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Chief Kola Akomolede Interview With Debo Adejana

 

Meet Chief Kola Akomolede

Meet Chief Kola Akomolede

Chief Kola Akomolede is a graduate of the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), Ile-Ife, Nigeria where he obtained a BSc in Estate Management (2nd Class upper) in 1978.  He also has an MSc in Urban Land Appraisal from the University of Reading, U.K.  He attended the Administrative staff college, Badagry in 1989 where he obtained a certificate in Advance Management Course (AMC) and another certificate for management of Public Enterprises from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad India in 1991. At the University of Ife, he had two scholarships, the Federal Government scholarship and the University of Ife merit awards. He also won the Commonwealth scholarship to study at the University of Reading, U. K. in 1982.

A fellow of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV) and a member of the International Real Estate Federation (FIABCI).  He is also a member of the Nigerian Institute of Management (NIM).

He served as the National Publicity Secretary of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (1991-93); He was Chairman or member of several committees of the Institution at different times and currently the chairman of the faculty of housing and member of the national Council. He was the secretary-general of the Association of Housing Corporations of Nigeria (AHCN). He is currently the President of the International Real Estate Federation (FIABCI). Nigeria chapter.

Chief Kola Akomolede started his career at the Federal Mortgage Bank as a Youth Corper in 1978/79.  He joined Tope Oloyede & Co. from 1979 to 1986 before he moved to the Lagos State Development and Property Corporation (LSDPC) as a Chief Estate Surveyor and Head of the Estate Department.  He later rose to become the Deputy General Manager (Estates) before retiring in 1999 to establish his own practice under the name Kola Akomolede & Co.

He has written so many articles and delivered several papers at local and international conferences, lectures and symposia. He is the author of the book ESTATE AGENCY PRACTICE IN NIGERIA and a recipient of many awards.

 In 1994, he was honoured with the chieftaincy title of “ASIWAJU OF ILAWE EKITI”. He is currently the President of Ekiti Parapo, Lagos.  He is a member of Ikoyi club 1938 and the Island club, Lagos. He is also a past President of the Rotary club of Ikoyi and a Paul Harris fellow with three (3) stars. Happily married with four children.

NREH: We usually select people we consider to have gone a long way in the real estate industry so that we can most importantly capture their experience for posterity sake and we consider you one of the icons of the real estate industry and that’s why we are here today. Generally, we would like to know why real estate? How did you become an estate surveyor and valuer?  Why and how did you choose this profession? How did it all start?

CHIEF AKOMOLEDE: I see myself repeating this story several times. I found myself in a profession I knew nothing about. I actually got admission to the University of Ife to study Economics. Before then I never heard of Estate Management. I got to Ife, and while we were taking some external courses there were some students of estate management in my class and I inquired what they were reading, they said it was estate management, a new course. In fact, Ife had not graduated anyone from the course then.

Actually, it was only the University of Nsukka that was offering courses in Estate Management, but during the war the university was closed down so no other university offered the course. It was after the war, the course was hurriedly begun in Ife. I like challenges, I like new things so I decided to try it out. Even though I didn’t know what it was all about, I changed my course. That was how I found myself in estate management and I have no regrets.

NREH: So you must have graduated with the first batch at Ife?

CHIEF AKOMOLEDE: No, I wasn’t among the first set, I had three sets ahead of me. People who were in their 400 level. Then you just had the preliminary class, then four more years, making it is five years altogether.

NREH: What is your take on the industry, in terms of its progression in the Nigerian environment?

CHIEF AKOMOLEDE: Both the industry and my profession have progressed. I left the university 34 years ago, and during our stay at the university and after graduation, the property industry was still at its lowest ebb. For example as at that time, nobody will allow you to put ‘for sale’ on his property. Property sales was wrapped in secrecy. It was a taboo to say you were selling your property, today the feeling has changed especially in the cities, but there is still a little amount of it in the villages. Because people believe that when you are selling your property, then you must be broke. People would say “that man is finished, for him to sell his house”. Even if the person in question has so many houses, but for him to sell any one of them, shows that he is broke. Therefore, people didn’t want others to know that they are broke.

