If you pay money to an individual in exchange for a parcel of land but that individual fails to deliver that property to you, you accuse the individual of defrauding you and take legal action. But what happens when you pay money to a government, get the certificate of occupancy but no land is given to you? That is the dilemma facing many of us over our experience with the Lagos State Government.
Since around 2006 when the current President, Bola Tinubu, was governor of Lagos State, hundreds of individuals (or even thousands) have been waiting to have access to the plot of land allocated to them by Lagos State in the GRA Igbogbo Scheme in the Ikorodu area. Full payments were made through banks, receipts received, allocations made. I am one of the unfortunate people. In my own case I even got a certificate of occupancy signed by the former state governor, Mr Babatunde Fashola, who later became a federal minister under the administration of Muhammadu Buhari.
Unfortunately, like hundreds of others who made payments and got allocations, I don’t have access to the land; I don’t have my money back; I don’t have a replacement; I don’t even have any concrete piece of information from the Lagos State Government. To make matters worse, I even continue to lose money through calls and visits to the Lagos State Lands Bureau where I have been getting the same message in the past 17 years: “Maybe next month.”
How did I get into this sad situation? Because of all the stories of harassment and loss of investment to omonile, land grabbers and fraudsters masquerading as land owners or agents, I was always afraid of purchasing land in Lagos State from individuals. Not wanting to lose the scarce resources I had saved, I wanted to procure land through a channel that was organised. Beyond the risk of loss of money, I was also not eager to build in a place where all kinds of people would continually harass me during construction of any property.
In 2005 the Nigerian Union of Journalists, Lagos chapter, was planning to create another journalists’ estate after the first one in Ogun State along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. Having missed the first one because I was not aware of it, I was keen to be part of that scheme.
I made enquiries from Mr Habib Aruna, Chairman of the NUJ chapter of Independent Newspapers, publishers of Daily Independent, where I was working then. He convinced me that the NUJ of Independent Newspapers had plans for a better land scheme in Magboro, Ogun State, by the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. Therefore, I bought into the scheme by my local chapter.
That project was poorly and carelessly handled by those in charge of the scheme and I lost the money I paid in full to the NUJ of Independent Newspapers. In addition, I also lost the money I was directed by the NUJ chapter to give to the so-called engineer in charge of that scheme to erect a low fence on my allotted plot of the land.
In 2006 during a discussion with a friend, he explained that he got a plot of land through the Lagos State Lands Bureau. I was surprised. He told me to go there and check for the available schemes and choose the one I preferred and was within my budget. He even gave me the contact number of a scheme officer to direct me.
I went there and saw some schemes that were being allocated. I settled for the GRA Igbogbo Scheme near Ikorodu. Even though I never liked the traffic problem to and from Ikorodu, I told myself that it would not be a bad investment idea to own a plot of land there, as one never knew what the future held for Ikorodu. Even if one would not live there, one could build on it and rent it out.
Therefore, I bought the form and applied for the scheme. Not long after, I received a letter of approval and allocation. It contained a list of four payments to make into different Lagos State bank accounts for registration and conveyancing fees; capital contribution; survey fees; and land charges. I made the payments and went back to the banks on several occasions before getting the receipts, copies of which I submitted to the Lands Bureau. Shortly after, I got a letter of confirmation of my block and plot allocation in the phase one of the scheme.
- Woman attempts stealing baby from Lagos hospital
- Lagos moves to reclaim disputed property
- LASUBEB monitors school placement test
It sounded too good to be true. I could not keep the news to myself, so I shared the good news with everyone around me. Some who heard the news and even saw my letter of land allocation and receipts also applied and got their own allocations.
We were told that the area had not been cleared and charted, so we could not see our plots of land yet or take possession. But we began to process the certificate of occupancy after the necessary documents, including tax receipts, were submitted.
In due course, the certificate of occupancy, duly signed by the governor, emerged and I filed it joyfully. Yet I had not taken possession of the land nor even seen it. Eventually, we were told that some people had encroached on the area and were threatening anybody who came close to that area. We were assured that the Lagos State Government was sorting it out. We were told that being a lawyer and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Fashola wanted to use the legal means to get the encroachers off the land. Therefore, we waited. Interestingly, the land bureau continued to collect people’s money and assign land to them on paper.
All those who applied after me were not as lucky as I was to get their CofO, as their portion of the land had not been surveyed like ours, even though they had paid the survey fees. But they were assured that they had nothing to fear, given that they had paid fully and had their receipts.
Surprisingly, the wait that was thought to last for a year or two dragged on all through the eight years of Fashola’s two terms, after one year of Tinubu’s tenure as governor. We had great hopes that Fashola would bring it to a close before leaving office in 2015 but that did not happen.
The coming of Mr Akinwunmi Ambode as governor of Lagos State in 2015 raised our hopes again. After his four years in office, we saw that our wait yielded no results. However, the worrying news that filtered into our ears was that those who were “well connected” were getting their issue resolved behind the scene. But the scheme officers denied such allegations.
Coincidentally, the same Mr Habib Aruna, who was my colleague at Independent Newspapers, and was in charge of that land project that was stillborn, became the Chief Press Secretary of Ambode. In addition, the permanent secretary of Lagos State Lands Bureau when we made the application, Mr Gbenga Ashafa, became my senator in Lagos East. We assumed that they would resolve the issue, but that didn’t happen.
For being the person who influenced some of my friends to apply for the Lagos State land, I feel a sense of guilt that I was the one who led them into this cul-de-sac, even though I meant well for them. 17 years is a long time. A piece of land bought 17 years ago in Lagos would have risen in value by at least ten times.
In 2019, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu became the governor of Lagos State. We have waited to no avail for over four years to see if he will resolve the problem. Now that his mandate has been renewed for another four years, we are still hopeful that he will do justice to the matter; for it does not sound well in the ears for people to be whispering that, like the notorious Lagos omonile, the Lagos State Government cannot be trusted on land matters.
Supervisors, invigilators selling WAEC questions online arrested, on trial – WAEC boss, Areghan
Most Nigerian leaders’ knowledge of development shallow – Obasanjo
Nigeria has disappointed Africa, world — Obasanjo
Ghana’s ex-minister arrested after housekeepers stole over $1m from home
Adamawa: Binani wants tribunal to decide petition before ex-REC’s prosecution
Subsidy: Kwara gov approves N10,000 monthly palliative for workers
FG to fine PoS operators N1m for illegal pricing
Why I defamed Eniola Badmus for N200,000 – TikTok user