By AKHIGBE Dominic M
THUR, DECEMBER 15 2016-Not long ago, I dealt extensively with the subject of land Documentation. I covered a wide spectrum of the general requirements for land acquisition, protection, what to consider in acquiring personal, traditional and government lands. This topic attracted large responses from my extensive readers, opinion holders in the Real Estate industry and decision makers in the subsector. To me; I was done with land acquisition and documentation deal, Alas; this is not to be.
While I was away on a brief vacation; those who were able to connect with me on social media and other chat media wouldn’t let the matter rest. It was questions and more questions.
At some point; I paused, did a sober reflection of these agitations for more insights into the very contemptuous matter of Ratification & Regularization. I came to the conclusion that it’s necessary to take a look at this more specifically.
As a welcome back pack; I have decided to do an x-ray on this. In this edition and possibly the next, we will be examining this very ravenous term that has been sometimes misused by some very unscrupulous land vendors who have reaped off innocent land buyers who have no faintest idea of how this works.
Land is a fixed factor. Its importance in Housing provision cannot be underestimated. In fact, Land is the very foundation for Housing development. The absence of it is the very foundation for Housing deficit. It is therefore not strange that from time to time, Governments all over reserve some portions of lands for either immediate or remote use. When Government decides to keep some lands for personal use; we describe such portions as Government Acquired Areas or simply as ‘Acquisition’. Such slang is a clear warning that such lands should be distant from.
However, over time; innocent buyers have found themselves entangled with the imbroglio of getting involved with such lands either carelessly or through no faults of theirs. The notorious ‘Omonile’ have also played major roles in getting citizens entangled with such lands through purchase. These set of persons who have almost become a government to themselves mostly in the South-western parts of the Nigeria state descend on these lands, lay claim to them and sell to unsuspecting buyers who sooner than later discover that they have been scammed by these despicable elements.
Over the time; the various state governments have created escape routes for such unsuspecting Nigerians to regularize their ownership of such lands. Though this action by itself does not come cheap; it is far better than having such persons lose their hard earned investments. It is important to state here that not all such lands can be Regularized.
The El-Rufia tsunami in the Federal Capital Territory is a good case for mention when it comes to such sad examples of lands that cannot be Ratified or Regularized as it is more aptly described now. A great number of Nigerians lost valuable landed properties to the Abuja demolition exercises that lasted for the better parts of the Nasir El-Rufai administration as the Federal Capital Territory Minister during the Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration.
Though the greater part of that reclamation exercise was said to have been carried out in bad faith; the obvious fact is that people lost so much investments through this exercise that some of them are still counting their loses years later. Regularization enables the innocent Nigerians or buyers of encumbered lands heave a sigh of relief. It allows them to scoop back part of their spilled funds.
Over the years, it is becoming more challenging to achieve Regularization as the various state governments are beginning to have more and more use for lands. This is even more pronounced in basically strategic areas. A state in the South-western part of the country is almost outlawing Regularization. This calls for more vigilance on the part of the unsuspecting public. There are portions of lands in the state that are declared RED and are out of Ratification quest. Those itching to acquire lands in these portions and have been deceived to believe that acquisition can be achieved should watch it before they are scammed.
There is need to do very meticulous checks before venturing into land purchase in this axis. The call for cautious optimism is seriously advised. It is however important to mention some of the circumstances that will make Regularization impossible among other political reasons:
>When such structural developments violate Regional and Urban Development Planning.
>When such lands have been assigned for specific communal development such as Schools, Hospitals, Stadia, Parks, Lands lying on Pipelines, Lands, Drainages etc.
Every Urban development has a lay-out and a planned developmental pattern. This captured in a general land lay-out by the government of the day. When such plans are altered by illegal structural developments; such governments are usually resolute in enforcing such violations. It follows therefore that such government will ensure such Regularizations don’t fly. The notorious ‘omonile’ would dare anything. They would assure you of Regularization. Some will start to reel out a list of similarly acquired lands that they have successfully ratified. The truth is; caution must not been thrown to the wind. Once these lands are committed, they will not be regularized. Your investment would be filter away and you will watch it go down the drain.
A major developer whose ways with his numerous clients is currently grappling with this challenge now. Sometimes in 2013; the company negotiated and acquired vast land from a number of families who claimed to be the traditional owners of a vast land somewhere off Lagos-Ibadan Expressway of Ogun State. Since the Managing Director has been known to be notorious for his refusal to pay for qualitative professional services, everyone he approached to help carry out due diligence on the land declined. In the frustration, he went on a blind date and committed over thirty-five million on a vast virgin land lying in the vicinity of the Lagod-Shagamu Interchange which is under Reserve by the Ogun State Government. Sooner, he did a co-ordinate survey and a layout and started to sell to unsuspecting buyers. As if his errors were not grave enough, he picked up a Deed of Conveyance that was issued to him on a land he bought on the Island of Lagos state, doctored it and started issuing it to the various buyers. Unknown to him, the same Deed of Conveyance which was prepared by a qualified property lawyer then, taking into consideration the peculiarity of the land character in Lagos state, had built in certain protective clauses to indemnify him against eventual adverse claims against the sellers. Since he does not have the expertise, he left that portion untouched while doctoring the document.
At that point, those buyers whose portions have been recovered by the Authorities now have handed their Deed of Conveyance to their various Counsels who are daily bombarding him with notices demanding him to comply with those provisions of indemnifying the buyers in line with the provisions in the document he issued out. It is now dawn on him that it is every day for the thief and one day for the owner. He, as the arrow head of the company is now running from pillar to post sourcing for help where none seems coming.
Regularization is a window of respite to those whose lands, though acquired, have not been earmarked for strategic developmental projects. Where such have been assigned, Regularization becomes a mirage and whatever structures put on such lands are living on borrowed times.
AKHIGBE Esq is CEO, Property Logic Incorporated/Business coach & Seminar speaker/expert in business and property law. Email:Propertylogic.email@example.com/www.propertylogicincorporated.com: Tel: 2348034846284