Secondly, property by the nature of our culture is supposed to be a special asset that is not meant to be sold. For example, the culture of the Yoruba’s says that land belongs to you, people who are dead and your unborn children, so it must not be parted with.

Nobody owned land; it was the community or family that owned land, even when you build on it, this idea prevailed. But from that, it has graduated to people selling land and properties when they need money for their businesses, sell to buy another, or invest in shares or other businesses. It wasn’t so in those days, but the industry has moved to another level today. Back in the days it was rare to see private developers, if you wanted to buy a house then you either go to the Housing Corporation or LSDPC.

There were very few private developers, today they are so many under the aegis of REDAN (Real Estate Developers Association of Nigeria), so many people are now building houses and selling to the public. Going by this, the industry has grown since 34 years when I left the university. As at that time, I don’t know how many surveyors were in the country, by the time I left the university they were about 200, but by 1981 when I got elected, my number was 365. Which means even at that time, there only 365 registered practitioners, some may have been dead, but today, by the last time I checked our number we were clocking two thousand. This again means we have grown, because in those days you got real estate surveyors only in the cities like Lagos, Port Harcourt, may be Jos, Kaduna, sparsely in Ibadan, there was no Abuja then. Today you find estate surveyors practising in all the state capitals, and some towns. Our services have widened and the profession and the industry has grown in leaps and bounds.

NREH: How do you then marry the scenario, you said people held land in very high esteem and believed it was for you and for generations unborn, but now coming to the legalities of it when you bring your assets into the legal framework it is leased for 99 years. How did we arrive at a free hold mind-set and then ended up with a leasehold in 1978?

CHIEF AKOMOLEDE: I will give you a little background about how we got there. I was in my final year in 1978, and I wrote an article on the Land Use Act then which some newspapers published. You see the idea of the land use decree emanated from government effort for two reasons. One, even though they tell us they wanted to make land available to everybody, the real reason was to make land available for government when they needed it.

Frankly speaking, we agree with government that something had to be done. When they wanted to build a school, hospital, or construct road, the owners of the land, the family, or the village will tie government down by asking for ridiculous compensation or litigation, because several families will be laying claim to the same land; they will say that the land does not belong to the Odofin family, it is the property of the Oniru’s or the Onikoyi family thereby delaying the project with cost implications.

Second was the cost of acquiring land. Government sometimes felt that the cost of acquiring land was even more than the project they sought to carry out. Something had to be done, that was how the idea of the land use act came up. What the land decree did in effect was to strip everybody of ownership and say that all land in a state belonged to the state government, so if you need land you apply to Government.

Ordinarily, they would have said it belonged to the federal government, but because of the nature of the country, where everyone wants some autonomy. If it was the federal government that controlled it, people in Lagos will say that one Hausa president is allocating land in Lagos to his own people, same thing in Enugu, or even Kaduna man will say that Yoruba president is allocating their land. It’s a good idea, the concept was good, but there are so many flaws in the law. Again, when you make a new law, you don’t expect it to be perfect. Over the years we should have refurbished or repackaged it, but unfortunately the law was made in 1978 and Obasanjo left in 1979 and without testing or experimenting with the law he merged it to the constitution making it difficult to amend. If it’s an ordinary law, over the years there are so many areas that would have been amended.

However, as I speak to you, not a single area of the Land Use Act has been amended. Whereas everybody including government and the public believe that there are areas that need amendment. For example, even the federal government itself did not do itself justice because the first sentence of the decree says that “all land belong to state government”. So if the federal government needs land, it has to go and beg the state government and if the state government says no, then they can’t have it. This played out during the Shagari era, when the Shagari government’s slogan was food and shelter, they wanted to build houses in all local governments of the country, very good idea.

