Acquiring landed property and owning buildings as assets are aspirations for many Nigerians, but the processes associated with property and permits were daunting, to say the least. Today, the narrative is changing with PEBEC’s interventions in this sector.
By Eseosa Ekhaguere
Real Estate is considered to be the largest component of wealth in most countries. It has been estimated that it represents approximately half of the world’s economic wealth. It also regarded as an important symbol of strength, stability and independence.
Hospitals, schools, houses, offices, roads, airports, etc. all have a significant role in affecting the lives of individuals and firms. People live in houses, they are born in hospitals, attend schools and work in offices.
Business firms need space for their factories and offices, as well as road infrastructure to convey their raw materials and finished goods. Construction and infrastructure development is a significant aspect of any nation’s economy.
Unfortunately, housing delivery in Nigeria has been quite challenging due to delays in securing construction permits and the high cost of registering property. A lack of transparency about what these processes really entail further compounds issues.
According to World Bank estimates, the housing deficit in Nigeria is about 17 million units and the country will need to produce an average of 720,000 housing units annually over the next 20 years to be able to reduce the housing gap.
To get this done, regulatory reforms need to be introduced and implemented to serve as an incentive for investors in that sector.
The Nigerian government through the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC), has made positive progress in reducing the delays and bureaucracy associated with securing construction permits as well as registering property in Kano and Lagos States.
The World Bank in its 2019 Doing Business Report identified transparency as a key element in the quality of land administration systems, as “it helps eliminate asymmetries of information between users and officials, and increases the efficiency of the land market”.
According to the DBI report, “A transparent land administration system – one in which all land-related information is publicly available, all procedures and property transactions are clear, and information on fees for public services is easy to access – minimizes the possibilities for informal payments and abuses of the system”.
Lagos State enjoys an enviable status as the commercial capital of Nigeria, and the demand for property for both residential and commercial purposes remains high due to an ever-expanding population.
The need to ensure sustainable housing delivery cannot be overemphasised. PEBEC, alongside the Lagos State Government, has made progress in now ensuring that payment for property registration can now be done online with accurate information about the processes also available.
Deed stamping is now done internally within the Land Bureau to reduce bureaucracy and delays, and in line with the ‘One Government’ mandate of the Executive Order 001, flexibility in the provision of valid identification has been implemented with the acceptance of the National ID Card.
In addition to this, on the website, there are regular updates of land disputes and list of properties with court cases for public information and knowledge.
Other positive changes that stakeholders have attested to include the fact that demand notices are now be sent by email; and the the consolidation of charting fees, endorsement fees, stamp duty, registration fee, consent fee, neighborhood improvement charge etc. into one single payment.
While in the past, it took 105 days to register property , this has now been reduced to approximately 76 days.
Similarly, the number of procedures to register property was once 12 but is now 8 – a testament to the effectiveness of the reforms.
Kano State, in collaboration with PEBEC, has made significant steps in improving the process of property registration as well.
Now, Government’s Consent for property can be issued from the office of the Executive Governor rather than from the office of the Honourable Attorney General – a reform which has reduced consent issuance from 30 days to 7 days.
Other reforms include the introduction of a Unique File Identification number for tracking client files by the Office of the State Surveyor General (OSSG) and Lands Bureau; as well as online access to information on the schedule of fees and requirement.
There’s now a computerized record management and introduction of the Systematic Land Title Registration (SLTR), introduction of online payment of fees for title registration as well as a single database for information sharing between the Land Bureau and OSSG.
Over 80% of the state has been digitally mapped for ease of title searches and land disputes are now handled by an independent body as required by international best practice – the Kano State Public Complaint and Anti-Corruption Commission.
Getting Construction Permits
Dealing with construction permits has also been addressed by PEBEC and the Lagos State Government. One of the main challenges for developers in the state in the past was construction permit processing, but a lot of improvements have taken place where this is concerned over the last 3 years – particularly in the area of reduction in process turnaround times and processing costs.
PEBEC’s work with the state government has resulted in the removal of infrastructure development charge for 2-floor warehouse construction permit applications, elimination of the requirement for a certified true copy of title documents in the construction permit application process, and the removal of soil investigation report to be submitted in construction permit applications.
Similar changes have also taken place in Kano. Reforms that are now effective include improving the water connection timeline to 7 days from time of payment; reducing the cost of connection to a third of the former cost; cancellation of physical inspection before issuance of Certificate of Habitation; and submission of application and payment for building plan approval at Kano Urban Planning and Development Authority now done online.
Building plan approvals are also now processed within 14 days and private professional firms now carry out inspections before, during, and after construction, eliminating the need for a final inspection by the Kano Urban Planning and Development.
According to the World Bank, construction regulation is an important consideration for entrepreneurs when deciding where to establish their business.
The improvements delivered by these PEBEC reforms have indeed resulted in marked improvements in the implementing states.
Our hope is that the work is sustained and replicated across the rest of the country, as it will no doubt drive the enterprise we seek to ensure our economy continues to grow.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in The Spark Magazine. Find the magazine here to read other articles.