Still Waiting for Lagos State Land Allocation 10 Years After

Still Waiting for Lagos State Land Allocation 10 Years After

By Azuka Onwuka

Gov Akinwunmi Ambode
Gov Akinwunmi Ambode

Since 2006 hundreds of individuals (or even thousands) have been waiting to have access to the plot of land allocated to them by the 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 this unfortunate people. In my own case I even got a certificate of occupancy signed by former state governor, Mr Babatunde Fashola, now the Minister of Power, Works and Housing.

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 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 10 years: “Maybe next month.”

How did I get into this?

I was always wary of purchasing land in Lagos from individuals because of all the stories of harassment and loss of investment to omonile, land grabbers and fraudsters masquerading as land owners or agents. Not wanting to lose the scarce resources one had saved, one wanted land through a channel that was better organised. Beyond the problem of risking loss of money, one also was not eager to build in a place where all kinds of people would continually harass one 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 on being 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. So I bought into that scheme.

That project was poorly and carelessly handled by those in charge of the scheme and I lost both the money I paid in full to Independent Newspapers as well as the money I was directed to give to the 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.

So 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 (1) registration and conveyancing fees (2) capital contribution (3) survey fees (4) land charges. I made the payments and I 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.

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 plotted. 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. The story then was that some people had encroached on the area and were threatening anybody who came close to that area. We were told to be patient as the Lagos State Government was sorting it out.

With the coming into office of Fashola in 2007, we were told that being a lawyer and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, he wanted to use the legal means to get the encroachers off the land. So we waited.

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 former Governor Bola Tinubu’s tenure. 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 last year raised our hopes. After 15 months in office, we have not seen any concrete sign that the wait is about to end. However, the worrying news that filters into people’s ears is that those who are “well connected” are getting their issue resolved behind the scene. But the scheme officers deny such allegations. Nobody knows who is speaking the truth.

Coincidentally, the same Mr Habib Aruna, who was my colleague at Independent Newspapers, who was in charge of that land project that was stillborn, is now the Chief Press Secretary of the Lagos State. In addition, the permanent secretary of Lagos State Lands Bureau when we made the application was Mr Gbenga Ashafa, who is now my Senator in Lagos East. We believe they are well positioned to look into this matter and get it resolved to save many people this endless wait.

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.

Ten years is a long time. Land bought ten years ago in Lagos would have risen in value at least three times.

Governor Ambode has proved that he is a listening governor who gets things done without much fanfare. Hundreds of people (or even thousands) are waiting for him to resolve this issue. Certainly some people who invested in that scheme would have died while waiting to take possession of their investment. And they would have felt sad over that land matter before their death.

Having made all payments ten years ago and waited this long, those involved cannot be said to be impatient. Ambode should find a quick solution to this problem, so that this will not be another waiting for Godot.


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