In Oyo state they were not given land, I don’t know how they got a certain land and began building, the government of Bola Ige demolished the houses. That was the height of the problem of the Land Use Decree. When Obasanjo and the Supreme Military Council were promulgating the law, all the state governors were military and took orders from the president. They didn’t envisage anytime that they will need land in a particular state and one governor will say no, you dare not. But under the civilian government, it’s a different ball game. As far as I am concerned, that area has to be amended.

The federal government must have the power of what we call ‘eminent domain’ which existed before the Land Use Decree and that is the power of government to acquire land for public purposes anywhere, anytime in the country. A situation where the federal government says they want to construct a road or build a university in a state and the state refuses to give the land; there is nothing that the federal government can do under the law. This is on the part of the government.

For individuals, there is a clause that has been causing problems for everybody and that’s the clause on consent. There was nothing like government consent before the Land Use Decree and how it came into the decree is the idea that all lands now belongs to government. That means that government is the landlord, and if I am your landlord and I lease my house/land to you, you cannot do anything else on it without my consent. That’s how the idea of subsequent transactions must have government consent. But what we see today is state government turning it into a money making venture asking people to pay 7 to 15 per cent before they can obtain the consent. Besides the money, a lot of things take time like the payment of all kinds of tax here and there, and manners of documents. This causes a lot of delay in the development of housing.

Even consent to mortgage, for one to take mortgage requires the consent of the governor. These and many more areas should be looked into, it’s worrisome that the process of amending the constitution is so tedious and cumbersome. Not a section of the Land Use Decree has been amended. We have asked that it be taken out of the constitution so that it becomes a separate law by itself, so that as time goes on, we will see areas that create problems and amend it. But that is not possible now as it is.

NREH: We are aware that there is a body advocating for it to be expunged from the constitution

CHIEF AKOMOLEDE: Yes, I have even written a paper to that effect in my professional capacity, but the national assembly has not done anything about it.

NREH: We believe there is a pressure group and hope that they achieve their aim, because of its importance.

CHIEF AKOMOLEDE: We are not asking them to revoke the law, but to remove it from the constitution so that it can be amended easily.

NREH: I know as a valuer you do letting, valuation, management, feasibility and all of that. What will you consider to be your most memorable transaction? One that you remember perhaps because you had to pull many strings, and do a lot of thinking before you could make it happen. One that anytime you remember you are proud of yourself.

CHIEF AKOMOLEDE: As a young surveyor, I will say that my most memorable was the one I used for my thesis which was the preparation of a feasibility study for the construction of an office block at Ilupeju House, where you have Ilupeju Supermarket today. I was working with Tope Oloyede & Co then, and the owner of the place who was our client. If you are going to Maryland on the left before Onigbongbo, before the bridge, there is a building Olatunji House which houses Ilupeju Supermarket. That’s the place. I needed to prepare the viability appraisal.

It was a challenge for me, because it was the first time I would handle such a big project. It was just a little over a year after I left the university. I did it, and we raised the funds; and so when I was preparing for professional exam I used that project as my thesis. Perhaps it’s because I used it for my thesis and I passed that it has remained a memorable job I carried out that I can’t forget. In fact it encouraged me to want to specialise in that area so I went to Reading University in UK to specialise in appraisal and preparing feasibility studies.

NREH: Having being in this profession for this length of time, am sure you must have witnessed, particularly you practised most of the time in Lagos, so you must have witnessed Lagos transform from the seventies to the present day. Can you share experiences with us, because these days when we tell people that real estate has something for everybody, no matter the level of the economy where you are there is something you can do and there is a size of you in the real estate value chain; meaning that if you can’t buy something in V.I. but it is Ikorodu you can afford, buy it now, because the Ikorodu of ten years to come will be different from now.

CHIEF AKOMOLEDE: All along, I have always been in Lagos. You already said it all. I tell you as of 1978 when I left the university and I came to Lagos to work, let me give you a typical example, Allen Avenue was like a bush; a plot of land there was sold N6,000, though then it was big money.

NREH: That could have bought a Beetle.

