagos, the processing of a C of O could even be concluded in less than one month from the day an applicant for state-owned land sends in his application. In the state (Lagos), it takes about five days from the time the application is received for an officer in charge of any government scheme applied for to process the application and create a file for the applicant. It then takes another two days for the executive secretary in the state Lands Bureau to sign off the processed application, and two additional days are required for the senior special assistant to the state governor on land to vet the file/application and forward it with a covering memo to the permanent secretary, Lands Bureau, who looks into the file within two days, ensuring that it is free of complicity, and forwards same to the governor.

Within two days also, the governor signs the file and sends it to the Lands Registry for further processing. The file/application is made available to the Commissioner for Stamp Duty to stamp the C of O within another one day. The Registry thereafter registers the C of O and requests the printing unit to print it within five days. This brings the processing period to about 24 days.

For non-state land (private C of O), the same procedure applies, except that there is no specified timeframe attached within which processing is to be accomplished. An applicant for private C of O, that is land bought from the community or native land owners (Omoniles), is expected to submit his/her application with relevant documents of transactions.

Rates and charges within the state vary from location to location, depending on the status of the area. In line with this, what a property/land owner in Victoria Island, Ikoyi and the Lekki schemes pays as rate is different from what a property/land owner in Ikotun, Agege, Epe, Surulere, Ikeja, Maryland and Ilupeju pays.

For purposes of assessment and determination of fees on any landed property in the state, rates applicable in the location of the property are multiplied by the total land size to arrive at the assessment. In every case, the charges payable are as follows: Consent Fee, 8 percent; Capital Gains Tax, 2 percent; Stamp Duty, 2 percent; Registration Fee, 3 percent, bringing the total to 15 percent of the assessment.

Mortgages attract 0.2 percent of the loan, while gifts and transfers to non-profit making bodies and religious organisations attract 5 percent Consent Fee.

In Kano, the state government has modernised and improved acquisition processes with the introduction of technology-driven initiatives, leading to a reduction in the previously high level of corruption and costs which characterised the system before now.

According to Muhammad Nadu Yahaya, the state commissioner for Land and Physical Planning, the state government has simplified and reduced the time it takes to access land and the result is the increase in registered land titles to almost 1 million, up from about 250,000 in the past two years.

Oyo State concludes land registration leading to obtaining of a C of O in 90 days and, according to our survey, registering a mortgage takes two weeks; sublease two weeks; Deed of Assignment one week, and Registration Deeds two weeks. In terms of cost of registration, before 2012, it cost N100,000 to register land there, but now it costs N250,000 per plot, which is a 75-percent increase.

In Akwa Ibom, our survey reveals a long and tedious process that is also costly. It was further learnt that while the application for the issuance of C of O is expected to take between one and two weeks, this is not usually the case, as many of those who applied more than three years ago are yet to be given the required documents.

In Enugu State, the process is also long, tainted and costly. It is more of a cash-and-carry transaction and the amount paid depends on the size of the land and also on the value attached to the applicant. Unofficial payments for ‘moving an applicant’s file’ from one table to another range from N10,000 to N40,000. For instance, to get a survey plan, an applicant has to pay N60,000, but if he/she cannot wait for the general survey plan to be carried out, he will be charged extra.

The Abuja Geographic Information System (AGIS) established by Nasir El-Rufai’s administration in the FCT has reduced the time and improved on the process but not the cost of acquiring land in Abuja. Our survey reveals that the establishment of this system has saved the FCT administration about N10 billion which was lost to land racketeering and fraud that are today things of the past. The cost of registering land there is still prohibitive and an unofficial source has it that it takes as much as 15-percent of the value of the land.

In Ogun State, there has been a significant increase in the speed, little improvement in the process, but no known or visible reduction in the cost of registering land by the state’s Land and Survey Bureau, despite the advantage it enjoys for its proximity with Lagos. The state’s e-platform approach speeds up land acquisition and documentation, making the whole process transparent. Information on the cost of registering land in the state is unclear, except that for industrial purposes, varied discounts are given to investors according to the governor’s discretion.

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