CHIEF AKOMOLEDE: A Beetle was about N2, 000 or there about then. I know my first car cost me N5, 800 and that was a Peugeot 504GR car with AC.

NREH: Land was sold for about the same value as a Peugeot car?

CHIEF AKOMOLEDE: A graduate then could be started with N3, 000 or something per annum. So if you could get a plot for six thousand, that’s twice your salary. I bet you today one can hardly get a good plot twice their annual salary. Even though six thousand was big money then, its not difficult to get it today. I worked in the private sector.

My first salary was N5, 500 per annum. Most people on level 8 then got about N3,600.00 p.a. which means with two years’ salary I could buy a plot at Allen then, but gradually it moved and today you won’t get a plot of land in Allen for anything less than one hundred million naira, same plot. It’s a dramatic change, because I remember again I did my youth service at Federal Mortgage Bank and so when we wanted to appraise application for loan to build houses, on the average a block of four flats will cost between eighteen to twenty thousand naira to build. That is on the average four to five thousand naira per flat. And don’t forget the Jakande government build houses and sold flats at five thousand each to people.

So if you look at building a block of four flats for N20, 000 then, today twenty million will not be enough, you are looking at about forty to sixty million depending on the finishes. When I look at Lagos, all the places you know today, Alausa, CBD, they didn’t exist. Not to talk of going to Alagbado, those ones were farmland, even life did not exist between Victoria Island. It was when Jakande came in 1979, about 1980 or 81 he started construction on the Lekki road. That’s what opened that place up. After Victoria Island there was a place called Maroko; that was the end of life on this side. But Lagos has expanded beyond our imagination.

Nobody could have predicted in 1978 that Lagos will be what it is today. It’s fun watching such phenomenal growth happen in your lifetime. The expansion of Lagos has been very dramatic.

 

Mr Debo Adejana

Mr Debo Adejana

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NREH: Looking at the situation with the landlord and tenant matters, we examine the recently promulgated Lagos Tenancy Law that covered some areas of Lagos. I don’t know if you have reviewed the law, we would like to know what you think. What’s your take on the new tenancy law?

CHIEF AKOMOLEDE: Well, first I appreciate governments’ effort, because it means the government is thinking about the plight of the people, and I thank them for that. But again, like I said in my article, it is the wrong medicine for the wrong disease. You cannot control what people pay for housing if you cannot control the supply. The law of demand and supply is basic. When you are in charge of the supply of something, then you can control the price by either increasing your supply, the price goes down, or you want the price to go up, decrease your supply.

Let me give you an example, today government says fuel should be sold for N97 per litre, the moment there is scarcity nobody pays N97. As I talk to you in some areas of Lagos some people pay N110 per litre, outside Lagos its more than that. Why, because the supply is lower than the demand. In the housing matter, we have an estimate of the shortage of housing units amounting to 16 million. Which means the supply is far below the demand. So any law that controls the amount of rent you pay, the number of years you should pay is a waste of time.

Government should focus more on enabling people to build more houses, and government itself should build more houses. Like I stated in my article, today people remember Jakande when you talk about Jakande houses and estate; nobody remembers Marwa for enacting a rent edict. In the same way, after some years, nobody will remember Fashola for promulgating a rent/tenancy law. But if he had come out with gigantic housing project like Jakande did, forever those houses will be there. Forget about whatever anybody says about those houses not being completed then, today go and see the calibre of people who leave there. Children born in those houses are now doctors, lawyers, engineers, surveyors.

What I ask is whether the law is effective today, go around and find out. My own driver wanted to rent a house recently and wanted loan from the office to do so. He told me the landlord is asking for three years. I reminded him of the one year law and he says “oga, unless you see government house before you can pay one year”. Because if you don’t pay, there are so many other people who are ready to pay. At worst, they will take rent of two or three years from you and give you receipt for one year, which even makes life more difficult and dangerous for you. If after one year, the landlord asks for another rent and you refuse, he can show the receipt indicating one year rent.

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